Whether it be a scratchy throat, a stuffy nose, or just plain feeling like crap, each of us can tell when we’re getting sick. We get this feeling a lot during late-fall all the way into early-spring – AKA cold and flu season – and knowing how to boost your immune system is extremely important for staying healthy during these contagious months.
Avoiding illness is easier than you may think. Some of the most effective ways to do so are also some of the simplest. This additional immune support can have massive benefits on your overall health and productivity.
Explore some of the best ways to boost your immune system below!
Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is essential for the human body to function properly. It allows your body to rest and recover while also enhancing your overall health. One of the ways it does this is by bolstering your immune system.
A 2011 scientific review, looked at the various effects that sleep has on the immune system. It found that proper sleep raises the production of antibodies – cells that identify toxins – as well as promoting immunological memory – the process by which your body remembers past infections in order to neutralize them more quickly in the future.
Poor sleeping habits, the study also found, are associated with weaker immune function and lowered immunological memory. Additionally, people suffering from chronic sleep loss are at a higher risk for several diseases, including the flu and the common cold.
Everybody experiences stress and anxiety. Whether it be before an exam, a presentation, or asking someone out on a date, we’ve all felt it. While acute stress – like a cold shower – can be beneficial, chronic stress can inhibit your body’s ability to fight infections.
According to the American Psychological Association, chronic stress is associated with fewer white blood cells that fight disease throughout our bodies. This results in weakened immune function and a heightened risk of infection.
By reducing chronic stress, you can boost your immune system and stay healthier.
Regular physical activity and exercise can improve nearly every aspect of your health and wellness. Exercise can increase bone strength, lower your risk of heart disease, and even prevent illness.
In a 2018 review, it was revealed that consistent exercise likely results in heightened antibody production as well as improved antibody response. This potentially increases the effectiveness of vaccines while also strengthening your immune system against future infections.
While some evidence suggests that high-intensity exercise can temporarily reduce immune function, this can most likely be mitigated by proper recovery techniques.
Get Your Micronutrients
Many of us know that vitamin C has a significant effect on the immune system. This is why some people will chug a gallon of orange juice if they think they might be getting sick. However, that’s not as effective as some people may think.
Vitamin C is an essential micronutrient that’s effective at preventing illness, but once you’re already sick, it won’t do much. Additionally, most people aren’t deficient in vitamin C, so consuming more of it just means that it’ll be excreted by urination.
Zinc is another micronutrient that’s important to the immune system. While most people aren’t deficient, adequate zinc intake is essential for maintaining proper immune function. Zinc can be found in several foods like beef, poultry, whole grains, and seafood.
By consistently consuming the proper amounts of zinc and vitamin C, you can boost your immune system and prevent the possibility of illness.
Try Supplementing with Black Elderberry
Sambucol products – which come from black elderberry – have recently become more popular for disease prevention and treatment. This is especially true for the flu and common cold.
On average, severe flu symptoms can last for up to 7 days with other symptoms lasting for more than 2 weeks. However, a 2001 study found that black elderberry supplementation resulted in flu symptoms being reduced to only 3 or 4 days.
Wash Your Hands
Proper handwashing is by far the most effective way to boost your immune system and prevent illness. In fact, just washing your hands can reduce the presence of bacteria by up to 92%!
In 2019, two Idaho teachers performed a handwashing experiment using kindergarten to sixth-grade students and bread. Clean pieces of bread were wiped on Chromebooks, touched by students with washed hands, dirty hands, and more. The verdict: handwashing is the best way to keep bacteria off.
Just take a look at the nauseating results.
Luckily, the CDC provides instructions on how to properly wash your hands.
- Wet your hands with warm water, if available.
- Lather and scrub your hands with soap for at least 20 seconds.
- Rinse your hands under running water.
- Dry your hands with a clean towel or by air-drying.
If you follow these steps, you’ll have cleaner hands and a healthier life.
Boost Your Immune System & Stay Healthy
No one likes to be sick. Frankly, it sucks, but there are several ways to prevent illness before it strikes. By getting proper sleep, regularly exercising, consuming enough zinc and vitamin C, minimizing stress, and washing your hands, you can be better prepared to fight off any illness.
The evidence strongly suggests that these methods will help protect you during this infectious cold and flu season. Boost your immune system and stay healthy in the new year!
How do you protect yourself from illness during cold and flu season? Let us know in the comments!
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