Heading into the colder holiday months you hear a lot of people say, “it’s cold and flu season”. The truth is that it’s not necessarily the colder weather and change of seasons that makes you sick. It’s actually due to a weakening of your immune system.
Have you ever wondered why one or two of your coworkers get sick but you don’t? Or maybe vice versa? Why is it that in a classroom of 30 students, 5 can get sick, sneeze and cough all over the place, and still the other 25 students don’t catch a cold?
A recent study by University of Michigan found that when they infected 17 healthy people with the flu, only half of them got sick. The other half? They were perfectly fine. All given the same germs but not all got sick, that’s because half had strong immune systems able to fight off the infection.
So how do you strengthen your immune system to keep the cold and flu at bay? Simple lifestyle changes. Here are the top ways to boost your immune system and stay flu-free:
Specifically, avoiding processed sugar. Eating processed and added sugar will increase your insulin level, which is one of thefastest ways to get sick and also experience premature aging. But Dr. Anna, it’s the holidays and I just can’t say no to my grandma’s famous apple pie. I hear you.
So here is a good rule of thumb: desserts are delicacies, not staples. Try to follow the 80/20 principle where 80% of your week is all food full of color, freshness, and life; and 20% of your day is where you get some wiggle room.
While avoiding sugar, it’s important to increase your fruit and vegetable intake; healthy fats like avocado, olives, and salmon; and whole grain fiber like oats, brown rice, and quinoa. You can still enjoy holiday desserts by making simple sugar alternatives when baking. Try replacing sugar with honey, maple syrup, or stevia!
It’s no secret that staying active is the key to staying healthy. In this study, staying active cut the risk of having a cold by 50%, and cut the severity of symptoms by 31% among those who did catch a cold.
A great way to get moving is by going for a walk. I would recommend walking for at least 30 minutes everyday. Not only is it great exercise, but also a way to destress and get some good Vitamin D from the sun.
Another great way to get in a good sweat is by doing high intensity interval training (HIIT). This is a work-out style and can be done with almost any type of exercise. These workouts can be done at home with little to no equipment, and are designed to push the most advanced athletes or easy enough for any beginner.
The basic idea is 20 seconds ON at your maximal effort, and 10 seconds of rest for 3 cycles. HIIT workouts can be done in 10-15 minutes and have the benefit of what is known as the ‘afterburn’ effect. This means your body will continue to burn fat, even after you have stopped exercising.
We all know that sleep is important. Sleep is your body’s time to recharge and recover, and it is often overlooked when it comes to health. Adequate sleep is a key part of a healthy lifestyle, and can benefit your heart, weight, mind, and more.
There are many people that sleep 8-9 hours and wake up feeling awful; that’s because it’s the quality of sleep that really matters. So how do you increase the quality of your sleep?
Here are 3 simple ways:
- Consistency. Go to sleep at a consistent time each night, this helps to regulate your body’s biological clock.
- Exercise, specifically HIIT workouts. This type of exercise, especially done in the morning, can help to reset your cortisol to its normal levels helping you to stay in a deeper sleep throughout the night.
- Cool it down. Turning down your thermostat to between 62-68 degrees is ideal for sleep. This doesn’t mean you can’t use your covers or put on those fuzzy socks.
We all know that water is a vital part of being healthy and staying well. Water helps to flush out toxins, bring adequate nutrition to cells and organs, and help regulate body temperature.
So what is the right amount of water? Aim for at least half of your body weight in ounces per day. For example, if you weigh 140 lbs, you should drink at least 70 oz. of water per day.
When we don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables, we miss essential nutrients. These nutrients can help lower our risk for heart disease, stroke, cancer, and other health conditions. That’s where vitamins and mineral supplementation come in.
Supplements can make up for the shortfalls that happen when you don’t get what you need through food. The top 3 vitamins that I recommend taking everyday, especially through holiday season to keep your immune system strong, are Vitamin D, an Omega 3, and a probiotic.
If you’re vitamin D deficient, and many are, your immune system will not activate to do its job. Omega 3’s help support brain function, skin and heart health, and help decrease inflammation. Probiotics support your gut health, which controls your immune system and is extremely important to your overall wellbeing.