As we get into cold and flu season, it’s important to know about the easy changes you can make to optimize your immune system and reduce your risk of getting a cold. It’s no fun to be kept from doing everything that you enjoy! And, if you do happen to get sick, there are things you can also do to help support your body to fight it off.
These are actually things that you can do all year long. But they’re also important to focus on so we don’t get sick when the weather turns cooler and we start to spend more time indoors.
First, I’ll give you some tips to reduce your risk of getting sick in the first place. Then, I’ll let you in on some of my strategies to recover from that cold you may still get from time to time.
Get Sick Less Often
Here are some great ideas to incorporate into your daily life to reduce your risk of getting sick.
- Wash your hands. A lot. Your hands can trap and transport all kinds of microbes that cause sickness. And I’m not just talking about colds here, but lots of different germs.
NOTE: Antibacterial soap is not recommended! Not only is it no more effective than regular soap and water, but it can contribute to antibiotic resistance. If you don’t have soap and water available, I recommend using this OnGuard essential oil spray (you can make it DIY too).
- Get enough nutrients. I know this is oversimplified, but it’s extremely important! Every cell in your body, including your immune cells, need enough of all the essential nutrients to work properly. Just because you’re eating enough calories doesn’t mean that those calories contain sufficient vitamins and minerals to help your body work the way you want it to. Especially important are the antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E.
- Vitamin A-rich foods include carrots, sweet potato, and organ meats.
- Vitamin C-rich foods include bell peppers and citrus.
- Vitamin E-rich foods include nuts, seeds, and leafy greens.
- Eat probiotic foods. Increase your health-promoting gut microbes to help keep the immune system strong. Try 1-2 servings/day of fermented foods and drinks like sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, fermented vegetables, and kombucha.
- Eat prebiotic foods. Feeding those friendly gut microbes their favourite foods can help them to grow and flourish. They love fibrous foods like onions, asparagus, berries, bananas, sweet potatoes, whole grains, and seeds.
- Get enough sleep. Did you know that our immune system cycles with our circadian rhythm? When we sleep our immune cells produce antibodies to fight infections. Try to get at least 7 hours every single night, even when you’re feeling great.
Recover from Illness Faster
When you do get an infection, you need more nutrients to help your body fight it off, so nourishing your body is even more important. Be sure to continue to use the tips above plus the additional ones below that are crucial for getting over a common cold.
- Drink lots of fluids. Being sick can be dehydrating. Fluids like water, chicken soup, and green tea are warm, hydrating comfort drinks. Chicken soup is a source of electrolytes, especially if homemade from a real chicken with lots of vegetables. Green tea has been shown to boost some of our immune cells, and this can help to better fight off the cold. And ginger is a natural antibacterial that can help support the immune system.
- Rest and recover. When your body is fighting an infection, it’s busy working hard for your health. Give it a break and relax while you’re feeling under the weather.
There are lots of things we can do to stay healthy and reduce infections naturally. Washing your hands is a proven way to reduce your risk. And getting enough nutrients, eating probiotic and prebiotic foods, and getting enough sleep are key year-round.
If you do get sick, keep up all of your good habits above, and make sure to add some healthy fluids and extra rest.
Do you have something you swear by when you get sick? Let me know in the comments below.
“I believe that when we are empowered to take control of our health, we find the help we need to feel our best.” – Bonnie Flemington MBA, CNP