5 Ways to Boost Your Immune System for Cold & Flu Season
(AscendHealthy.com) – In the midst of the coronavirus spread and an upcoming flu season, you might be wondering if there’s anything you can do to reduce your odds of contracting the illness. While nothing has been scientifically proven to prevent COVID-19, there is evidence that taking certain measures can help us ward off other viruses, as well as bacteria. Let’s take a look at 5 natural ways to boost your immune system.
1. Follow a Healthy Diet
Diet plays a key role in building a strong immune system. White blood cells are essential because they produce antibodies that ward off viruses, bacteria and more. Vegetarians have been found to produce more white blood cells than meat-eaters. That’s because fruits and vegetables contain more vitamins and nutrients.
While you might not choose to give up meat altogether, you can benefit from eating a well-balanced diet that includes lots of fruits and vegetables. Include foods containing the following vitamins and nutrients in your diet:
- Vitamin C – Vitamin C-rich foods like broccoli, kale, strawberries, kiwi, oranges and sweet red peppers are all thought to increase white blood cell production.
- Beta-carotene – Beta-carotene converts into vitamin A, which offers anti-inflammatory properties that can help your body ward off a virus. Foods rich in beta-carotene include squash, carrots, sweet potatoes, apricots, spinach and cantaloupe.
- Vitamin E – Vitamin E-rich foods like spinach, avocado, nuts and seeds are thought to support the immune system.
- Vitamin D – Vitamin D has been linked to a lower risk of viral and respiratory tract infections. Foods containing vitamin D include plant-based milk and fortified cereals.
- Vitamin B-6 – Vitamin B-6 has been linked to the production of red blood cells and helps maintain the lymphatic system. Foods rich in this vitamin include chicken, turkey, salmon, tuna, bananas, chickpeas, and fortified breakfast cereals.
Low-fat diets have also been found to increase immunity. It’s believed that high-fat diets prevent white blood cells from functioning properly and also interfere with gut health, both of which can hinder our immune systems.
Water also helps boost your immune system by circulating white blood cells throughout your body. This is just one more reason to hit those fluid intake goals.
2. Make Time for Exercise
Exercise is one of the best things you can do to boost your immune system. For starters, research has linked regular physical activity to a lower risk of infections compared to those with inactive or sedentary lifestyles. Additionally, exercise can lower your odds of obesity-related comorbidities, such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and type 2 diabetes — which have all been linked to worse COVID-19 outcomes, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
In addition to improving your immune system in general, research has found that exercise can lower your risk of deadly complications if you do contract the virus. A University of Virginia study found that taking part in 30 minutes of aerobic exercise a day can help prevent acute respiratory disease syndrome (ARDS), the leading cause of death in COVID-19 patients. Aerobic exercise helps increase your breathing and heart rate. It can also help improve lung function.
Even if you don’t attend a gym or fitness center, you can still take part in aerobic exercise at home. Consider taking up walking in your neighborhood, freestyle dancing in your living room or taking part in at-home aerobic workouts, such as FAST Walking in 30 Minutes.
3. Stick to a Sleep Schedule
Research has linked poor sleep to an increased risk of infection. In a University of California study, participants who slept less than 5 hours per night were more likely to experience a head or chest cold. In an earlier study, researchers exposed people to a cold virus. They found that people who slept less than 6 or fewer hours a night were four times more likely to contract the virus than those who slept for 7 hours.
Since the common cold is caused by other strains of coronaviruses, you might be able to increase your odds of warding off COVID-19 by getting at least 7 hours of sleep a night. Even if you’re working from home or currently unemployed, sticking to a regular sleep schedule can help strengthen your immune system.
4. Keep Your Stress Levels in Check
Unfortunately, stress can negatively impact our immune systems. Not only does stress increase your odds of contracting an infection, but it can also worsen lung conditions like asthma, COPD and chronic bronchitis, according to the Lung Health Institute.
You can naturally boost your immune system by taking measures to better manage the stress in your life. To lower stress levels, consider cutting down on your caffeine intake, journaling, practicing yoga or meditation, listening to soothing music, practicing deep-breathing exercises and staying in touch with friends and family.
5. Kick Unhealthy Lifestyle Habits
If you take part in unhealthy lifestyle habits, now’s a good time to quit — especially smoking. One study of 1099 COVID-19 patients found that of those who required ventilators, intensive care or died, more than 25% were current smokers and an additional 7.6% were former smokers. Smoking cigarettes or marijuana, vaping and using e-cigarettes can all cause stress to the pulmonary system.
It may also be a good time to cut down on your alcohol intake, as well, as it has been linked to a weakened immune system and can cause sleep disruptions.
Remember that social distancing, practicing good hand hygiene, and using disinfectants are the best ways to prevent the coronavirus from entering your home. These 5 natural ways to boost your immune system will also keep you as healthy as possible to potentially avoid or ward off COVID-19 and help you sail through cold and flu season.
~Here’s to Your Healthy Ascension
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