As the weather is turning cooler and the leaves are turning colors, you should make sure that your immune system is ready for the inevitable germs you will be exposed to this winter. During the colder months illnesses are prolific and spread easily through public areas and among family members. If your immune system is strong you will more easily be able to fight off potential germs that can keep you home from work, school, and leave you miserable. Follow our tips to make sure that your immune system is ready for this winter!
If you work in a busy office, have kids in school, use public transportation, or really go anywhere in public, you are constantly exposed to other people’s germs. While many of these are harmless, it is the ones that aren’t that can make you ill and keep you from feeling good for days, weeks, or even longer. Make sure that you are frequently washing your hands, especially before eating and after using the bathroom. To protect other people from your germs, use a tissue when you sneeze or cough, or cough into the crook of your arm instead of your hands. If you have any cuts or wounds you should keep them protected with a bandage and make sure you monitor them for infection. Having great hygiene goes a long way in preventing illness and helping your immune system not get overloaded with germs.
Food poisoning can make you sick, and in some rare cases can even lead to kidney failure, meningitis, or death. Most cases of food poisoning can be prevented by taking steps towards food safety. Always wash your hands before and after handling raw food, including meat, and rinse all fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, and fish under running water before cooking. If you are chopping raw meats and raw vegetables never use the same cutting boards and knives—you can contaminate the produce. Always cook meat and poultry to the recommended internal temperature, and use a thermometer to make sure. Defrost foods safely, not out on the counter, and don’t keep perishable foods out on the counter. Food poisoning can cause you to miss work, school, and be unable to do normal daily activities. Practice proper food safety and eliminate food poisoning risks!
Keeping your body hydrated is great for your health, and keeps your mucous membranes in your mouth and nose moist. This can help your immune system fight off viruses and toxins that you breathe in or ingest. Water also flushes out your kidneys and helps your digestive system function better. Drink more water and feel better this winter!
Studies have suggested that even moderate exercise can reduce the number of colds you get in a year. Exercise makes your heart stronger and more able to pump blood throughout your body, and helps your lungs handle oxygen better. Exercise also boosts cells in your body that fight off viruses and bacteria and can help your immune system stay strong. You don’t need to be extreme about exercising, and even walking once a day can help you reap these health benefits.
Vaccines are crucial for children to avoid some common childhood illnesses, and are also necessary for adults. If you haven’t reviewed your immunizations recently, you should make an appointment to do so. Many adults don’t realize that their vaccinations are no longer current and offering protection and are unwittingly susceptible to illness. Vaccines have halted the spread of serious illnesses and saved lives, so make sure yours are current!
The connections between stress and the immune system are hard to measure, but researchers are pretty sure there is a link between being stressed and getting sick. Chronic stress can lead to anxiety, lack of sleep, and depression, which are all known to be bad for your health. The link between emotions and physical conditions is definitely present, so if you are feeling overly stressed you should take steps to meditate, slow down, or talk to a professional. Don’t let chronic stress lead to physical illness.
Sleep is essential for great health. While we are sleeping our bodies are building and repairing cells, and using energy towards keeping the body healthy. T-cells that are necessary for fighting off dangerous bacteria and viruses go down when we don’t get enough sleep, and inflammatory markers go up. This can increase your risk of catching a cold or flu. Pulling an all-nighter or consistently not getting enough sleep can weaken your immune system and leave you at risk for infection. A lack of sleep also can put you at a higher risk of dying from heart disease and all other causes! The people who get 7 hours or more of sleep a night seem to have the best survival. So get some sleep!
You need to nourish your body to help maintain a strong immune system. Like gas in a car, your diet fuels all of your bodily functions, and the quality of the food you are eating matters. Being deficient in nutrients can predispose you to illness, and eating too much sugar, eating too many fatty foods, or drinking too much alcohol can all weaken your immune system. Eating foods that are high in antioxidants can help your body fight cellular damage, great sources are blueberries, spinach, green tea, and sweet potatoes are all great sources of antioxidants. Eating a diet that is primarily fresh fruit, vegetables, lean meats, and whole grains will ensure you are building the best foundation for great health.
If you do find that you are deficient in certain nutrients and are not able to boost your levels through diet alone, you should consider taking vitamin supplements. These can fill in vital minerals and vitamins that your body needs, and keep your immune system strong. Different studies have been done measuring the efficacy of taking supplements to combat illnesses (including vitamin C, zinc, and garlic)—check with your practitioner to see if supplements are something that could help you.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
As we have touched on in previous blogs, maintaining a healthy weight is crucial for good health. Excess body fat can trigger inflammatory immune cells which can lead to chronic inflammation. Inflammation has been linked to many diseases such as coronary artery disease. Chronic inflammation can be caused by obesity and this can lead to susceptibility to the flu, and predisposition to heart disease and diabetes. Plus, being overweight can lead to many other health complications, so keep your weight in a healthy range and give your immune system a boost.
Smoking can weaken your immune system by depressing antibodies and cells that are supposed to attack foreign invaders. Lowering these cells leaves your immune system compromised and can make you chronically ill, catching one sickness after another. Smoking can also cause respiratory problems and lead your body to attack your lung tissue that has been damaged. This can lead to life threatening situations and cause chronic breathing problems. The best thing you can do for your immune system is to stop smoking as soon as possible.
Hopefully you can use some of these tips to stay healthy this fall and winter, and keep your immune system at peak performance. If you are wanting to meet with a health practitioner in Flint to discuss diet, vaccinations, weight concerns, or any other health issues, contact our clinic today!