The flu season is approaching. If we don’t fully equip us, we may easily get infected and the nasty flu can actually lead to serious complications, especially in elderly or patients with chronic diseases.
The immune system is our body’s defense system, working 24/7 to identify and eliminate the germs that will make you sick. For this sophisticated system to work, there’s a lot of interplay between various cells, proteins, and organs. For example, our skin is the largest organ in our body and it will naturally prevent microorganisms from invading our body. The mucosa of our respiratory system and gastrointestinal system play an essential role in keeping us healthy. If our immune system is compromised by a poor diet, chronic stress, sleep deprivation and underlying medical conditions, it will make us much more vulnerable to the cold and flu viruses during the flu season. Here are 10 tips and strategies you can use to improve your immune system and hopefully stay healthy during the winter.
1. Get a flu jab
The flu virus can affect anyone, even the fit and healthy, so it is important to get an annual flu vaccination to protect yourself and your loved ones. Flu vaccinations help to promote herd immunity. If more people in the community are vaccinated, they can help protect those unable to be vaccinated such as those who are immunocompromised or young infants under 6 months of age.
2. Wash your hands regularly
Our hands are actually quite filthy. And it’s no news that we easily transmit all kinds of germs from sneezing, handshaking and touching different objects with our hands every day from one to another. Viruses can survive for some time outside the human body, which means you can get sick from shaking a sick person’s hand or touching high traffic surfaces like a doorknob. Hand washing is one of the best strategies you can use to avoid getting sick. It should take you at least 30 seconds to wash your hands. Make sure to use water and soap and wash your hands after visiting the toilet, and before and after eating. Also, make sure to dry your hands thoroughly.
It makes it harder for viruses to stay airborne if there is moisture in the air. Speak to your pharmacist about suitable products to keep the air moist in your house or office. Saline irrigation solution can also help to keep your nasal passages hydrated especially in heated buildings and relieve congestion if you have a cold.
4. Get plenty of sleep
Deprivation of sleep as well as poor quality sleep can have an effect on your immune system. Cytokines are proteins that are released during sleep and play an important role in fighting infections. Make sure you get your 8 hours of sleep a day. If you have problem falling asleep, you may take a look of supplements that help to improve sleep quality.
5. Drink lots of water
Drinking lots of water helps flush toxins from the body and keeps mucus in the respiratory tract thin. If you have a cold, mucus increases to fight the infection and keeping the mucus thin can make it easier for it to be expelled from the body either through coughing or a runny nose.
6. Good nutrition
Eating a healthy, balanced diet is important. It is ideal to go for whole foods, fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds; is important for a healthy immune system. A large part of your immune system is in your digestive tract therefore it is essential to keep your intestinal lining healthy and functioning well. Taking extra supplements like zinc may give you a further boost to your immune system.
7. Regular Exercise
Regular gentle exercise is good for both your immune system and your mental health. Exercise boosts blood flow, which circulates blood cells responsible for fighting infections around your body. White blood cells are part of the immune system and the body’s first line of defence. They travel through your blood and tissues looking for foreign invaders like fungi, parasites viruses and bacteria.
8. Spend time outdoors
Always staying inside without fresh air in winter can help viruses to spread. Use your free time to go outside, get some fresh air and replenish your store of Vitamin D from sunshine.
9. Manage your stress
Psychologists who work in the field of psychoneuroimmunology believe your state of mind can affect your health. Managing stress, especially long-term stress, may help people to fight germs. If you are struggling to cope or find yourself feeling depressed, maybe it’s time to try yoga or mindfulness exercise.
10. Avoid smoking
Smoking can depress your immune system by suppressing the antibodies created by your body to fight cold and flu viruses. Also, smokers have problems coughing out secretions efficiently, which lead to the virus to invade the respiratory system much more easily.