Cold and flu season may officially be drawing to a close, but there’s no shortage of germs around. Here are 8 practical tips to help give your immune system a much-needed boost.
Sure, March hails the official end of cold and flu season, but all you have to do is look around to see that many people are still struggling with coughs, colds, and lingering flus. What can you do to help protect yourself?
Here are 8 practical tips to help give your immune system a much-needed boost.<1>
Get some shuteye<2>
It’s not always easy to achieve, but getting enough sleep is incredibly important for immune health. Not only does sleep help our immune systems function optimally, but it also helps us repair and recover from illness more quickly.
Regular exercise has countless health benefits, and immune system health is just one of them. Be cautious though, because in this case, more isn’t always better. Studies show that extreme amounts of intense exercise (think: ultra-marathon running) can actually weaken immune function. Plus, it goes without saying that if you’re sick in bed, don’t even think about getting to the gym.
Smoking is one of the worst things you can do for your immune system. Thankfully, there are plenty of resources for those who are thinking of quitting. Chat with your health care practitioner for more information.
Make friends with mushrooms
While there’s certainly nothing wrong with cooking with mushrooms, we’re talking about mushroom supplements here. Fungi such as Agaricus blazei, Chaga, Cordyceps, Maitake, Reishi, and Shiitake are all known and loved for their immunity-boosting properties. Researchers are currently investigating numerous varieties of mushrooms in cancer research but no conclusion has been reached yet.<3> As always, talk to your health care practitioner before taking a new supplement.
Reconnect with nature<4>
Feel better after a walk in the park? It’s no coincidence. Science has shown what people have instinctively known for millennia: being in nature is good for us. After all, humans are meant to be in nature. Not the camping sort? No problem. Even spending time in the forest taking it all in (what the Japanese term “forest bathing” refers to) helps to reduce stress, clear our minds,<5> and boost our immune systems. Why not go for a leisurely walk, or eat your lunch outside?
Up the ante with antioxidants
Along with mushrooms, antioxidants are superstar supplements for our immune systems. Briefly, antioxidants scavenge the harmful free radicals in our bodies, preventing oxidative damage. Unfortunately, many of us don’t get enough antioxidants in our diets.<6> Resveratrol, glutathione, and astaxanthin are three top-notch antioxidants that can be found in supplement form. The subject of antioxidants for the immune system is still being studied by scientists, but the field shows great promise.<7>
Easier said than done, it’s true, but reducing stress is paramount in keeping our immune systems in tip-top shape. Exercise can help, as well as meditation, making time for friends or hobbies, and being kind to yourself.
Make water your friend
Don’t overlook the importance of hydration! Drinking pure, clean water is paramount for overall health, so make sure you get enough in your day.<8> Fluids are also incredibly important while sick, helping to loosen congestion.<9>
Perhaps surprisingly, water may also help us another way: taking cold showers is thought to help boost the immune system. In one study, those who took cold showers reported less illness than those who showered in hot water.<10>
How do you boost your immune system and fend off cold and flu germs?
<1> Harvard Health. (2014). How to boost your immune system. Tips to fight disease and strengthen immunity. Retrieved March 20, 2018, from https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-boost-your-immune-system.
<2> Besedovsky, L., Lange, T., & Born, J. (2012). Sleep and immune function. Pflugers Archiv, 463(1), 121–137.
http://doi.org/10.1007/s00424-011-1044-0 Retrieved March 20, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3256323/.
<3> Guggenheim, A. G., Wright, K. M., & Zwickey, H. L. (2014). Immune Modulation From Five Major Mushrooms: Application to Integrative Oncology. Integrative Medicine: A Clinician’s Journal, 13(1), 32–44. Retrieved March 20, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4684115/.
<4> Kuo, M. (2015). How might contact with nature promote human health? Promising mechanisms and a possible central pathway. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 1093. http://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.01093. Retrieved March 20, 2018, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4548093/.
<5> NPR. (2014). Forest Bathing: A Retreat To Nature Can Boost Immunity And Mood. Retrieved March 20, 2018, from https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2017/07/17/536676954/forest-bathing-a-retreat-to-nature-can-boost-immunity-and-mood
<6> NIH. (2013). Antioxidants: In Depth. Retrieved March 20, 2018, from https://nccih.nih.gov/health/antioxidants/introduction.htm.
<7> Brambilla et al. (2008). The role of antioxidant supplement in immune system, neoplastic, and neurodegenerative disorders: a point of view for an assessment of the risk/benefit profile. Retrieved March 20, 2018, from https://nutritionj.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1475-2891-7-29.
<8> Popkin, B. M., D’Anci, K. E., & Rosenberg, I. H. (2010). Water, Hydration and Health. Nutrition Reviews, 68(8), 439–458. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1753-4887.2010.00304.x. Retrieved April 4, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2908954/.
<9> Mayo Clinic. (2018). Cold remedies: What works, what doesn’t, what can’t hurt. Retrieved April 4, 2018, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/common-cold/in-depth/cold-remedies/art-20046403.
<10> Buijze, G. A., Sierevelt, I. N., van der Heijden, B. C. J. M., Dijkgraaf, M. G., & Frings-Dresen, M. H. W. (2016). The Effect of Cold Showering on Health and Work: A Randomized Controlled Trial. PLoS ONE, 11(9), e0161749. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0161749 Retrieved April 4, 2018, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5025014/.
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