There are a few natural lifestyle solutions that can help keep us healthy throughout the winter.
1. Diet and Exercise
It turns out diet and exercise aren't just important for general health, they play an important role in immune system health as well. Eating too many total fats, saturated fats, and trans-fats can actually suppress immune system function. Also, not eating enough protein can also decrease immune function. Studies have also shown that frequent exercise also stimulates the immune system. Remember to keep your overall nutrient status high during this time of year - eat a balance diet and take those daily multivitamins for best results!
2. Limit Caffeine Consumption
I know, I know. This one is hard. But scientists have found that caffeine and its active metabolites can actually suppress necessary immune cells. If you can't stand the thought of giving up your coffee, just try to keep it to 1-2 cups of coffee and other caffeinated beverages a day.
3. Avoid Excess Sugar Consumption
Yep. I said it. Refined sugars and carbohydrates can directly affect the effectiveness of white blood cells, which fight off infection. Studies have found that the immune system can be depressed by up to 50% within 30 minutes of eating refined carbohydrates, and that depression remains for up to 5 hours.
4. Get Plenty of Zzz's
People who get 7 hours of sleep or less are 3 times more likely to catch a cold compared to people who sleep at least 8 hours a night. Tips to get catch more zzz's include maintaining a regular bed and wake time schedule even on the weekends, making sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, cool, and comfortable, and establishing a relaxing bedtime routine, such as soaking in a hot tub and then reading quietly before going to bed.
5. Control Your Stress
Sometimes, especially around the holidays, it seems like life is nothing but stress. Studies have shown that higher levels of psychological stress are associated with higher levels of cold and flu infections. Stress chemicals released by the body dampen the immune system, leaving you more susceptible to infection. Make sure to make time for you this season. Relax in a bubble bath, meditate, participate in yoga, even regular physical activity can help reduce stress!