Your toddler’s runny nose is the first sign that a cold virus is about to blow through your household. “I can’t get sick, I can’t get sick,” you tell yourself as your family members fall victim to viral rhinitis one by one. You begin to realize that you’re not immune to the sore throat, nasal congestion and persistent cough that are looming, so you wonder what you can do to strengthen your immune system. It turns out there is a lot!
Start building a strong immune defence with these tips:
Be pro Probiotics
We know that probiotics are important for good gut health, but they also play a preventative role when it comes to fighting bacterial infection. They help strengthen the barrier of the intestinal lining which in turn decreases the chances of bacteria from entering the blood stream. Probiotics are a good way to keep illness from taking hold in your body.
Get a jump on zinc
Taking zinc at the first sign of a cold can help reduce its severity. New studies show that a protein in the body (NF-kB) guides zinc into certain immune cells that act as first responders when it comes to fighting infection. Once zinc gets into those cells, it slows down the immune response and limits inflammation, creating a balanced effect, which is what you want when you’re fighting a cold.
Invest in a good quality Echinacea tincture
Echinacea is widely recognized for its immune stimulating properties and its ability to support the body’s own resistance to infections. Keep a bottle on hand to help reduce or even prevent a cold. A review of 14 clinical trials agreed that Echinacea reduced the chances of getting a cold by 58% and reduced the duration of a cold by 1 to 4 days.
Be hand aware
You’d probably be surprised to know how many times a day your hands touch your face. Rubbing your eyes, scratching your nose, licking your fingers after sharing food with your sick husband, all of these things that you might not notice you do can deposit cold and flu germs onto your mucous membranes. Hand washing helps, but keeping them out of your face is even better.
Forgo wine night
This might be a tough one, but some experts suggest that overdoing it when it comes to a bottle of red can increase your chances of getting sick. Excessive alcohol tends to suppress the immune system. It can hold back a number of white blood cells that are needed to effectively kill bacteria. Have a glass if you must, but it might be wise to avoid alcohol altogether when a bug is going around.
Skip the sweets
Sugar has the same effect on white blood cells as alcohol. Women should limit themselves to 6 teaspoons or less per day, men should aim for 9 teaspoons or less per day. For reference, a 355 ml can of pop contains about 10 teaspoons of sugar.
Extend your power walk
Research shows that being active can cut your chances of getting a cold in half. Exercise tends to temporarily increase immune cells that patrol the body, ready to pounce on incoming viruses. Levels return to normal after a few hours, which is a good reason to take part in physical activity as often as you can!
Garlic-ize your meals
Freshness is the key to garlic’s effectiveness. Allicin (an organosulfur compound in garlic) is the secret ingredient that fights off infection. Make sure to chop or press the cloves yourself before you add them to foods. Cooking garlic too long destroys some of its immune boosting properties. Skip the pre-chopped jarred variety too as constant exposure to air weakens its potency.
Yet another argument for getting lots of sleep
It’s hard to get enough sleep when you’re a parent but here’s a good excuse for staying in bed longer: people who get less than 7 hours of sleep a night are 3 times more likely to catch a cold than those who get 8 or more hours a night. Being sleep deprived can compromise your immune function by causing a decline in killer T-cells which annihilate bacteria and viruses. So the next time your kids barge into your room early on a Saturday morning, tell them you’re sleeping in for your health, and they should too!