Winter is cold and flu season and it seems like everyone is getting sick. Do you have time to be out of commission with a nasty head cold or the aches and fever of the flu? Boost your immune system now so you can fight off the nasty viruses that are lurking on so many surfaces. And if you do happen to get sick, we’ve also included an immunity-boost recipe that will have you feeling better in no time.
1. Eat right.
A diet rich in fruits and vegetables (lots of immune-boosting antioxidants, vitamins and minerals) is essential. Every meal should have either one serving of fruit or two to three servings of vegetables (one serving = one piece or 1 cup fruit or ½ cup vegetables). Make sure to get a colorful array of produce to maximize your intake of virus-fighting nutrients.
2. Move it.
People who exercise every day have fewer sick days. How much is enough? Experts recommend getting at least 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity a day. Make sure to include a mix of cardio (walking, running, biking, hiking) strength training and flexibility training, like yoga and Pilates. Overtraining (working out more than 90 minutes a day with no rest days) will actually compromise your immune system.
3. Take a probiotic.
Your body is teeming with trillions of bacteria, both good and bad. The goal is to have to good bacteria outnumber the bad ones. You can eat or drink probiotic-containing foods (yogurt, kefir, miso, sauerkraut), but that’s not usually enough. Choose a probiotic supplement that contains both multiple strains of bacteria and a sufficiently sized dose (aim for at least 10 billion CFUs). Probiotics are best taken on an empty stomach, so take one as soon as you wake up.
4. Get enough vitamin D.
Did you know that most people, even in sunshine-rich states, are vitamin D deficient? We recommend that you get your blood level measured by asking your doctor to run a 25-OHD vitamin D test. The goal is to have your level over 50ng/dl. When it comes to supplementing, 2,000 IU is considered a maintenance dose for those with normal levels. If you are deficient, you probably need more. Please get the advice from a registered dietitian nutritionist or physician who is well-versed in supplements before taking anything.
5. Get more sleep.
Do you get at least seven-and-a-half to nine hours of sleep each night? Most people do not get the recommended amount of sleep, which results in a lowered immune system. Try to unplug from your electronics at least an hour before bed and create a more relaxing bedtime routine. If you think you go to bed too late, try moving your bedtime back by 15 minutes for one week and then another 15 minutes per week until you hit your optimal bedtime. The additional sleep should leave you feeling more energized.
6. Keep your home (and work) clean.
Rather than use store-bought chemical-filled products, make your own anti-bacterial and antiviral cleaning solution and use it to clean your house, car and work environments. Fill a spray bottle halfway with distilled white vinegar and then fill the remainder with water. Leave a small space at the top of the bottle and add a little rubbing alcohol and a few drops of an essential oil (such as lavender or orange). Spray on any surface and then wipe off.
Immunity-boosting Shot (Plus a Bonus Tip)
If you do get sick, this immunity-boosting shot will help you feel better must faster: Mix together 1 teaspoon grated ginger, 1 teaspoon turmeric, 1 tablespoon raw honey, 1 tablespoon unfiltered apple cider vinegar and a pinch of cayenne. Shake it up and shoot it down. It might sting a little from the vinegar and cayenne, but it will leave you feeling better. All of the ingredients have antiviral properties.
Do you own a neti pot or other nasal saline rinse contraption? If you don’t, go to your local drug store and buy one. Doing a nasal saline rinse twice a day when you are sick helps to remove the virus from your nasal passages, leaving fewer viruses around to replicate and keep you sick.
Tiffani Bachus, R.D.N., and Erin Macdonald, R.D.N., are the co-founders of U Rock Girl!, a website designed to nourish the mind, body and spirit of women of all ages and stages of life. They have just authored the rockin' breakfast cookbook, No Excuses! 50 Healthy Ways to ROCK Breakfast! available at www.URockGirl.com