Colds and the flu are caused by viruses that travel from person to person. Your bodies needs to fight these viruses year round, but you can be more vulnerable at certain times of the year (like winter). This is when you call on your immune system to protect you. But your immune system needs your help to operate at its best.
What does it need?
- good hygiene
- a healthy diet
- restful sleep
- proper hydration
- stress control, and
Here's the key points for you to work on when it comes to food, exercise and sleep and how it effects your immune system.
- Eat more veggies. Boring as this sounds, it's the most ignored health advice and also the one that costs you the most. You know this, time to do it. The more colorful your plate, the better. Aim for variety.
- Eat fruits rich in Vitamin C. It helps immune cells form and function, and it supports the physical barriers (like the cells of your skin) that protect you from pathogens. Easily accessible choices are guava, papaya, oranges and lemon.
- Supplement with Vitamin D. Vitamin D serves many functions in the body, and a deficiency may impair immunity. Most of us are deficient in Vitamin D. Getting more sun = more vitamin D and we'd like to tell you to get into the sun more often. But we know that's just not going to happen. So we'll cut to the answer - supplement with Vitamin D. It's easy to confirm that you're deficient with a simple blood test. Take that test result to your doctor, who will prescibe a Vitamin D supplement for you to fix this.
- Eat more fermented food (probiotics). Probiotics, or gut bacteria are involved in immunity, enhance digestion and nutrient absorption, help synthesize B and K vitamins, enhance gastrointestinal function and obstruct the growth of “bad bacteria” and other pathogens. Home-made yoghurt is a great start. Click here for a comprehensive list of Indian fermented foods.
- Get regular exercise. Exercise is excellent for health. In addition to helping your immunity, regular exercise can help prevent dementia, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, depression, heart disease and other common serious conditions. Exercise reduces the risk of each by at least 30%. This is better than many drugs. Exercise is good for your body and mind! Target atleast 30mins of focussed exercise every day. And No - a busy day of walking around the office/home does not count!
- Sleep more. Low sleep increases susceptibility to the flu and common cold, and generally messes with your immune system. You need 7hrs+ of sleep daily. And no - you're not a special one who can survive on much less. Your body will cope with less, for a while. Ultimately, something will break.
- Eat zero/low amounts of processed foods. High amounts of processed sugar, salt and fat can interfere with proper immune function. And you already know it's really bad for you.
Overall, a poor diet and lifestyle is tied to increased infection risk. It also means poor health and the increased likelihood of a number of diseases like diabetes. We've discussed this across our blog where we talk about the importance of nutrition, the big problem of overweight & obesity in India and why belly fat is not a harmless thing.
At Daily9, we spend our time helping people improve their habits on food, exercise and sleep. And not with the unscientific 'calories in-calories out' or 'eat less-move more' type of advice. We focus on quality of food, exercise and sleep. And it pays off - D9 participants lose weight, develop a better immune system and overall feel a lot better than they used to. Check out what D9 participants had to say on our Facebook page.
Well done for getting this far. Now, what are you going to do about it?
We suggest that you find one thing that you need to work on, set a reminder in your calendar to do it (a repeating one) and get it done. Else, your wish for better health will remain just that: a wish. Start with one action, once you make that a habit - add another.
If you need help or have any questions, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we'll be happy to help you out.
- Fast food fever: reviewing the impacts of the Western diet on immunity.
- Vitamin C and immune function.
- Exercise: The miracle cure and the role of the doctor in promoting it (Academy of Medical Royal Colleges, UK).
- Behaviorally Assessed Sleep and Susceptibility to the Common Cold.
- The Sleep-Immune Crosstalk in Health and Disease.
- Traditional Fermented Products of India (International Journal of Current Microbiology and Applied Sciences).