Fall is officially here, kids are back in school, and the weather is starting to cool off. This also marks the beginning of flu season! Here are some simple ways to keep your immune system strong in the face of the flu or other viral illnesses.
1. Wash your hands a lot. Think of how many doorknobs you touch in a day and think of how many other people have touched those same doorknobs. All it takes is one person with the flu to sneeze into their hands, open a door, and now that doorknob can pass the flu virus to anyone else who touches it. Hand washing should involve soap and warm or hot water – scrub your hands vigorously for at least 10 seconds before rinsing. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer when you don’t have access to a sink.
2. Get plenty of sleep! Your immune system loves being well rested. When sleep is in short supply, your immune system may not be able to mount a robust response to infections, and you are more susceptible to catching the flu. Aim to get at least 8 hours of high-quality sleep each night.
3. Keep focused on nutrition! Eat plenty of vegetables (high in antioxidants) and go easy on sugar (suppresses immune functions). Drink plenty of water, and don’t overdo it with alcohol (also very immune suppressive).
4. Stay active! Exercise keeps your immune system strong. Aim for at least 150 minutes per week of exercise/ movement. Select an activity that you enjoy doing.
5. Finish your showers with a cold water rinse. Start with 15 seconds of cold water at the end of your shower and build up until you tolerate 1-2 minutes of cold water therapy per shower. Cold water exposure has been shown to increase the number of white blood cells in your body – these are the cells that make up your immune system.
6. Check your Vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is critical to proper immune functioning. As we say goodbye to summer and start spending more time indoors, it is very common for Vitamin D levels to take a dip. Ask your doctor to test your Vitamin D levels and start supplementation if appropriate. Please remember that Vitamin D supplements are best taken with a fat containing meal for optimal absorption.
Now get out there and enjoy the changing leaves and cool breeze. Before you know it, the holidays will be here!