Painful headaches, blocked sinuses, and body aches – each year winter seems to bring with it the inevitable cold. But, is a spending a week under the covers with the sniffles really unavoidable?
What’s the key to staying healthier this winter? You’ll need to boost your immune system.
Here are seven strategies you can employ today to reduce the risk of colds and the flu, so you can make the most of the colder months.
1. Get immunised for the flu
The flu is highly contagious and can leave you feeling run down for a week or more. By getting your annual flu shot, you’ll be protected against the flu viruses most likely to be widespread this winter, or reduce the severity of symptoms if you do catch the flu.
2. Keep the bugs away
Common infections such as colds, flu, and gastroenteritis are spread by germs on our hands. Wash your hand frequently with soap and water and wipe down surfaces with alcohol-based hand sanitisers, or make your own natural one.
If you get sick, cover your sneezes and coughs with a tissue so you don’t expose others to your bugs. Avoid germ hot spots like the kitchen faucet or soap dispensers, and avoid contact with people who are sick. Don’t touch your eyes, nose, and mouth as this can spread germs. When washing your hands, lather thoroughly for at least 30 seconds and rinse well.
Change your toothbrush regularly to avoid the accumulation of bacteria. Moisturising dry feet with can also help by preventing fungi from entering your body through cracked skin. Wear socks with moisture-wicking properties to reduce bacteria build-up.
3. Eat an immune-boosting diet and stay hydrated
A well-balanced diet can strengthen your immune system. High-fibre diets rich in fruits and veggies have been linked to stronger immune outcomes. Incorporate a variety of foods rich in vitamin C, commonly favourites are lemons, kiwi fruit, broccoli, and cabbage. Homemade juices and smoothies are a convenient way to get more fruit and vegetables into your diet if you find it hard to get your recommended daily intake.
Look for foods high in macronutrients (vitamins and minerals), antioxidants, protein, and fibre for a good balance. Foods high in zinc can enhance the immune system, so add zinc-rich foods like oysters, zinc-fortified cereals, crab, beef, turkey, and beans to your meals. Mushrooms are another immune-boosting food to eat more of.
Staying hydrated can also be beneficial for overall health. By drinking sufficient amounts of water, you support nutrient dispersion and toxin elimination. Carry a reusable water bottle with you and fill up with filtered water.
Supplement with immune-boosting herbs like fresh garlic and cayenne pepper. Add raw apple cider vinegar to salad dressings. Coconut oil is beneficial fat to add to your diet, and it can be used in cooking. If you think you might not be getting enough nutrients from your diet, try a daily multivitamin and consider taking zinc. Always first check with your doctor or qualified nutritionist if you have any doubts about changing your diet and supplementation.
5. Get active
Colder weather doesn’t mean you should abandon your workout schedule. Research shows moderate levels of regular exercise can be beneficial for the immune system. Brisk walking twice a week can help you cut back on sick days, but aerobic exercise at least five times a week for more than 20 minutes each time is recommended. If you prefer less strenuous workouts, try tai chi – this ancient Chinese practice has been linked to better immune function.
6. Catch up on sleep
If you find it hard to get to sleep, follow a bedtime routine allowing you to wind down and relax. Listen to some relaxing music, take a warm bath, and avoid screen time later in the evening. Get to bed at the same time every night to encourage a regular sleep routine.
7. Focus on mental and emotional wellbeing
Our mental and emotional wellbeing could impact overall health and our ability to fight off colds and flu. Stay socially active as research shows those with larger social networks tend to have more antibodies than those with smaller networks. Express your feelings rather than keeping your thoughts bottled up. Use stress management strategies to respond positively to the ups and downs of life. Set goals, stay challenged, and have something to look forward to every day.
Stay healthy and happy this winter
Paying attention to your health isn’t only for the winter months, but it’s worthwhile to make an extra effort to keep colds and flu away during the colder months. By eating well, keeping active, and paying attention to your emotional wellbeing, you’ll be more likely to stay healthy and happy throughout winter.
Disclaimer: The Herron blog is interested in general community wellbeing and information, and does not imply that Herron products should be used for serious ailments without the advice or recommendation from your healthcare practitioner.All information presented on the Herron website is meant for general knowledge and never meant as a diagnosis of prescription. Please always contact your doctor for health related matters.