With cold and flu season around the corner, it is important to keep your immune system strong and your body in tip–top shape. By doing so, you will have a far better chance of fighting off any nasty bugs that you may be exposed to over the next fall and winter months.
What is the immune system?
In short, the immune system is a combination of cells and organs that work together to help you avoid sickness and disease, which can lead to coughs, colds and flus. The immune system can be likened to a powerful army that has various weapons such as anti-bodies and white blood cells. When an invader “attacks” in the form of a bacteria, virus or allergenic food, a response is issued by the immune system to protect your body. Conditions such as sleep deprivation, stress, poor diet, lack of exercise and an excess intake of alcohol can weaken the immune system response and leave you susceptible to getting sick.
Can I improve my immune system?
Yes! Absolutely – your immune system can be strengthened (or weakened) by various food and lifestyle approaches. To keep your immune system function strong, simply implement a few of the steps below:
Go for garlic: Garlic is an immune boosting superstar. Eaten in raw form or in capsule form, research has shown garlic to be a very powerful preventative agent against coughs, colds and chest infections during the winter months. Odorless garlic capsules are available at your local health food store.
Get your zzzz’s: Sleep is the time where your body repairs and re-builds. If you are sleep deprived or suffer from interrupted sleep, the immune system can become depressed and an increase of inflammatory chemicals can occur. In order to get some sound sleep, opt for lavender on your pillow, sleep in a room that is completely dark, and avoid watching TV before bed.
Supplement with vitamin D: Canadians who live in colder climates typically have limited sunny months and can become deficient in the immune-boosting vitamin D. According to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, people with low levels of vitamin D are more susceptible to catching colds. For supplementation reasons, most experts suggest supplementing with a minimum of 1000 IU per day.
Avoid white sugar: Eating too much white sugar can cause fatigue, weight gain and can suppress immune system function. An excess amount of white sugar found in pop, candy and other refined food dampens your white blood cell response, referred to as your leucocytic index response. White blood cells are part of the “army” that the immune system uses to ensure harmful microbes such as bacteria or viruses do not grab hold. Instead of eating white sugar, turn to natural sweet foods such as berries, mangos, apples, apple sauce and naturally dried fruit for a healthier type of snack.
Additional immune boosting tips include:
- Hydrate with a minimum of 2 liters of water per day.
- Add probiotics (“good bacteria”) into your daily diet such as those found in yogurt or in capsule form.
- Be with your friends! Research show those who socialize and spend time with loved ones enjoy better health and longevity.
- Lighten up your eating. When you are under the weather, your body does not actually have to eat a lot of food. If you do fall ill this winter, drink warm liquids and eat organic chicken soup until you feel stronger.
- Remember to wash your hands! Infections can be transmitted via contact such as sneezing, coughing or touching surfaces that have been sneezed or coughed on.
- Boost your vitamin C intake by eating citrus fruits and broccoli, as well as in supplement form.
- Sweat it out: Engage in physical activity on a regular basis to reduce cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone that when over secreted by the adrenal glands, can cause your immune system to weaken.
Thinking about getting the flu vaccine this year? Cityline guest expert Dr. Joelene Huber recently talked about the vaccine on Breakfast Television Toronto — watch the video below to learn more.
Courtesy Dr. Joey Shulman
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