Ah, winter. ‘Tis the season for crackling fires, family and friends gathered around the table, and sledding down the snow-covered hillsides. It’s undoubtedly a favorite time of year for many, but the chilly winter months can quickly lose their luster the minute germs make a debut. The influx of coughs, colds, and flus seem heckbent on ruining all the fun.
Many pesky illnesses that sprout up during the winter months are viral, which mean antibiotics won’t do the trick. These bugs seem to have no qualms with keeping entire households homebound for weeks; it can take up to two weeks for them to run their course. Prevention is key, so wash those hands frequently and start boosting your immunity by trying these seven natural methods:
1. Eat the rainbow.
Treat Yo’ Self (any Parks and Recs fans?) to plenty of seasonal vegetables and fruits. Nourishing your body with clean, whole foods like bone broth, soups made with organic vegetables and grass-fed protein, wild seafood, and berries provide supercharged benefits to your immune system. Avoid (or decrease) consumption of certain inflammatory foods such as sugar, dairy, gluten, alcohol, and processed food (super easy to do, right?). But, if you’re just able to take one step in strengthening your immune system, do this one. Your body will thank you. (For help on ditching gluten, click here!)
2. Gut check.
According to Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, all diseases begin in the gut. Many healthcare experts agree considering 70% of the immune system is found in your digestive system. Decreasing processed foods and increasing nourishing foods keeps the digestive system balanced, which creates an environment for the good bacteria—probiotics—to thrive and fend off infections. Feed your gut fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kombucha, miso, kefir, and kimchee, all of which contain probiotics. You can also load up on probiotics in supplemental form.
3. Sunshine vitamin.
Many people are walking around with deficient levels of vitamin D—a major player in our immunity booster list. Primarily absorbed through sun exposure, the “sunshine vitamin” is found lacking in our bodies due to modern lifestyle and diets. We’re spending fewer hours outdoors and there aren’t many foods rich in vitamin D. Add salmon, cod liver oil, tuna, and egg yolks to your list of nourishing foods to fuel your body. It’s wise to have your D levels checked by a healthcare professional and begin taking D3 supplements if there is a deficiency.
4. Get your Zs.
Not only is shut-eye crucial for keeping bodies and minds balanced, it’s imperative for strengthening immune systems. Plenty of sleep is a must-have for your body to restore and repair itself. The shorter days and longer nights are a perfect time to take advantage of this cheap way to ward off wintertime germs. Helpful hint: try winding down an hour earlier than usual, and do something relaxing such as taking an Epsom salt bath with lavender oil, making yourself a cup of herbal tea, and fully unplugging by putting away electronic devices. The latter is crucial: the light exposure emitted by devices promotes wakefulness and can negatively impact the quality of sleep.
This tip seems like a no-brainer, but water consumption is essential to overall health and wellness and is especially important for immune systems to function at their best. Not only does a well-hydrated body combat other wintertime maladies such as dry skin, but water also expels waste and removes toxins from your body. When toxins build up, immune systems are weakened. For a fun alternative from plain water, try carbonating or infusing it with orange slices, herbs, berries, cucumber, and ginger. My personal favorite combos are basil + cucumber and strawberries + mint.
6. Move your body.
Adequate amounts of exercise not only help reduce stress, but also increases circulation and can boost your immune system. Carve out time, grab a friend, and try out that new spin or yoga class. (Need motivation to get moving? Click here!)
7. Nourish your soul.
Nourishing your body with nutritious food is essential for staving infections, but so is nourishing your soul. That whole mind-body-soul connection is a real deal; when you’re stressed out, your immunity levels take a pounding. A rough season in marriage, a demanding job, or a sick family member are among thousands of other stressors that can tax your body’s defense system—oftentimes long before you recognize their effect. Give yourself the gift of a soul reset by taking inventory of the people, habits, and situations in your life that are adding tension. Journal, talk with a trusted friend or professional counselor, and allow freedom to reflect and process through the areas of life that are impacting you both mentally and emotionally. Give yourself heaps of grace as you seek to make changes that will benefit you on all fronts.
If you find yourself coming down with aches or pains, taking these seven steps will ensure you’re giving your body ammo and grit to fight the good fight against wintertime bugs. Be good to yourself and stay well this winter!
For more health articles, check out:
Feeling Stressed Out? 5 Tips to Breathe Easy
How to Get Your Hormones in Check
Some of the Most Popular Ways to Exercise Right Now
5 Simple Ways to Improve Your Nutrition
How to Go Gluten-Free (Without Hating It)
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