Now that New York Fashion Week is almost done and that cold weather is officially upon us, what’s the key to getting through cold and flu season unscathed? Never underestimate the power of vibrant good health and a well-functioning immune system to keep you healthy when everyone else around you is sick. Celebrity nutritionist and author of The Beauty Detox Solution Kimberly Synder, has seven essential tips on how you can boost your immune system naturally to keep you healthy all year around.
1. Eat Right! Eat a plant-based diet, which provides your body with the nutrients it needs to fight off germs, repair itself, and function optimally. If your intestinal flora is balanced, your immunity will strengthen. Avoid processed sugar and products (including agave), which decrease immunity and cause spikes in blood glucose, and dairy, which creates mucous. Reduce your chemical load by choosing organic plants and avoiding processed foods. If your body has to deal with toxins in the foods you eat, then it won’t have enough energy to fight off germs, as well. Certain vitamins actually increase the number of white cells in your blood, boosting immunity.
Vitamin C: Try bell peppers, broccoli, cabbage, grapefruits, spinach, and sweet potatoes for a boost of this antioxidant.
Vitamin E: Which foods contain this beneficial vitamin? Try hazelnuts, almonds, tomatoes, and spinach.
Carotenoids: You can find these beneficial nutrients in dark leafy greens like kale and spinach, orange-colored vegetables like squash and carrots, tomatoes, and spices like cayenne pepper.
Bioflavonoids: These antioxidants are available in sweet peppers, chocolate, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, tropical fruits, garlic, and spinach.
Zinc: Another essential mineral, you can find zinc from delicious sources like dark chocolate, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds or tahini.
2. Control Stress Stress saps your body of its ability to fight illness. According to the American Psychological Association, research has repeatedly shown that chronic stress has a direct correlation with weakened immune function. Some experts estimate as high as 75 percent of all doctors visits can be directly attributed to stress! What can you do to distress? Here are a few tools.
- Deep breathing exercises
- Positive visualization
- Take time for yourself
- Be aware of when you are feeling especially stressed
- Stretch The more you can target what is chronically stressful in your life and work to find healthy ways to alleviate it, the better your whole life will be.
3. Get Enough Sleep You need your sleep to stay healthy! If I sound like your mother, she said that with good reason. Research shows that when you are deprived of sleep, inflammatory cytokines rise while t-cells decrease. These two responses weaken your immune system, making it more difficult for your body to fight off cold and influenza. What’s the best way to combat this? Get a good night’s sleep. Experts estimate adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep every night. Not sleeping well? Try these ideas to help improve your sleep.
- Avoid caffeine and sugar.
- Don’t eat heavy foods near bedtime- especially animal proteins, which are slow-digesting foods.
- Keep your bedroom a comfortable temperature. In general, you need the room to be slightly cooler while you sleep than at other times during the day.
- Check your mattress and pillow. Are they comfortable? If not, it may be time to replace them.
- Use your bed only for sleeping. Read and watch television away from your bedroom.
4. Exercise Pursuing moderate exercise can boost your immune system. While experts aren’t sure exactly why this is, they have developed theories including:
- The rise in body temperature associated with exercise may fight off germs.
- Exercise helps control stress, allowing you stronger immune function.
- Exercise forces bacteria from your body via exhalation and sweat, thus flushing toxins out of your body before they make you sick.
- Exercise increases blood flow, which keeps your immune fighters circulating more quickly through your bloodstream.
5. Hydrate Your body needs water to function. Staying hydrated is essential, and drinking water is the best way to do it. Water helps flush toxins out of your system and keeps your mucous membranes moist, which can prevent cold and flu germs from adhering inside your nose or lungs. The amount your body needs is dependent on many factors, including your activity levels and the kind of food you eat.
6. Rebalance When your body’s chemical load is high, it cannot function properly. Chemicals clog your organs and hamper your immune system. Eating a healthy diet goes a long way to detoxifying your body and rebalancing your system. Other steps you can take include:
- Drink detox tea to help remove chemicals from your body.
- Eat only organic produce and avoid processed foods.
7. Heat it Up! Warming herbs and spices heat up the body, boost circulation and speed up metabolism. All of these actions have a positive effect on the immune system, and adding them to your diet can help fight colds and flu. Try these: