Posted on Dec 05, 2023, 10 a.m.
It’s that time of year again when you hear coughs and sneezes and find yourself wondering if that person is suffering from more than just allergies or if they might have a seasonal cold or flu bug. Yes, it is true, despite what some people would have you believe, not everything is the COVID-ick. Common colds, seasonal allergies, and the flu have not miraculously vanished, please keep that in mind the next time you see a person sneeze before you think they are trying to infect you with the ick.
Change in season from warm to cold has traditionally brought with it an increase in cold/flu because people are indoors more often allowing viruses to pass more easily. During this time of year, many people also try to boost their immune system to help it maintain its strength and efficiency. The immune system is real, it is a complex network of cells, tissues, and organs working together to recognize and eliminate invaders, and it is the body’s first line of defense against illness and infection.
Some people may have a stronger immune system than others for various reasons as it is complex and influenced by many factors, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. According to the CDC, you can boost your immune system by following a healthy lifestyle which includes eating well, being physically active, maintaining a healthy weight, getting enough sleep, stress management, not smoking, and limiting alcohol use.
Eating well means that you should focus on consuming plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, and limit added sugar, salt, saturated fats, as well as cholesterol. When you are eating well you are providing your body with the nutrients that it needs to promote optimal immune function. While no food will magically defend you from even getting sick, your overall dietary pattern is important to make sure that your body has what it needs to function optimally.
Citrus fruits are rich sources of potent vitamin C antioxidants that are known for boosting the immune system. Vitamin C also enhances white blood cell production which fights infections.
Broccoli is a great source of vitamins A, C, E, fiber, and numerous antioxidants making it one of the healthiest veggies that you can eat thanks to its nutrient profile which supports immune health.
Ginger is known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, incorporating some of this spicy root into your diet helps to decrease inflammation and might help ease a sore throat or other inflammatory illness.
Spinach packs a punch with its rich vitamin C, beta-carotene, and antioxidant properties which help to boost the infection-fighting abilities of the immune system. Much like broccoli, this veggie is healthiest when cooked as little as possible, but keep in mind that light cooking enhances the vitamin A content and releases other nutrients from oxalic acid.
Almonds are great sources of vitamin E, this potent antioxidant is also loaded with vitamins and healthy fats that are important to a healthy immune system.
Green tea is a great source of flavonoid antioxidants as well as epigallocatechin gallate antioxidants that have been shown to help enhance immune function.
Garlic has a claim to fame for fighting infections with its antiseptic, antibacterial, antioxidant, and antifungal properties. It boosts the immune system to help the body destroy or resist germs, viruses, and other microorganisms. Garlic contains compounds that have been shown to boost the disease-fighting response of white blood cells when they encounter viruses such as those that cause the common cold or flu.
Regular exercise/physical activity helps you to feel better with the release of feel-good endorphins, it helps to promote better sleep, it helps with weight management, and it can also help to reduce levels of stress and anxiety. Reaching the recommendations for physical activity for your age can provide both immediate as well as long-term benefits. Emerging evidence indicates that physical activity benefits immunity, meaning that it can help protect you from the flu.
Maintaining a healthy weight is important to immune health because carrying excess weight affects how your body functions. Having a BMI of 30 or more is linked to impaired immune function, and it may also lower the effectiveness of vaccines for numerous diseases such as influenza, hepatitis B, and tetanus.
A growing body of scientific evidence suggests that sleep loss can negatively impact different parts of the immune system, which can also lead to the development of a wide variety of disorders.
It is no secret that smoking poses serious health risks, smoking makes the body less successful at fighting off disease, and smoking also increases the risk for immune system problems such as rheumatoid arthritis. Similarly, over time, alcohol use, especially in excess, can weaken the immune system.
Immunity is our first defense against illness and foreign organisms, if you take care of yourself by making healthful choices you are by default helping to take care of your immune system, which helps it to take care of you.
As with anything you read on the internet, this article should not be construed as medical advice; please talk to your doctor or primary care provider before changing your wellness routine. This article is not intended to provide a medical diagnosis, recommendation, treatment, or endorsement.
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T.W. at WHN