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by Casey McIlvaine

As the temperatures begin to drop, it’s time to prepare for cold and flu season. While getting a flu shot may be at the top of your priority list, this shot can only protect you so far. Strengthening your immune system and making healthy changes can protect you from getting sick this winter.

Your immune system is your body’s defense mechanism against infectious organisms and invaders. Our bodies create specialized cells such as white blood cells and antibodies, which attack organisms that invade the body’s systems. Our bodies’ healthy tissues have the ability to respond to threats from viruses and bacteria, when functioning properly. Once a potential threat has been identified, our immune system begins to quickly fight off these invading organisms. In simple terms, the immune system works together to stop threats like bacteria or viruses from entering into our bodies.

There are ways to improve and strengthen your immune system. The specialized cells that fight off invaders rely on certain nutrients and factors, in order to properly function. In general, maintaining a well-balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grain and lean proteins will provide you with a wide range of the vitamins and minerals that are essential for a strong immune system. A consistently healthy eating plan is important in avoiding nutritional deficiencies as well as boosting your immune system. Vitamins and minerals that boost your immune system include:

  • Vitamins A, B, C and E
  • Chromium
  • Copper
  • Iron
  • Manganese
  • Selenium
  • Zinc

Be sure to consume a variety of nutritionally dense foods. In addition, foods that are rich in antioxidants can also boost the immune system. Examples are these foods include:

  • Dark leafy greens
  • Whole Grains
  • Red Berries
  • Blueberries
  • Nuts
  • Tea
  • Sweet Potatoes
  • Beans
  • Fish

This cold and flu season, consider increasing the amount of probiotics you consume, in order to protect yourself from getting sick. Probiotics have been considered to reduce the risk of respiratory and gastrointestinal infections by boosting your immune systems. Probiotics can be consumed through yogurt and other cultured milk products.

Burning calories and breaking a sweat can also help reduce the risk of catching a cold. Regularly exercising is one of the pillars for healthy living and is a natural way to boost your immune system. Likewise, getting an adequate amount of sleep is important to staying healthy during cold and flu season. Your defense system is at its strongest when you are well rested. Aiming for 7-8 hours of sleep per night will help protect you from sickness.


Strengthen your immune system

The most important and easiest way you can keep germs away and avoid getting sick is by washing your hands. You can easily pick up germs from other people on your hands. The most common way to catch a cold is by rubbing your nose or eyes. So in order to protect yourself, frequently wash your hands with warm water and soap. Another good health practice is to clean items that are high-contact points, such as doorknobs, faucets and telephones.

During cold and flu season, it is important to strengthen your immune system, in order to stay healthy. Your immune system is your defensive system against viruses and bacteria. Prepare yourself for the coming winter system by regularly exercising, maintaining a well-balanced diet and getting a full night’s sleep.

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