5 steps to naturally increase immunity
Summer is over and the cold winter months are quickly approaching, which means it's time to start preparing your body for flu season. Whether you're already taking Vitamin C supplements or simply looking for ways to feel better, these simple tips will help strengthen your immune system and keep you healthy throughout the flu season.
1. Eat more plants!
Specifically, foods high in Vitamin C such as citrus fruits, cruciferous vegetables, tomatoes, and bell peppers. Consuming foods high in Vitamin C instead of taking a supplement can improve absorption due to the powerful combination of dietary fiber and phytonutrients.
Also, consider adding anti-inflammatory foods like garlic, onions, berries, and tomatoes to your diet. These foods help to decrease inflammation and promote gut health. In addition, consuming fermented foods such as kefir, kimchi, miso, tempeh, and sourdough is an excellent way to introduce good bacteria to your gut, which can help maintain a healthy gut microbiome.
2. Get more quality sleep
Studies show that those who slept fewer than 6 hours each night were more likely to catch a cold than those who slept 6 hours or more each night. Also, researchers are finding that sleep quality is more important than sleep quantity, especially as you age. By limiting caffeine, reducing brain activity by reading or meditating, embracing your natural circadian rhythm, and limiting screen time late at night, you can begin to have more quality sleep. So put the phone down, read a book, practice deep breathing, and rest up!
3. Get moving
The benefits of exercise are endless, but when it comes to immunity, this easily makes the top 3 list. Researchers found that consistent, daily moderate-intensity aerobic activity for 30-40 minutes, increases the circulation of heavy-hitting immune cells therefore boosting the body's natural defenses.
In addition, regular exercise can result in better sleep, improved moods, lower stress levels, and reduced inflammation — all factors that contribute to better health and a revved up immune system.
4. Stay hydrated
Did you know that water accounts for more than 50% of body weight for most Americans? It's no wonder then, that staying hydrated and drinking enough water is crucial to keep all systems functioning at their best, including the immune system.
Generally, a daily goal of around 64 oz of water is recommended, which can be easily achieved by drinking when we feel thirsty. However, as we age, our natural thirst mechanism weakens, so it's important to keep water with you at all times to avoid dehydration. Using natural flavors like lemon or ginger can help encourage you to drink more. Another helpful tip is to use a container with measurements to monitor your water intake and adjust accordingly.
5. Reduce stress
Although stress can be overwhelming, in small control amounts stress is not always bad. However, if you are feeling stressed and overwhelmed for long periods, it could be wreaking havoc on your body. In small doses, stress produces a hormone called cortisol, which actually boosts your immunity. However, over time the body can get used to having too much cortisol which then results in inflammation. This can occur with chronic stress or stress that occurs consistently over a period of time. This chronic inflammation can impact your gut, your sleep, your mood, and inevitably your immune system.
Finding activities that help manage stress is the first step to improving your immune system this season. Yoga, exercise, journaling, meditation, reading, or other mindful practices can all help reduce your stress. Go for a walk after a stressful meeting, find a yoga class at the end of the work day, or pick up your favorite book to get your mind off of the pressing stressors that plague you before bed.