5 ways to build a strong immune system
Cold and flu season might be in full swing but that doesn't mean you and your family have to fall victim to a winter of fever coughing and sniffles. Along with frequent hand washing a strong immune system is one of your best defenses against illness. Here's how to boost your germ-fighting abilities all season long.
1. Get enough quality sleep
According to the Mayo Clinic too little shuteye lowers your body's number of infection-fighting antibodies and cells making you more likely to get sick after being exposed to the cold or flu virus. How much sleep is enough? Adults should aim for seven to eight hours. As for the kids teenagers should log nine to 10 hours while school-aged children need 10 hours or more.
2. Eat nutritious foods
A healthy diet gives your body the fuel it needs to fight off cold and flu germs. According to Harvard Medical School some evidence suggests that deficiencies in certain micronutrients - like vitamins A B6 C and E zinc selenium iron copper and folic acid - can reduce your body's immune response. Feed your immune system a wide range of vitamins and minerals by eating plenty of fruits vegetables whole grains and lean proteins. If you suspect that your diet isn't covering all the nutritional bases talk with your health care provider about taking a daily multivitamin.
3. Exercise regularly
For a strong immune system work in 30 minutes of moderate physical activity most days of the week. Medline Plus notes that during exercise protective antibodies and white blood cells flood the body at a faster rate possibly detecting illness sooner than if you were sedentary. Exercise also helps reduce stress which is thought to increase your odds of getting sick - more on that below.
4. Minimize stress
Feeling frazzled or anxious releases the stress hormone cortisol which according to the Mayo Clinic can suppress your immune system and make it harder to get quality sleep. While we can't cut stress out of our lives completely it's important to take steps to manage it effectively. At the end of a hectic day relax and unwind by meditating talking with a friend or taking a warm bath.
5. Drink less alcohol
You might not know it but excessive alcohol consumption may suppress your body's ability to fight germs. In fact a new study from a researcher at the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine found that just one episode of binge drinking (defined as four drinks for women or five for men) weakened participants' immune systems for up to five hours. If you choose to consume alcohol limit consumption to one drink per day for women and two for men.
Maintaining a strong immune system can help reduce your odds of catching a cold or the flu. And even if you do end up getting sick you'll likely bounce back faster than someone with a weaker immune system.