Your lifestyle can affect how well your immune system protects you from germs, viruses and other serious diseases. Here are six steps that will strengthen your immune system and reduce your risk of getting sick (especially now that cold and flu season is here):
- Move more. Exercise can help keep your immune system healthy. Get 30 minutes (or more) of moderate exercise every day and to reduce your risk of getting colds, infections and even depression. Schedule it into your day just like you would a business meeting.
- Fight back with food. Eating processed foods that are high in fat and full of chemicals not only does nothing for your immunity, but it actually compromises it. Also cut back on coffee, soda and alcohol. Eat more fruits and vegetables, which are full of nutrients such as vitamins C and E, plus beta-carotene and zinc. Other foods particularly good for your immune system include fresh garlic, which may help fight viruses and bacteria, and old-fashioned chicken soup.
- Fill up on fluids. Preferably water. All living cells are made of water so in order for them to function best; they have to be topped off. Fluid also keeps your blood and digestive system moving so that your body circulates needed nutrients and disposes of those you don’t need or that are harmful. Drink at least eight, 8-ounce glasses of water each day.
- Rejuvenate with rest. Lack of sleep reduces your immune system function making you more susceptible to cold germs or the flu. Get 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
- Soothe stress. Everyone has some stress; it’s part of life. If stress drags on for a long time, it makes you more vulnerable to illness, from colds to serious diseases. You may not be able to get rid of your stress, but you can get better at managing it. Learn to meditate. Take a few deep breathes, relax and be patient.
- Stop and get the shot. The flu shot isn’t your only defense against the flu, but it is by far the best. What else can you do to protect yourself? Wash your hands often.