The fall brings pumpkins, changing leaves and cooler weather. It also brings with it the common cold and the flu.
Now that fall is underway, it's important to take a look at your daily habits and make any necessary adjustments to help yourself staying healthy all season long. Here are the three steps to take to keep in mind when gearing up your immune system for cold and flu season.
Step One: Diet
Eating a balanced, healthy diet is important all year long. But if you feel a bit off track over the summer with vacations, cookouts and nightly ice cream, it's time to start building your body back up.
Eating cleanly is a great way to start. This involves eliminating all processed foods and going for organic, whole foods as much as possible. What does that mean? Cooking! Start meal planning and doing all your shopping and prep work one day a week, like Sunday. This way, you'll be set up for success all week long. This is the perfect time of year for hearty soups and stews. Make a big pot and you're set with lunch, dinner or both for most of the week. Not a huge veggie fan? Try pureeing or blending your soups to bring all the flavors together and "hide" the ingredients.
When shopping, shop the perimeter of the store and try to cover all the colors of the rainbow with your produce. This provides a range of antioxidants, which give these foods their color. Antioxidants fight off free radicals, which can cause oxidative stress and damage to the body's cells. Fruits and vegetables will also provide vitamins and minerals. Next, look for lean protein sources, like fish for essential fatty acids or lean beef for amino acids and protein. Finally cut out the white flour completely and grab some brown rice, quinoa or amaranth for your starches. These will provide nutrients as well as lasting nourishment, thanks to fiber, which will prevent you from experiencing energy crashes that send you running to the vending machine for less healthy options.
Step Two: Exercise
Staying active will keep the body in fighting form, in more ways than one, but it's important not to overdo it, especially if you're starting to get sick. Putting too much stress or strain on the body can weaken the immune system and make you more susceptible to illness. Exercise is known to boost immunity against simple viral and bacterial infections according to the A.D.A.M. Medical Encyclopedia and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It can also reduce your risk for certain forms of cancer and heart disease.
How does it help exactly? By engaging in physical activity, you're assisting your body in removing bacteria from the lungs and throughout the body through the waste. You're also increasing your circulation, which brings more white blood sends and antibodies to different parts of the body to combat illness. Fitting in just 30 minutes a day of walking can bring you these benefits, but, as previously mentioned, it's important to listen to your body and increase your intensity gradually, allowing your body time to rest and adjust.
Step Three: Additional Support
The purpose of supplements is to add to your lifestyle and diet what you're not getting from food. Extra vitamins, minerals and herbs, when taken properly, can help strengthen the body's natural defenses and perhaps even shorten recovery time from a cold or the flu. Here are some great ones to try this cold and flu season:
Echinacea -- The active compounds within echinacea support white blood cell production and may help the body fight off viral infections. Two forms of echinacea are commonly used in supplements, sometimes together, Echinacea angustifolia and Echinacea purpurea.
Elderberry -- Rich flavonoids, a type of antioxidant, elderberry (Sambucus nigra) has been a cold and flu remedy for years in Europe and the United States. Taken at the first sign of a cold, it may help reduce recovery time significantly.
Goldenseal -- Goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis) can be taken as a preventative measure before and during cold and flu season. You can also take goldenseal before and during allergy season. This herb's immunity-boosting benefits come from berberine, an alkaloid.
Vitamin C -- This vitamin is an an essential nutrient that fights free radical invaders. It may also help reduce recovery time for a cold. Vitamin C chewables are a great way to add more to your daily routine.
Zinc -- Often combined in supplement form with vitamin C and herbs like echinacea, zinc is a mineral that has also demonstrated antioxidant and immunity-boosting actions within the body to fight illness.
It's always important to speak with your doctor first before adding any supplements to your routine, especially if you're pregnant, breastfeeding or being treated for a medical condition. Vaccination is another option to discuss with your doctor. Typically, children, the elderly and anyone with an existing medical condition is advised to get the flu shot annually.
For more ways to stay healthy during cold and flu season and all year long, check back at eVitamins. Have a healthy weekend!