There’s a lot to love about winter: hitting the slopes, curling up by the fire and celebrating holidays with family and friends.
But colder weather can also mean the beginning of fevers, stuffy noses and sore throats.
Surprisingly, winter colds and flu are entirely avoidable. With the right combination of healthy habits and smart strategies, you can strengthen your immune system and keep thriving all winter long.
The six tips below will help you get through winter prepared to defend against illness and feel your best.
It’s critical to reduce inflammation in your body to prevent illness.
Fighting chronic inflammation suppresses your immune system, making it tough to defend against germs. The main offenders behind inflammation are a high-sugar impact diet and the foods most likely to cause food intolerance like gluten, soy and dairy.
Be mindful of your sugar impact and include plenty of immune-boosters in your diet, including anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats, coconut oil and nutrient-packed superfoods.
Your gut is home to 70 percent of your immune system and holds a community of trillions of microbes that play a key role in your immune function.
That’s why it’s critical to keep your gut healthy, so you have more good flora to fight off viruses and bacteria that can make you sick.
Including foods with probiotics and prebiotics in your diet is a great way to build up the good guys in your gut microbiome. Think full-fat, unsweetened coconut or Greek yogurt and fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut.
It’s well known that vitamin D helps keep your bones strong, but vitamin D also plays an essential role in your immune system.
Research proves that not only can vitamin D help ward off illness, but it can also reduce the duration of an infection. That makes vitamin D vital to staying healthy.
Spending time outside in the sunshine is the best way to get vitamin D; 15 to 20 minutes of direct sun exposure is all it takes for your body to produce this potent hormone. (It’s not just a coincidence that more people get sick in the winter when sunlight is scarce!)
If you’re struggling to get the sun exposure you need on gray winter days, then consider a high-quality vitamin D supplement, preferably one with vitamin K to boost absorption.
Studies show you need seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep to trigger the production of immune cells that attack foreign invaders.
As a matter of fact, subjects in one study who slept fewer than six hours a night the week before were four times more likely to come down with a cold than those who got more sleep.
It’s clear that getting your z’s is essential to staying well! Developing a healthy nighttime routine can go a long way toward helping you get consistent sleep.
If your gut instinct is to reach for vitamin C when you have a cold, it turns out there’s good reason! Antioxidants like vitamin C lower your risk of infection and protect your immune cells.
Be sure to incorporate a variety of antioxidant-rich foods in your diet to stop a winter cold in its tracks. That includes yummy choices like dark chocolate, almonds and berries.
It turns out exercise can help chase winter colds away!
I’ve talked about the advantages of high-intensity interval training for blasting away fat and speeding up your metabolism. But regular exercise also triggers the production of immune cells that fight off cold and flu germs.
The best part is that you don’t have to live at the gym to boost your immune system! Opt for a mix of burst and resistance training to get the greatest health benefits in the shortest amount of time.
Here’s to a winter full of love, laughter and optimal health!