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How Can I Boost My Immune System This Winter?

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November 2016

Small changes to diet, lifestyle and daily habits can boost your immunity this winter. Spending time in your hot tub may be one of those daily habits. It’s part of a holistic approach to wellness with significant positive benefits. Just 20 minutes a day in a hot tub can help reduce stress, increase flexibility & circulation, promote muscle recovery, and improve sleep.  It may even help boost your immune system.

As winter approaches, the likelihood of getting a cold or the flu dramatically increases. Kids are back in school and you're spending more time indoors. Your exposure to viruses may increase.

Be wary of ads for supplements and herbs that claim to boost your immune system. Chances are, taking a pill is not going to rev up your whole immune system to the point it wards off all illnesses. 

According to Harvard Medical School "general healthy-living strategies are a good way to start giving your immune system the upper hand.” The article states that the immune system requires balance and harmony to function well. 

Read on to find out how you can boost your immune system with some small changes to your daily routine.

HOW CAN I ARM THE SYSTEM?

 If you do your research, you'll discover recommendations from a variety of health sources. Some are based on research results, and others are based on a common-sense approach. 

Exercise

You've heard it before, and you'll hear it again. Exercise is that universal recommendation for making just about everything better. Exercise may help flush your lungs and reduce your chance of picking up an airborne illness, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Increased circulation may also help your body identify and attack pathogens more quickly. 

A Healthy Diet

A healthy diet can boost your immune system. Prevention Magazine lists several foods that can help boost your defenses.  Consider adding these foods to your winter menu: 

1. Oats and barley

2. Shellfish high in selenium (oysters, lobsters, crabs and clams)

3. Chicken soup

4. Tea

5. Beef (or other foods high in zinc)

6. Sweet potatoes

7 Mushrooms (especially shiitake, maitake and reishi varieties)

8. Yogurt

9. Garlic

Rather than focusing on single-food solutions, focus on a diet rich in variety. A well-functioning immune system must have all essential nutrients in the right balance.

Have a Good Laugh

Laughter is one of the easiest and most enjoyable methods for helping your immune system. An article from the National Institutes of Health  shows a clear correlation between humor and immune response.  

Step Outside

Despite cold winter temperatures, stepping into the sunshine may be great for your immunity. Get some Vitamin D, which helps charge up your immune system. Depending on where you live, winter months can make it tough to soak up enough Vitamin D to get what your body needs. If that's the case for you, try supplements. Check out the Vitamin D Council to learn more.

Sometimes the best way to make sure your immune system is “all systems go” is to make sure you don’t damage it. That approach might be the best way to make sure you’re ready for the fight.

Wash Your Hands; Avoid Touching Your Face

In Jane Brody’s Cold and Flu Fighter, the author cites a University of Virginia Charlottesville study (Dr. Jack Gwaltney, Jr. and Dr. J Owen Hendley) showing most colds are transmitted by touching infected hands to your nose, eyes and mouth.  Be sure to wash your hands frequently.

Get Enough Sleep

Lack of sleep can wreak havoc on your immune system. It may make it easier for you to catch a virus and make it harder to fight it off. Remember, spending time in your hot tub is a great way to help you get to sleep and sleep more soundly.

Get a Flu Shot

While thousands of products claim to have a positive effect on immunity, “no dietary supplement or alternative remedy has so far been shown to do so,” says Dr. Marvin M. Lipman, chief medical advisor to Consumer Reports. Yet a flu shot can definitely help if the vaccine was created to fight the pathogen you’re exposed to. 

Avoid Tobacco and Alcohol

Recommendations listed in everydayhealth.com note that excessive alcohol consumption impairs the immune system. It may also increase the likelihood of lung infections. Tobacco smoke undermines basic immune defenses and raises the risk of bronchitis and pneumonia. 

Reduce Stress

The effects of stress on the immune system are well documented. People have individual ways of reducing stress. Find what works for you. It could be relaxing in your hot tub, exercising, spending time with family or reading a book.

Try one (or more!) of these small lifestyle changes that you can easily fit into your daily routine in just a few minutes. Taken as a whole, they just might help you avoid the downtime and sickness that comes with a cold or flu. 

What Do You Think?

Are you good at avoiding illness during the winter months? If so, what’s your strategy? Have you tried supplements that you think worked for you? We’d love to hear your thoughts.


 

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