Hands up if you remember your mom telling you that you’d better put a hat on or you’d catch your death. Classic mom, right? Maybe you’ve even passed on that advice to your own children.
In many parts of the country, the winter months bring frigid temperatures and, seemingly, a lot more illness. It’s not surprising that people would be willing to try all sorts of things to avoid runny noses, sore throats and the rest of the crud we associate with cold and flu season.
While the medical community doesn’t directly support your mother’s claim (sorry, Mom!) that cold weather causes you to get sick, scientists have identified a number of reasons that you may be more likely to become sick when the cold weather hits. Some notable reasons include:
- You spend more time indoors in close proximity to others
- You may be low on vitamin D, which supports your immune system
- Some viruses may replicate more easily in colder temperatures
- Viruses seem to live longer in lower humidity
From just this short list, you can already see that some elements are out of your control while others give you a chance to be proactive. Wondering how to boost your immunity? There are a handful of simple, natural ways you can help your immune system fight harder this winter.
1. Eat Foods that Improve your Immune System
In general we all know that a balanced diet that includes lots of colorful fruits and vegetables is key to a healthy lifestyle. But, you can actually support your immune system specifically by eating foods that are high in healthy fats and/or antioxidants. Consider adding more of these tasty options to your diet:
- Bell peppers
- Chia seeds
- Olive oil
Avoiding certain foods is important, too. Cold weather may make you crave sweet, starchy “comfort” foods. However, studies show that high-sugar diets can suppress the immune system, making it extra important to cut out sugar whenever you can. You can always get your sweet fix with sugar substitutes like organic honey, stevia or maple syrup.
2. Reduce your Stress Levels
Easier said than done, we know, but managing stress is an important part of improving your body’s response to germs. Stress can weaken the immune system, reducing your number of lymphocytes (white blood cells that fight infection). Stress also increases cortisol production, which can lead to chronic inflammation.
This makes it essential to find your inner calm. Some people find meditation to be helpful, while others like taking long baths or writing in a journal. You can also try singing or another creative activity, going outside, playing with your pet, visiting friends or simply relaxing.
Whatever calming activity you choose, make sure your aim is to relieve any anxiety you feel. This will help your immune system maintain its strength and can improve your physical and mental health. And, if it’s still too much to manage, you may want to consider seeking help from a professional.
3. Exercise at Least a Few Days a Week
Exercise contributes to your overall health by lowering your blood pressure, keeping your heart in good shape, helping you maintain a healthy weight, and more. Moderate exercise can also help your immune system.
You’ve probably heard of people “sweating it out” when they’re feeling sick, and this is because exercise is a kick-starter for disease-fighting in the body. Just be cautious not to overdo it, as too much exercise without proper recovery time can actually work against your immune system. Like all things, moderation is key.
As a general guideline, the Department of Health and Human Services recommends 150 minutes of exercise a week (spread over several days). Your immune system will thank you for exercising regularly, plus exercise can also help you with managing stress. In fact, here are some yoga poses you may want to try.
4. Be on the Defensive
The best offense is a good defense, right? If we didn’t already know, the pandemic has taught us a lot about the importance of actively avoiding viruses and infections. It may sound basic, but it’s easy to let slip the really simple lifestyle factors that actually go a long way in preventing you from getting common colds and other viruses. Make sure you:
- Wash your hands frequently with warm, soapy water for at least 20 seconds
- Avoid touching your face, especially your mouth and nose
- Don’t share drinks, napkins, eating utensils, etc.
- Rinse fruits and vegetables before eating
- Cough and sneeze into your elbow rather than hands
- Stay home if you’re unwell and avoid close contact with others who are sick
5. Make Sure You’re Getting Enough Sleep
Not getting enough quality sleep at night can greatly impact your immune system – and not in a good way. Your body produces certain antibodies and infection-fighting cells during sleep. If you're sleep deprived, you’ll also be deprived of these helpful neutralizers.
Getting at least seven hours of quality sleep a night is one of the best ways to help your immune system work at its optimal level. Making sleep a priority, going to bed when your body is ready and improving your sleep environment can all help you get the sleep you need to benefit your immune system. At Naturepedic, we’re passionate about the fact that a healthier sleep environment includes mattresses and bedding that are made without flame retardants and other toxic chemicals that can off-gas while you sleep.
We offer a range of organic mattresses, pillows, sheets and more – all with the peace of mind that comes with our Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) and MADE SAFE® certifications. Organic, healthy sleep, without all the questionable chemicals. View our adult collection here.