Cold and flu season is here, meaning it’s time to boost your immune system. According to the CDC Foundation, an average of 5% to 20% of people in the United States get the flu each year. While the flu may seem like just another temporary illness, thousands of people end up being hospitalized and some even die from flu-related sicknesses. Let’s be honest, colds are no fun, either. Luckily, with simple adjustments to your daily routine, it’s possible to decrease your risk of catching one of these nasty bugs. Make these six simple changes to boost immunity and to avoid catching a cold or flu this season.
1. Eat fruits and vegetables
The foods we eat impact our immune system’s ability to fight off unwanted colds. Stock up on tons of fruits and vegetables to pack your meals with vitamins and other health-boosting nutrients. Some of the best foods you can eat to avoid getting sick include squash, sweet potatoes, and pumpkins. These ingredients are all full of beta-carotene, which Health says will bolster your immune system. The story also recommends going for peppers, citrus fruits, and leafy greens.
2. Stay away from sugar
While you should be adding nutrient-rich foods to your diet, you should also cut down on sugar. According to Prevention, foods that are high in sugar can suppress your immune system, preventing white blood cells from fighting off bacteria and viruses. For women, it’s best to have 6 teaspoons or less per day, while men should aim for less than 9 teaspoons.
3. Wash your hands often
Everything we touch can carry germs. This includes doorknobs, tabletops, counters, and stair rails. Everyday Health says that in order to prevent cold and flu germs from entering into the body, you should frequently wash your hands. This is especially important to remember when it comes to touching food or your face. One useful tip is to carry hand sanitizer with you wherever you go for times when you’re in public places and can’t make your way to a sink.
4. Add exercise to your routine
Today says moderate exercise can lessen your risk of getting a cold by 27%. This is because it stimulates immune response. Even if you’re already sick, the story recommends working up a sweat to help open up your nasal passages. Feeling too crummy for your usual gym session? Walking is totally underrated as a form of exercise, so simply going for a stroll may help.
5. Always find time to de-stress
According to Health, stress can increase your chances of catching a cold. When you’re constantly stressed, your body releases glucocorticoids, stress hormones that prevent your body from producing cytokins. Cytokins are molecules that are responsible for activating a disease-fighting response in your body. Without enough, your immune system will be compromised you may have trouble eating well and exercising, which we already know to be helpful for fending off illness.
6. Get enough sleep
WebMD reports lack of sleep suppresses the immune system and makes it harder for the body to fight off colds and bacteria. The article mentions the number of T-cells in our bodies decreases when we’re sleep deprived. Since T-cells are responsible for protecting our bodies from harmful substances and disease, we’re more likely to catch a cold or flu when this number drops. The moral of the story is to hit the hay.