Natural Ways To Stay Healthy During Flu Season
According to the CDC, flu season in the United States occurs during the fall and winter months. However, it’s possible for the flu to spread any time of the year, which is why you need to know how to boost immune system performance. Thankfully, there are several ways to boost the immune system naturally, and if that doesn’t work, you can use supplemental vitamins and minerals to improve immunity.
With an estimated eight percent of Americans getting the flu each year, you owe it to yourself to search all the natural ways to boost your immune system. After all, your natural efforts can help prevent the need for medications and hospitalization down the road.
From what you eat to how much rest you get, your choices have a huge impact on your body’s immunity to germs and infections. So, what is the best way to boost immune system strength? Our natural solutions will set you down the right path. And hopefully, during the next flu season, you’ll find yourself healthier than in previous years, just by making a few simple changes that benefit your overall health.
Get Enough Sleep
When you don’t get enough sleep, your body produces fewer cytokines. This protein targets inflammation and infections, helping to boost immune system responses. These cytokines are generated and also released during sleep cycles, causing damage to your body if you lose out on sleep.
Studies show that prolonged absence of sleep can invoke pro-inflammatory cytokines, leading to inflammation and immunodeficiency.
But how much sleep is needed to boost your immune system? According to the CDC, most adults require between seven to nine hours of sleep per night. However, infants and children require much more.
Not only will getting the right amount of sleep help you boost your immune system; it will improve your overall health. Studies show restful sleep reduces instances of heart disease, obesity and diabetes.
To promote restful sleep, set a routine bedtime and stick to it. Avoid taking naps after mid-afternoon and attempt to keep them to twenty minutes or less. You should also avoid alcohol or caffeine later in the day. You should also avoid heavy, late-night meals, which causes your digestive system to work overtime.
Foods That Will Strengthen Your Immune System
How do you boost your immune system with food? The food you consume is the fuel your body needs to run properly. It’s no different than the quality of fuel you put into your vehicle. It’s impossible to expect a strong immune system if you don’t feed your body with the nutrients and vitamins it requires. Your diet should contain plenty of Vitamin C, Vitamin E, beta-carotene and other healthy minerals.
Studies continue to show how vital antioxidants are to boost immune system function. Thankfully, there are many fruits and vegetables that contain these nutrients.
Your diet should include C, D and E. Both Vitamins C and E, as those are among the best vitamins for flu season. They act as antioxidants that support the immune response and destroy free radicals.
Eat More Whole Plant Foods
Eating whole plant foods has been linked to a reduction in heart disease, cancer and diabetes. If you desire to learn how to keep your immune system healthy with plant-based foods, you only need to add a few items to your diet. You don’t have to become a full-blown vegetarian to notice the changes.
Instead, start by incorporating some nutrient-rich foods into your daily recipes. Ginger is easy to add to many dishes and increases your antioxidant intake significantly. Additionally, you could add some garlic to your dinner and receive immune-boosting benefits. Other whole plant foods to consider would be beets, turmeric, mushrooms, kiwis, strawberries and oranges.
Eat More Healthy Fats
While fat has gained a bad reputation over the years, even the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics now agrees that some fats provide benefits to your immune system. You especially want to consume foods with Omega-3 fats, such as fatty fish, walnuts, chia seeds, flaxseed, hemp seeds and eggs.
You can also add some monounsaturated fats to your diet. These options include avocados, nuts, oils and peanut butter. Whenever possible, you want to replace a food high in saturated fat with a healthy alternative. Not only are these healthy foods for flu season, but they also promote overall well-being.
Eat More Fermented Foods
Fermentation is a technique that has been used for centuries to preserve food. These foods are rich in probiotics, which provide many health benefits, including boosted immunity, according to some studies.
In today’s grocery stores, you can find many varieties of fermented foods to add to your diet. Consider trying kefir, tempeh, sauerkraut, natto, cheese, miso, and kombucha.
While you might add fermented foods to boost your immune system to prevent the flu, there are other benefits to this type of diet. Studies also suggest that fermented foods can improve digestive health, benefit the nervous system, aid in weight loss and boost heart health.
Limit Added Sugars
How do you strengthen your immune system if you aren’t eating the right foods? You can’t. Aside from eating a diet full of healthy foods, you also want to limit how much sugar you consume.
Studies already prove that sugar and refined carbohydrates lead to obesity and diabetes. Both of these conditions leave you more vulnerable to illness.
One study of about one thousand people shows that obese patients who received the flu vaccine were twice as likely to get sick versus those who were a healthy weight. Additionally, you can lower your chance of heart disease by watching your sugar intake.
