As we head into the winter season, more people are getting attacked by cold and flu. The infection usually comes from outside sources, such as things we touch and being in contact with others who are already infected, it’s our immune system that ultimately protects us, but if it is weak, it may have a hard time stopping these bugs.
For most of us, our immune system does a pretty remarkable job at defending each of us against germs. It is only when our system fails and a germ enters our body that we get sick. So before you reach for the box of tissues, researchers have some recommendations for how to help our system stay strong and healthy so it can fight back and win!
It all comes down to following good-health habits:
- Those “warriors” in your immune system need good, regular nourishment. Eat lots of leafy greens and vitamin A-rich vegetables as well as fruits, whole grains, and healthy proteins.
- Exercise results in good circulation, making it easier for the substances of the immune system to move through the body freely and do their job better.
- Rest is another key factor. In a study at Carnegie Mellon University, people who averaged fewer than 7 hours of sleep per day caught more colds than those who averaged over 8 hours.
- Try to avoid too many sugary drinks or sweets. Sugar has been known to repress the immune system for several hours.
- Stay hydrated. Your immune cells can’t work as well if you’re dehydrated.
- Keep germs away in the first place by washing your hands often, especially after you’ve been out in public.
- Keep your hands away from your face. Adults touch their faces about 15 times every hour, and it is through the eyes, nose and mouth that germs enter our bodies.
- Taking time to “chill out”, mediate, put events into perspective strengthens your immune system. Scientists now know that our bodies, including our immune system, weaken when we are stressed.
- Smile. Carl Charnetski, MD, professor of psychology at Wilkes University, found positive thinking, playing with a pet, and other pleasurable activities boost your immune system.
- Get a flu shot because it helps our immune system work better. A flu shot “tricks” our bodies into thinking that it has fought off a disease so when the real germs show up, the body is ready to fight.
In the meantime, general healthy-living strategies are a good way to start giving your immune system the upper hand.
The immune system is a complex interaction of organs, cells, proteins, other bio chemicals, and tissues.