As the days get shorter and temperatures are cooling down, noses are starting to run. Holiday season is approaching and with that, unfortunately, comes cold and flu season. This time of year is meant to be for having fun and spending time with loved ones. Nothing puts a damper on my holiday spirit like getting sick. I’ve put together some tips for keeping your immune system in fighting shape this winter. We tend to not think about our immune system until we are already sick. By taking care of yourself now you can prevent illness from occurring and will feel great all winter long.
5 Tips for Staying Healthy During Cold and Flu Season
Take your vitamins!
Vitamins are so important for our immune function. Vitamins C, D, and Zinc are some of the top fighters that help boost your immune system, making it more effective at fighting off infection. If your body isn’t getting the vitamins that it needs each day then your immune system can end up weaker. This makes you more susceptible to a cold or the flu.
Get plenty of zzz’s.
Sleep is our bodies chance to rest and recharge. Sleep deprivation lowers your immune function, making it easier for you to catch a cold or the flu and harder for you to recover. Try to aim for 8 consecutive hours of quality sleep each night. If you are starting to feel like you’re coming down with something, don’t hesitate to load up on the zzz’s. Take a short afternoon nap if you have the opportunity or go to bed an hour earlier. Sleeping allows more energy to go towards fighting off sickness, so don’t skimp on the snoozing.
Your kidneys are essentially the glorified trash men of the body. They help eliminate waste and toxins that would cause damage if allowed to accumulate. When damage is done to the body all of our energy goes into healing that damage, which means that there is little energy left to support the immune system and fight off infection. Water helps our kidneys function optimally and filter out toxins as required. Staying hydrated helps prevent toxins from building up and in turn, supports our immune system. Aim for a minimum of half your body weight in ounces of water per day (180lb person needs at least 90oz of water). If you are very active and losing fluids through sweating you will need even more water to best support your body.
Immune support herbs.
Elderberry is my go to herb in the winter months to help keep my family’s immune system functioning optimally. If you haven’t tried it, let me just tell you it tastes as good as it sounds. It’s a sweet berry that comes from the Sambucus plant, and its anti-viral properties help to fight off sickness during the colder months. You can buy it as a syrup and drink it on its own, or get creative. I love adding elderberry syrup to my morning oats, a warm mug of herbal tea, or on top of a scoop of vanilla ice cream for a yummy dessert.
Garlic is another powerful anti-viral and anti-bacterial herb that can help boost your immune system so you don’t get sick. Fresh herbs are always best and this herb is so easy to incorporate into your meals. Chop up a few cloves and add it to your stir fry or your veggie scramble for a great immune boost. One of my favorite ways to incorporate garlic into my diet is through a beverage called an Oxymel. It’s a warm beverage made from apple cider vinegar, honey, and garlic. You can make a batch of it and store it in the fridge to drink over a few days. You can also get creative and add herbs to your Oxymel to increase it’s immune boosting properties. This website has a great post about making an herbal Oxymel, but the basic formula I use is as follows:
Combine 1C apple cider vinegar, 1C water, 1/2C honey, 2 cloves of freshly minced garlic, and the juice of 1 lemon. Heat on the stove at a simmer for 10 minutes and enjoy.
Eat real food.
This means food that doesn’t come from a box or a jar. Fruits and veggies are packed with the vitamins that we need in order to feel good. Those immune boosting vitamins that I mentioned in my first tip can easily be found in foods. Make sure you are incorporating plenty of fresh fruits and veggies into your daily diet. If you are going to buy prepackaged food, a good rule of thumb is to avoid foods that contain ingredients you can’t pronounce.
Some of my favorite ways to get extra veggies in are:
- Add grated zucchini or carrot into your morning oatmeal or pancakes.
- Drink a juice or a smoothie every day. This is such an easy way to get in some extra veggies, especially if you have a little one that’s suspicious of green veggies. Theo loves this cold buster juice, which is loaded with vitamin c. I let him help me put the ingredients into the juicer and he gets such a kick out of it.
- Throw them in a sauce. Any time I have veggies I need to use up I add them to a sauce. It’s an easy way to incorporate more veggies into the meal without feeling like you are just loading up on veggies. This avocado pesto is packed with greens and is full of nutrients to support your immune system.
*Always consult with your doctor before taking any herbs or supplements if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, and before giving them to infants or children*