As cold and flu season bears down on us, we often feel helpless. Is there anything we can do to prevent what sometimes seems inevitable: that we'll come down with the flu du jour and spend a week (or more) coughing, sneezing, wheezing, feverish, and ... miserable?
It turns out, while there's no way to guarantee that you won't get sick, there are a few ways you can boost your immunity so that your body is in tip-top shape to fight off whatever comes floating by.
Here are five of them:
1. Eat a diet rich in antioxidants: Antioxidant vitamins and nutrients can help your immune system battle infections by neutralizing the free radicals that can damage cells in your body. Vitamins C and E are particularly important, as are beta-carotene, bioflavenoids, and zinc. A great way to make sure you get enough of these vitamins and nutrients is to eat lots of colorful fruits and veggies (berries, citrus fruits, apples, spinach, beets, broccoli, carrots) -- raw or lightly steamed. Fresh garlic also helps. And yes, chicken soup has been known to help boost immunity, too. Your mother was right!
2. Get lots of shuteye: Here's another thing your mom was right about: You're better able to fight off illness if you're adequately rested. Doctors recommend that adults get eight solid hours of sleep each night. I know, dream on -- but you should at least try.
3. Get moving: Regular exercise ups your level of infection-fighting white blood cells and boosts your endorphins, those feel-good hormones that increase your sense of well being and the quality of the sleep you get, both of which benefit your immune system. Something as simple as a taking a walk each day or getting 20 minutes of moderate exercise three times a week can reduce your chances of coming down with a cold.
4. Try to chill out: Stress suppresses your immune system; relaxing can give it a boost. You might even try relaxation techniques like meditation: Studies show that people who meditate regularly produce more antibodies to fight off the flu. Ommm ...
5. Yuk it up a little: Laughing lowers the levels of stress hormones and boosts your supply of infection-fighting white blood cells. It also raises your level of endorphins. So slip your favorite comedy in the ol' DVR, or better yet, call up your funniest girlfriend and invite her out for coffee. And if you need to negotiate the parental leave, just tell your partner you're boosting your immune system. Because a healthy you is good for your whole family, right?
What do you do to boost your immune system during cold and flu season?
Image via karimian/Flickr
Going to baseball games
Riding bike rides in the nice weather
Playing outside after work/school
Going for walks outside