The flu did hit me this year – and early too. I was still in summer mode in early October. I did not have the flu for over 20! years, but for some reason this year it got to me.
I decided to write about all the good things that would have kept my immune system strong to ward off the germs and viruses, so that it doesn’t happen to you. Next time I will take my own advice and be prepared. Nothing is better than to breeze through the fall and winter without getting sick once.
And yes, that is possible. As mentioned above, I don’t usually get sick at all, not even a cold. So keep your immune system strong all year and it can be like this for you too.
Here are my top tips to keep your immune system strong and healthy:
- Eat plenty of whole vegetables and fruit. Fresh or frozen, unprocessed, as well as nuts and seeds. This way you get lots of antioxidants and vitamin C. The more color and variety you eat, the better.
- Avoid immune system disturbing substances like sugar, hydrogenated fats (think French fries, margarine, baked goods), too much caffeine – especially with lots of cream and sugar and alcohol. All these substances need a lot of processing capacity in the body and will dampen your immune system response.
- Sleep! Yes we say this over and over. And I don’t mean sleep with the aid of sleeping pills. While your body restfully sleeps, it has time to process, repair and rejuvenate the body. That is the reason why many people sleep off their cold. You are giving your body the resource it needs to deal with it. The same counts for protecting yourself from getting sick in the first place. Consider to sleep around 8 hours at night. Take a 20 minute power nap during the day if you feel you are getting sick.
- Drink water! Lots of it. This is especially tricky for those of us, who start to get cold once the fall arrives. We don’t feel like drinking water, just maybe something hot but also not all day. Think of ways to increase your water consumption to support your immune system. There are also foods you can eat that have a high water content.
Check out my Facebook post (10 most hydrating) here.
Proper hydration is important to keep the lines of defence – mucous membranes – moist and functioning well. If they are dehydrated, it is easier for bacteria and viruses to get into your body. And the more you need to go to the washroom from all this water, the better it is, as you keep flushing out the pathogens that are already in your system. So take your washroom break and don’t be annoyed that you need to go all the time. Your body says “thank you”!
- Wash your hands! This is old news but still so true. If you do, you protect your body openings from rubbing the germs in. How often do you rub your eyes, pick your nose, or touch your mouth? Probably more than you think! What should you use to wash your hands? Plain old soap is all it takes. No fancy anti-bacterial washes, triple protection kind of stuff. They are laden with chemicals that can weaken your immune system. Stay away from them. This also means no hand sanitizers. They are not needed and again can weaken the immune system, making you more prone to get sick. Trust me on this one. Soap is all you need!
- Probiotics is another way to support your immune system. 70-80% of our immune system sits in the gut and we are getting better at understanding that we need to support our digestive function to stay healthy. There are several ways to consume more beneficial probiotics. You can do that through food or supplements. Fermented foods (not the kind with vinegar added – like pickles, you find on the shelf in the grocery store) contain beneficial bacteria to support your gut and your immune system. Try sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir etc. Make your own or check your grocery store’ s fridge section. If you like to take supplements, there are live active multi-strain probiotic capsules you can find.
- Garlic and onions: These foods have anti-microbial properties. If you can stomach them raw, you get the best out of them. Try and mix them raw in dips or sauces. Use as toppings or put in your cooked dish for the last 2 minutes to warm them with the food. Also great to use in cold-fighting chicken soup along with ginger.
If you have questions or would like to get in touch with me to discuss your personal “stay healthy from the flu” – strategy, send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.