As the days grow shorter, and temperatures start to get chilly, the risk of catching colds goes up. This link stems from changes in the transmission rate of viruses when temperature and humidity are low. Simply put, the colder and drier the weather, the more easily cold germs pass through the air.
Not only do colds and flu make life miserable, but they also cost families a pretty penny. In fact, the average household spends as much as $338 per year on over-the-counter medicines. Fortunately, plenty of natural strategies exist to keep you and your family healthy, and your medicine costs low. This article takes a closer look at how to help support your immune system all winter long.
1. Embrace Your Exercise Regimen
It can be easy to let your exercise regimen slip when cold weather rolls around. Yet no matter how tempting it may be to go straight into cozy-mode, know that those who continue to get regular exercise tend to have stronger immune systems. One study found that people who take a moderate-intensity walk for 40 minutes a day logged twice as few sick days stemming from colds or sore throats.
Just be aware that there are certain limits to the benefits of exercise. Those who overdo it with intense or prolonged periods of exercise may actually increase their risks of catching an illness.
2. Make Time for Mental Health
Stress is one of the greatest contributors to weakened immune systems. Unfortunately, stress is also a common aspect of the modern world, caused by everything from traffic, to bills, to job interviews and relationship problems. General stress levels tend to rise even more during the dark, cold days of winter.
Only recently have doctors begun to grasp what a profoundly strong effect stress has on our bodies. In addition to raising blood pressure and contributing to mental illnesses like depression and anxiety, stress can also suppresses your immune system by releasing the hormone known as corticosteroid. As a result, your body can become more susceptible to colds and flu.
Beat stress by including mental health techniques into your wellness regiment. Yoga, meditation, and simple deep breathing exercises may help reduce stress and support your immune system. Making time for such self-care should be considered an essential part of any winter-time health routine.
3. Add Fresh Ginger to Your Tea
Curling up with a mug of steaming tea is a great way to get cozy and stave off winter chills. When it comes to teas that can support your health, ginger is the undisputed star. Fresh ginger is rich in antioxidants, which according to the International Journal of Preventive Medicine can reduce both free radicals and oxidative stress.
This study provides even more evidence of ginger’s health benefits, including its strong anti-inflammatory properties to make it easier for your immune system to dedicate its attention to fighting off illness. Ginger also contains two natural antimicrobial ingredients known as shogaol and gingerol, both of which have been shown to help fight off cold-causing viruses. Better still, those substances have also been linked to other significant health benefits.
4. Spoil Yourself with Vitamin C
Diet plays a huge role in promoting a healthy immune system. In particular, Vitamin C, also known by the more formal name of ascorbic acid, may strengthen several immune system parameters. While vitamin C cannot prevent the common cold, it may improve your body's natural resistance to such viruses.
Most people know that citrus fruits offer a great source of vitamin C. Yet, that's only the tip of the iceberg, and, in fact, many lesser known fruits and vegetables actually contain a greater amount of this key vitamin:
- Acerola cherries
- Chili peppers
- Yellow Peppers
5. Indulge in Zinc-Rich Foods, Too
Vitamin C isn't the only natural supporter of your immune system contained in a well-balanced diet. The trace essential element known as zinc may have an equally powerful effect. Some studies have shown that zinc may help reduce the duration of the common cold.
Zinc can be found in a wide variety of food sources. Nuts, seeds, and legumes are three excellent plant-based sources of zinc. Generally speaking, fruits and vegetables do not contain high amounts of zinc, though, potatoes, green beans, and kale provide some intake. Many people are pleased to learn that another delicious source of zinc is dark chocolate.