This time of year, my patients are always asking how they can boost their immune system to stay healthy and avoid getting sick this winter. As cold and flu season is underway, I wanted to share some of my top tips for staying healthy this time of year.
Getting sick is a drag and not only that but if you happen to come down with a bacterial infection you may be stuck with taking an antibiotic. We want to avoid this as best we can as antibiotics strip the body of both harmful and beneficial bacteria and can cause some damage to your gut. Some people may find they wind up getting sick again after they finish a round of antibiotics simply because of the damage they caused to the gut.
Getting sick can also cause a flare up in those suffering from an autoimmune disease since it causes stress on the immune system.
Lastly, no one likes to get sick. It sucks the energy out of you, keeps you stuck in bed, and depending on how bad you’re feeling you may need to take some time off of work.
Let’s jump in and take a look at my favorite ways to prevent getting sick so that you don’t fall victim to the yucky cold or flu this winter!
11 Tips to Avoid Getting Sick This Winter
#1 Boost Gut Health
I frequently talk about the importance of maintaining optimal gut health because it plays such an important role in the health of your immune system. The majority of our immune system resides in the gut so it is essential to take the steps needed to keep the digestive system happy and healthy.
To help boost gut health, I recommend eliminating processed foods from the diet and enjoying more probiotic-rich foods such as sauerkraut, unsweetened coconut yogurt, and kimchi. You may also want to supplement with a high-quality probiotic to keep the healthy bacteria up and thus help your body fight off infections.
#2 Eliminate Sugar
I encourage all my patients to enjoy a paleo-style diet which means eliminating sugar. Sugar can suppress the immune system when consumed in excess, not to mention the damage it can do to your gut. Too much sugar in the diet can lead to yeast overgrowth, and an imbalance in gut bacteria making you more susceptible to getting sick.
Try eliminating as much sugar from your diet as possible. You can start by eliminating processed and artificial sugar and use natural options such as raw honey, and pure maple syrup. However, keep in mind that these should also be consumed in moderation.
#3 Cut out Gluten
Another dietary recommendation I make to help support the immune system is eliminating gluten. Gluten can cause inflammation in the body and can even lead to leaky gut. As we have talked about, boosting gut health is one of the number one ways to build a strong immune system.
I recommend going gluten-free, not just during cold and flu season, but long-term in order to support overall health.
#4 Combat Stress
Have you ever noticed that you are more likely to get sick when you are stressed, and run down? Stress suppresses the immune system which sets your body up to be more vulnerable to the germs floating around this time of year.
Try to combat stress as best as you can with things like yoga, meditation, and getting out to do things you enjoy on a weekly basis. You would be amazed at what this can do for your overall stress levels.
#5 Get Enough Sleep
Getting enough sleep is one of the best and easiest ways you can avoid getting sick this winter. Sleep is essential for your body to function at its optimal level. Sleep allows the body to rest and fight off germs and toxins you may have come in contact with, and not getting enough can cause poor immune function.
Strive to get at least 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night.
#6 Supplement with Vitamin D
Vitamin D is excellent for the immune system and most of us aren’t getting enough especially this time of year. The sunshine vitamin helps the body fight infections and it is also very important for anyone with an autoimmune disease.
#7 Get Moving
Keeping your body fit and active this time of year is a great way to support the immune system. Exercise can help beat stress and it also helps to get the blood flowing throughout your body, keeping the immune system strong.
Just be sure not to overdo any type of exercise as too much of a good thing is not good either. Strive to get a moderate amount of exercise into your day 4-5 times per week.
#8 Keep Your Hands Clean
Handwashing is the number one way of preventing the spread of germs. It is something so simple, but so effective. Keep your hands clean this year by washing them for at least 20 seconds being sure to scrub in between your fingers and under your fingernails.
Avoid getting sick this winter by following these eight tips! Remember that a healthy gut means a healthy immune system, and that diet, stress levels, and sleep all play a role.
Looking to add some supplements to boost the immune system this winter? I also recommend supplementing with the Optimal Reset Powder which supports both gut and liver health.
#9 Supplement with Zinc
Zinc is commonly used to fight the common cold and is very important for the immune system. However, it also supports digestive health and can help with inflammation. This trace element comes in different forms but information supports that they all act similarly so you don’t have to worry about getting one form over another. The USDA dietary reference intakes for zinc are based on both age and gender.
They recommend the following:
Infants 0-6 months: 2mg
Infants 7-12 months: 3mg
Children 1-3 years: 3mg
Children 4-8 years: 5mg
Children 9-13 years: 8mg
Adolescents 14-18 (Males) 11mg
Adolescents 14-18 (Females) 9mg
Adults 19+ (Males) 11mg
Adults 19+ (Females) 8mg
#10 Try Elderberry
Elderberry is excellent for immune health and is thought to reduce the symptoms of the flu as well as fever, headaches, sore throat, and fatigue. It is also very high in antioxidants making it an ideal way to keep the immune system strong. If you find yourself coming down with a viral respiratory infection, elderberry may be able to help. There is no standard dosage recommendation for elderberry, however, some studies have shown 1 Tbsp. four times per day to be effective.
#11 Essential Oils for the Flu
Essential oils can be very helpful this time of year. You will want to try oils like peppermint, frankincense, clove, and thieves from Young Living Essential Oils. Try diffusing these oils in your home to keep germs at bay. Peppermint essential oil can also help if you have come down with a respiratory infection and are dealing with congestion.
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Finally, I learned about functional medicine and found a practitioner that I hoped could help me. They ran specialized tests that were far different than I had ever had before. When I got the results back, it turned out I had candida, parasites, high cortisol, the Epstein Bar Virus and many food intolerances. I also had an issue with my thyroid that no one found before because they were using the conventional medicine lab ranges which are way too broad….which I now know is one of the leading causes of hypothyroid misdiagnosis.
I went through treatment of all of these things and it completely changed my life. I immediately lost the 30 pounds I had gained plus more, I had a lot more energy, and my brain fog was gone. I felt amazing and knew that I wanted to help people find the underlying causes of their symptoms and disease.