to Stay Healthy During
Cold & Flu Season
Though we don’t entirely know why cold and flu season strikes during the winter—research suggests that reduced levels of vitamin D, more time spent in close quarters, and dry air may all contribute—there’s plenty you can do to ward off the spread of disease-causing germs. Here are some expert tips for staying healthy as the temperature drops.
Studies show that poor nutrition can negatively impact the immune system. To make sure you’re getting the vitamins and minerals you need to thrive, eat a balanced diet that includes nutrient-rich vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean proteins.
In addition to eating a good diet, taking extra vitamin D has been shown to help regulate the immune system and reduce the risk of contracting a cold virus. The National Institutes of Health recommends that children and adults between the ages of 1 and 70 years old consume at least 600 international units (IUs) of the vitamin per day. You can increase your intake with a dietary supplement or by eating foods such as fatty fish, like salmon and tuna, and drinking milk fortified with vitamin D.
Rest is also important. A lack of sleep can both increase your chances of catching a cold or the flu and make it more difficult for your body to recover. For a better shot at getting the required 7-9 hours of rest each night, power down your electronic devices an hour before bed, limit your intake of alcohol, and avoid caffeine (that includes chocolate!) after lunchtime.
And don’t forget to allow yourself enough downtime. We all get stressed now and again, but chronic stress causes the body to release more stress hormones like cortisol, which can lower your immune function. Regular meditation, socializing, and exercise have all been shown to combat stress. In fact, exercise benefits the body and mind, giving you more energy and reducing inflammation. Even just a daily 30-minute walk can strengthen your immune system and help you to get a better night’s sleep.