This time of year, it’s almost impossible to go anywhere without coming in contact with someone who is sniffling, sneezing, or coughing, especially if you work in a big office or have little ones in daycare or school.
Although we’re in the midst of cold and flu season, there’s plenty you can do to protect yourself from getting sick by strengthening your immune system. From sleeping to supplements, we’ve got you covered on the top 6 ways to fend off the flu all winter long.
And, if you’ve already caught a cold, don’t worry, we’ve got some tips to help you feel better and fight it off quickly!
Wash Your Hands
Okay, we know you already know this one! But, are you actually washing your hands as often as you should? Every time you shake someone’s hand, open a door, check out at a store, punch your ATM code, or grab onto a shopping cart, you are sharing germs with whoever touched it before you. (Gross, right?)
While it can seem a little excessive to wash your hands all.day.long., it really will help you to stay germ-free. Try to also make it a habit to not touch your face, mouth, or nose, as this is the most common place where bacteria and viruses can wiggle their way in. No need for constant antibacterial hand sanitizers, though - just simple soap and warm water will do!
Sleep Away The Sniffles
If you’ve been hanging out with us for a while, you know we love our sleep. And not just any sleep, we love good quality sleep - the kind of deep sleep that rejuvenates and refreshes you. This isn’t just because we love to be cozy (well, that’s definitely part of it). Getting good quality sleep can actually strengthen your immune system and fight off illness.
People who are sleep deprived tend to get sick more often because your body produces antibodies and immune-helping proteins called cytokines while you snooze. Low amounts of these antibodies and anti-inflammatory cytokines, both of which help to fight infection, can make you more susceptible to getting sick when you come in contact with a bacteria or virus.
Need some help getting better rest? Weighted blankets can help you to get the quality shut-eye you need to stay sniffle-free. The extra pressure allows your body to produce beneficial hormones that help you relax and drift off into deep sleep.
There are some helpful vitamins and nutrients that can boost your immune system if you take them throughout the entire cold and flu season.
A big one is vitamin D, which most people are low or deficient in. It’s hard to get enough vitamin D from foods, and even harder to get vitamin D from sunshine when we’re all bundled up through the cloudy winter months. Supplementing with vitamin D3 helps your body to ramp up its production of antimicrobial proteins, which work to destroy foreign invaders (like the germy cough from the person next to you on the bus that didn’t quite cover their mouth!)
Other supplements that can help your immune system are elderberry, echinacea, and probiotics. Elderberry, which can be found as teas, syrups, capsules, and even tasty gummies, has been used for centuries as both a prevention strategy and medicinal treatment for illness.
Echinacea, which is a flowering plant related to the daisy, has also been used in traditional medicine as a cold- and flu-fighter. One study found that taking echinacea reduced the odds of developing a cold by 58%. Time to fire up the kettle and steep some echinacea tea! A tingle in your throat when you drink it is a sign of good quality.
Probiotics, which are the friendly bacteria in our guts, can be taken in supplement form to help your immunity. Having enough of the good guys can help your body to fight off the bad ones when they come in. If you don’t eat a lot of fermented foods that naturally contain probiotics (like yogurt, kombucha, sauerkraut, or kefir), a probiotic supplement could be beneficial for you.
While some supplements are good for the immune system, many vitamins and minerals are better utilized when we eat them in food form. You’ve likely heard that vitamin C can prevent a cold, and while it’s true that our immune systems need vitamin C, there is a cap on how much we can use at once.
That’s why getting vitamin C from foods, like citrus, red bell peppers, kiwis, and broccoli, is your best bet. Not only that, but these fruits and vegetables have other nutrients and antioxidants that all work together to fight infections, which is something that your vitamin C powder doesn’t have.
Vitamin E is another nutrient that’s best consumed through food, rather than pills. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant and is found mainly in nuts, seeds, avocado, spinach, and bell peppers.
Two minerals that are helpful for immune support are selenium and zinc. The best source of selenium, also an antioxidant, is from Brazil nuts; just one of these nuts provides the daily recommended amount of selenium for adults! Instead of a selenium supplement, pop one Brazil per nut per day to keep the doctor away.
Lastly, getting healthy amounts of zinc in your diet can keep your immune system strong. The highest food sources of zinc are oysters, shellfish, and beef. If you’re living the veggie life, make sure to include beans, chickpeas, almonds, and oats in your diet for an extra zinc boost.
Getting adequate exercise, which means about 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of activity weekly, is a smart strategy to keep your immune system strong. Sweating and getting your heart pumping can enhance your immune function and clear out harmful bacteria.
When we’re stressed, our bodies become more susceptible to infections. Have you ever noticed that you tend to get a cold during stressful times, like finals week in college or before a big presentation at work? It’s likely because your immune system produces fewer white blood cells (which you need to fight infections) when cortisol - your main stress hormone - is too high.
If you need some help chilling out, your trusty cooling weighted blanket can do the trick. Our Nappers are specially designed to give an evenly-distributed weight over your entire body. The extra weight helps to lower cortisol levels and relax you, while at the same time making your immune system ready to fight off those pesky germs.
Help! I Already Caught A Cold!
If you’re reading this article and it’s a little too late for prevention, there’s still plenty you can do to help send the sickness on its way. Try drinking hot broths or green tea with honey in it, especially if you have a sore throat.
All of the aforementioned foods and supplements may also help to speed things along once you already are feeling sick. In addition, include plenty of ginger and garlic in your diet, as these are immunity boosters. Even though it probably doesn’t sound too appealing, gentle movement, like walking outside, can help stimulate your lymphatic system to flush out the illness.
Lastly, if you’re all stuffed up, a warm bath can help to loosen things up. Bonus points for diffusing lavender essential oil in the room while you steam. We hope you feel better soon!
How a Weighted Blanket Can Help Boost Your Immune System
If you’ve already caught a cold, don’t worry, we’ve got some tips to help you feel better and fight it off quickly!
Strengthen your immune system by washing your hands all day long with soap and water, not skimping on sleep, and getting active.
Natural supplements to try include echinacea, probiotics, vitamin D, and elderberry, while nutrients to get from foods include vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium, and zinc.
Use a weighted blanket to help you get better sleep and stress less, both of which can help you fight the flu all winter long.
Did you know?
Your grandmother was right - chicken soup really does help you get over a cold. The combination of warm broth, protein from the chicken, and vitamins from the veggies have all been studied to boost immunity and fight infections.