Your concierge doctors in Jupiter, Florida at MD 2.0, want to remind you that cold and flu season is lurking just around the corner, so now is the time to start shoring up your immune system before these unpleasant viruses attack.
Besides the obvious protections of receiving a flu shot and washing your hands frequently, there are steps you can take to fortify your immune system and protect against invading pathogens.
1. Adequate sleep
This may be the single most effective way you can ensure that you remain healthy. The body repairs itself during sleep, which it can’t do if you’re constantly scrimping on this biological necessity. In addition, lack of sleep raises cortisol levels, stressing the system unnecessarily. If you’re having trouble sleeping, please discuss it with us. This essential activity is too important to ignore.
2. Regular exercise
Exercise removes toxins and wastes, allowing the lymphatic system to flush out viruses and infections. Antibodies and white blood cells flood the body when it’s moving, helping them protect against foreign organisms. A daily minimum of a half-hour of any kind of mild-to-moderate exercise is crucial to overall health. If necessary, it can be broken into 10-minute increments throughout the day. Even a daily brisk walk will help.
3. Healthy diet
Diet is the fuel our bodies use to effect cellular repair and fight off viral invaders. Rely on such low-fat proteins as chicken, lean beef, and seafood, as well as nuts, fruits and vegetables, the more colorful, the better. Think citrus fruits, bell peppers, carrots, winter squash, sweet potatoes, dark, leafy greens, and red and green peppers. Even though mushrooms lack color, they are powerful germ fighters. Ginger and garlic are also well-known for their antibiotic properties. Try to incorporate these herbs into as many dishes as possible.
4. Lower stress
Like lack of sleep, too much stress doesn’t allow your body to repair itself. Chronic stress weakens the immune system, increases inflammation, and opens the door to any invaders. Take brief nature breaks during the day, meditate, listen to music, watch funny videos . . . anything that helps decrease your stress level.
Medical science has only recently come to realize the importance of probiotics in maintaining a healthy immune system. Long-known to be essential for gut health, research has increasingly shown that probiotics also serve to ward off colds and flu, because two-thirds of your immune system lives in your digestive tract. Look for yogurt containing live cultures or take a probiotic supplement.
Adequate hydration is not only necessary when you’re sick, it also helps flush waste and toxins from the body before they can get a foothold. Drink at least 64 ounces of water a day.
You might not think of massage as a health practice, but it not only helps circulate blood and lymphatic fluid, but relieves stress, as well. In fact, any kind of human or animal touch has increasingly been shown to lower blood pressure and boost the immune system.
8. Vitamin D
Even here in South Florida, the sun tends to desert us somewhat in winter, leading to a decrease in the body’s production of vitamin D. This critical vitamin (actually a hormone) helps maintain overall health, including warding off colds and flu. Try to get outdoors for 10-15 minutes several times a week to increase your sun exposure. We can check your blood levels of vitamin D to help you decide whether you need a supplement.
If you follow these tips, you’ll be much better prepared to face cold and flu season with a strong immune system.