What usually starts with a sniffle and ends with a sick day or two? Cold season is coming! Keeping your immune system in happy working order means that you can enjoy more of the season—and miss out less because you caught that cold that was going around.
But before you go reaching for the vitamin C and oil of oregano, read on for our top hacks to help keep your immune system strong and functioning at its best—so you can beat cold season, once and for all.
It should come as no surprise that good nutrition—a diet full of plenty of high quality, whole foods—is the foundation to good health. A colourful, whole foods-rich diet not only provides our bodies with vital vitamins and minerals that help fuel our immune system, but also helps to nourish our gut bacteria and help them thrive (more on this in a bit!). Where to start? Choose foods that make you feel good. What this means is ditching processed and sugary foods. Next? Eat lots (and lots) of fruits and vegetables in as many different colours as you can. And when you can’t, consider a superfood supplement to bolster your diet with powerful nutrients that can be hard to find.
Love your gut
Yes, probiotics are very helpful for supporting digestion, but did you know that probiotics can help to support your immune system, too? That’s because up to 80% of your immune system’s cells and tissues can be found in your gut—just one of the reasons why a probiotic can be your best friend during cold season. Probiotics have been shown to help prevent the common cold. If you end up getting sick, taking probiotics could even shorten the duration of your cold by up to 2 days. Look for a shelf-stable probiotic formulated with multi-strains (which have been shown to be more effective than single strains).
Ditch the sugar
“You might not be going around drinking two sugary drinks in a row, but even little bits of sugar here and there add up, and bam, you’ve got a chronically low performing immune system,” says holistic nutritionist Mandy King. In fact, a study done by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition gave participants two sugary drinks and then tracked their white blood cells’ (their immune system) performance. The participants’ immune system performance dropped 50% compared to the control group. Here are 7 ways to reduce your sugar intake.
Ever feel like you get sick whenever you’re stressed? Studies show that stress and immune function are linked, meaning when you’re stressed, you’re more prone to catching a cold. A couple of studies have made connections between university students, exam stress and low immunity. Here’s how: hormones like cortisol and adrenalin get secreted when your body is stressed, then these hormones can suppress the immune system. There are also some theories about how the gut, brain and immune system are linked. A couple of research-backed ways to reduce stress include mindfulness and meditation, some daily time for self-reflection, socializing, and getting outside—even for just a few minutes.
Self-care is a term that’s thrown around a lot. While most people envision it as an indulgent trip to the spa, self-care can mean a lot of different things. Our good friend Joy McCarthy of Joyous Health says, “Self-care doesn’t have to be complicated, expensive or time-consuming. Figure out what makes you feel at ease and then make sure you schedule time for it every week!” Try getting 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night, adding some weekly exercise to your routine, and don’t forget a warm bath and indulgent body lotion ritual. Just make sure your body care products are clean and free from chemicals.