Avoid Winter Illness, Boost Immunity

Flu ShotsIt’s that time of year again: we all know someone who is sick! Read on to learn ways to strengthen your immune system and avoid getting sick.

Both colds and flu are caused by viruses, not bacteria. This is why antibiotics won’t work to treat colds or flu because antibiotics kill bacteria, not viruses. The flu tends to hit harder, have higher fever and cause aches and nausea. Cold and flu viruses are easily spread between people in close contact, such as at school or work. They’re typically spread by contact with an infected surface such as a doorknob, or person-to-person by direct contact. Most viruses are not airborne.

Take Preventive Steps!

You can do a lot of things to help prevent you and your family from catching a cold or flu this season.

  • Wash your hands: Good handwashing is the number one way to protect yourself from getting sick. Scrub for at least 20 seconds with soap.
  • Get the flu vaccine: Everyone over the age of 6 months should get a flu shot. While it won’t keep you from getting a common cold, it will help protect you and others around you from the flu.
  • Avoid people who are sick: Keep your distance!Sick children/adults should stay home from school/work.
  • Sleep well: Your body needs good sleep for a healthy immune system. Make time for the nightly sleep your body needs: adults, 7-8 hours; teens 8-9 hours; “tweens” 9-10 hours; young school-age kids 10-12 hours; toddlers/preschoolers, 11-13 hours.
  • Eat well: Maintain a well-balanced diet of healthy protein, whole grains, healthy fat like olive oil and avocado, limit added sugar, and eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Read more below!

Choose Foods to Boost Immunity!

Many nutrients from food specifically “feed” the immune system, thus strengthening your body’s protective response.

  • Choose whole foods. Whole foods are those you can picture growing or harvesting. They provide more nutrients like vitamins C, D and E and zinc. Cruciferous vegetables—such as cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, bok choy—strengthen the liver so it’s better able to flush the body of harmful substances.
  • Devour fish. Cold-water, fatty fish like salmon and sardines are the highest in omega-3 fatty acids, which enhance the function of certain immune cells. Fish is also a rare source of vitamin D, which has been shown to decrease the incidence of the common cold and flu.
  • Add fermented foods. They contain good bacteria, or probiotics, that help the digestive tract fight off foreign invaders. Try miso paste (a fermented soybean product), sauerkraut, kimchi (fermented cabbage) and cultured dairy products like yogurt, kefir and sour cream.
  • Add some zing. Garlic and ginger have antiviral and active molecules that help the body fight off viruses and bacteria.

Eat well, sleep well and be well this winter!