According to the American Heart Association, adults should aim to keep the daily intake of added sugar to the following amounts:
- Men: 9 tsp. or 37.5 grams (150 calories per day)
- Women: 6 tsp. or 25 grams (100 calories per day)
Engage In Moderate Exercise
Along with eating the best foods for flu season, you want to exercise into your day-to-day life.
Studies show that one moderate exercise session can boost vaccine effectiveness, even with patients who have a compromised immune system.
However, you should aim to participate in regular exercise. Studies show that regular activity can boost immune system function and reduce inflammation. Harvard defines moderate exercise as moving enough to burn three–six times the amount of energy per minute than you would burn while sitting.
There are many ways to incorporate exercise into your daily life. Consider the benefits of brisk walking, hiking, swimming, jogging or bike riding. Ideally, you should spend 150 minutes per week exercising.
Along with eating the right foods for cold and flu season, you also want to drink plenty of water. In order to build your immune system against the flu, you need to stay hydrated.
Studies show dehydration can lead to a lowered immune system response. It can also lead to headaches, reduce digestion and impair organ function. And these issues make you more susceptible to illnesses.
Dr. Carolyn Dean recommends the following formula for determining your body’s daily water needs:
- Take your current body weight
- Divide it by half
- Use that number — in ounces — to determine your daily water requirement
Avoid sweetened drinks and fruit juice because of the added sugars. For most people, it’s easy to meet your recommended daily intake. Simply drink any time you are thirsty and cease when the thirst subsides. If you spend time exercising or you are outdoors in the heat, you might require more water.
Manage Your Stress Levels
Even the healthiest immune system can’t stand up to excessive amounts of stress and pressure. If you want to learn how to boost your immune system, you have to consider your stress levels.
For both your mental and physical health, you should strive to reduce stress and anxiety. Studies show prolonged stress can increase inflammation, which is known to disrupt the body’s immune cell function.
There are many activities you can participate in to reduce stress. Some people find exercise to be stress relieving, while others prefer quiet meditation. You might also consider yoga or journaling. If you believe you would benefit from professional help, seek out a qualified therapist or support group.
Use Supplements to Stay Well During Flu Season
We’ve shown you how to boost your immune system against flu infections naturally, but we haven’t yet touched on supplements. In conjunction with the above steps, you can also research some of the best supplements for cold and flu season. Several vitamins and minerals benefit the immune system.
For example, Vitamin C can reduce the duration of colds. Additionally, people turn to zinc lozenges to reduce the cold duration. There’s also some evidence that suggests there may be a link between Vitamin D and respiratory diseases. As you research supplements, don’t forget to look at minerals too, especially if you suspect you’re deficient.
For example, one study states that nearly 75 percent of Americans could have a magnesium deficiency. Many people don’t even know that they aren’t receiving enough magnesium. Yet, this vital mineral is needed for many bodily processes to work correctly.
If you’re unsure what supplements might be right for you, talk to a healthcare professional or reference the Office of Dietary Supplements. While the majority of vitamins and supplements are safe to take, you want professional guidance if you have underlying conditions or specific medical needs.
Wash Your Hands
While it’s vital to boost your immune system, you also want to prevent the spread of germs. The CDC says washing your hands can help save lives. Not only can washing your hands stop the spread of the flu virus; it also prevents germs, such as Salmonella, norovirus and E. coli from entering the body.
In general, people spend a lot of time touching their mouth, nose and eyes unintentionally. If their hands are germ-covered, infections can quickly spread and cause illness. Additionally, these germs can end up in the foods and drinks you consume, thereby making you sick.
You should wash your hands before, during and after preparing any food. You also want to wash before you eat, anytime you care for someone that is sick, after using the bathroom and after you change a diaper. Additionally, you should wash your hands when you sneeze, cough or blow your nose.
To wash your hands properly, wet them with warm running water. Apply soap and lather every part for twenty seconds. Don’t neglect your nails and between the fingers. Rinse your hands off with running water and dry them with a clean towel. If you can’t wash your hands, use hand sanitizer to kill germs.
Boosting Your Immune System Against COVID-19
Does a strong immune system ward off colds and flu? The CDC suggests that people with a compromised immune system are more likely to acquire the COVID-19 illness and suffer complications.
To prevent illness, you want to take the same steps to boost immune system support that we outlined above. In addition, clean all surfaces that are frequently touched to prevent the spread of germs.
If you have touched anything outside of your own home in public, be sure to wash your hands as soon as possible. This includes doorknobs, shopping carts, gas pumps and register screens.