7 Ways to Boost Your Immune System for Flu Season
Why did you get the flu last time? Probably because you came in contact with an infected person’s airborne secretions , or touched an infected surface. The flu shot may be at the top of your list of defenses against the virus (a needle-free vaccine is an option now, too), but even it can’t fully protect you from illness. Some people still experience feverish chills, headaches, fatigue, and nausea during cold and flu season.
The flu lasts one to two weeks, but can linger much longer. (If you feel the flu coming on, stay home from work and avoid close contact with others.) The best way to avoid getting sick this season and always is to strengthen your immune system and practice preventive care to stay healthy.
The good news is that there are easy, actionable steps you can take every day to protect yourself from getting sick.
1.Strengthen Your Gut
The microbes that live in your gut not only help your body digest food. They also help regulate your metabolism, hunger, weight, and immune system. A strong immune system relies heavily on having a healthy, well-functioning gut as 70 percent of your immune system is in the gut and probiotics help keep your gut engine humming. Probiotics are “good” bacteria that help reduce inflammation and prevent infection. They may also reduce the severity of a cold or flu. Additionally, fermented foods, such as unpasteurized sauerkraut, kimchi, and kefir support bacterial health.
2.Reach for Zinc
While vitamin C should be part of your flu season regimen thanks to its anti-inflammatory effects, antioxidant activity, and antibiotic qualities. There’s another nutrient that can help curb cold symptoms fast. Studies show that zinc, which can be found in foods including pumpkin seeds, spinach, oysters, nuts, and beans, can help shorten the duration of a cold by a few days. That’s because it has powerful immune-boosting and protective effects and may stop the replication of a cold’s cell. If you feel a cold coming on, supplement a healthy diet with 25 mg of zinc per day on a short-term basis.
3. Keep Surfaces Clean
One of the easiest ways to contract the flu virus is touching contaminated objects and then putting your fingers near your mouth and eyes. Some contamination hot spots are phones, computers, and desks. Tea tree oil has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial properties that have been shown to help treat psoriasis, nail fungus, and acne, but u can also use it as a cleaner. If you can’t find a cleaner with tea tree oil, make your own. Combine equal parts distilled vinegar and water, and several drops of tea tree oil.
4. Improve Circulation in Your Home by Opening Windows
You know the feeling that you’re getting sick from the stuffiness in your home? Well, it’s not in your head. Indoor air can be up to five times as polluted as outdoor air, so it’s wise to air out your home daily by opening your windows. Houseplants are another great tool to help clean the air. Common houseplants such as aloe vera, spider plants, and peace lilies filter out common volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
5. Carry Lavender Oil for a Natural Hand Sanitizer
These days, many household products, including hand sanitizers, contain triclosan, which studies have shown can cause hormone disruption in animals. Although the FDA hasn’t officially banned triclosan in products, it is looking into the ingredient’s potential health hazards to humans. While the jury is still out, the old-fashioned rule of washing your hands frequently with soap and water is more effective. The antibacterial craze has created harsh products loaded with toxins that increase the risk of creating resistant bacteria. They also over-dry and crack the skin, making transmission of viruses that much easier. You can try a few drops of lavender essential oil for a natural hand sanitizer. Lavender oil is also great for soothing dry, cracked skin during harsh weather conditions.
6. Avoid Processed Foods
Eating foods high in antioxidants, such as vegetables and fruits, will boost your overall health and help protect you from the flu and other viruses and infections all year. The anti-inflammatory properties in nutrient-dense foods, like dark leafy greens, berries, salmon, and sweet potatoes, help build up your immune system’s defenses. But you should “avoid sugar, gluten, and processed foods — all of which dramatically decrease immune function. Start your day with a smoothie full of healthy fats (almond or coconut milk, avocado, and/or almond butter), frozen berries, chia seeds, and a good protein powder.
7. Keep Up With Your Exercise Regimen, But Don’t Skimp on Sleep
As if you needed another reason to break a sweat, torching some calories can also reduce your risk of catching a cold. Research shows that people who exercise in moderation report fewer colds. Exercise is an immune-booster and it can be helpful if you feel well enough to do it. However, don’t sacrifice sleep in order to exercise. Getting enough sleep is a key component to a flu-free winter. Shoot for at least seven hours of sleep a night and try taking a 20-minute power nap if you’re falling short.