4 Keys to Avoid Colds and Flu This Winter
Your odds of catching a cold or the flu may go up in winter but that doesn’t mean that winding up sick in bed is inevitable.
Here are four ways to boost your immune system and strengthen your shield against illness:
1. Drink More Water
Hot drinks like coffee and tea seem far more appealing in the cold weather. Yet such drinks cause increased urination, which can lead to a greater risk of dehydration, and water helps flush harmful toxins and illness-causing germs from your body to keep your immune system strong. So make sure to carry a water bottle with you wherever you go this winter, and aim to drink at least 8 cups (2 liters) per day.
2. Get More Vitamin C
In addition to its many health benefits, Vitamin C has been shown to increase the production and function of white blood cells, which engulf and destroy harmful germs (and other foreign substances) and prevent them from replicating. Vitamin C also boosts immune health by helping your body absorb iron, which helps strengthen your body’s resistance to infection.
Vitamin C-rich foods include:
Eat them as snacks, juice them or add them to your favorite smoothies. Just make sure to drink them right away, since the lifespan of Vitamin C is quite short. If you’re not ready to drink fresh Vitamin C right away, you can store freshly juiced Vitamin C in the fridge for up to 24 hours in an airtight container like a Mason jar.
3. Take Probiotics
Probiotics are the healthy bacteria found in your gut, and they’re necessary to maintain a healthy body. Besides helping you digest food, probiotics help protect you from pathogens like cold and flu viruses, and have been shown to help reduce the length of such illnesses.
You can include more probiotics in your diet by eating probiotic-rich foods like:
4. Avoid Processed Foods
Sugars, salt and bad fats loaded into processed foods can weaken and destroy your healthy gut bacteria, which weakens your body’s ability to defend itself against cold and flu viruses. A diet high in sugars and fats can also cause inflammation, which is your body’s defense mechanism to protect cells and tissues, and inflammation further impairs your immune health.
When you switch to whole foods (like fresh fruits and veggies) and eliminate anything that comes pre-packaged, you immediately take a step toward a stronger, healthier immune system.
When selecting proteins, choose organic or grass-fed foods as much as possible, or select plant protein sources like beans, nuts and seeds. Also, the inclusion of healthy fats like avocado, coconut oil and extra virgin olive oil is extremely important since they will help decrease inflammation and give your immune system a boost, making you less susceptible to cold and flu viruses.
If you don’t have time to shop for probiotic-rich foods, or prepare Vitamin C-rich smoothies, you can take probiotics and Vitamin C as a supplement. Just make sure to consult with your healthcare provider or pharmacist to find out which one is the best option for you.