If your current plan for staying healthy this winter begins and ends at drinking extra orange juice, you might want to rethink that strategy. From getting outside to eating right, there a lot of surprising things you can do to minimize your chances of coming down with the cold or flu. Doctors and health experts shared their lesser-known tips for staying healthy this winter.
“We all think of vitamin C as the immune booster, but recent research has shown that vitamin D greatly effects the immune system,” said Dr. Scott M. Schreiber, a chiropractic physician, certified nutrition specialist and Delaware’s only board certified rehabilitation specialist. “[Vitamin D] has been shown to elevate that activity of immune cells.” Meanwhile, he said, a deficiency of vitamin D has been linked to the occurrence of autoimmune diseases.”
“As part of overall good health habits, it's important to maintain good hydration, regardless of the season,” said Medical Director at Cassena Care Dr. Joel Blass. “In colder weather, the body's metabolism revs up and you tend to exhale more moisture than usual—it’s important to replenish those fluids. In winter, losing fluids tends to dry your mucous membranes, weakening that first level of defense, which in turn makes you more susceptible to contracting cold and flu viruses.”
“It is always a good idea to dress appropriately for the seasons. Fashion aside, there is a health benefit to keeping warm in cold weather,” Blass said. “Cold weather stresses the immune system, and so, while the term ‘catching a cold’ may be a misnomer…a weakened immune system can make you more susceptible to those viruses. Also, for some people, cooler weather means more runny noses. Wiping your nose raises your exposure to cold and flu viruses, and with that, your chances of contracting those illnesses.”
“On average, most adults need seven or eight hours of sleep a night, although there's a lot of variation from individual to individual. The ideal amount of sleep is whatever leaves you feeling refreshed and ready for the day,” Blass said. “Sleep and health are intertwined, affecting each other. Poor sleep leads to grogginess, depression, obesity (because of increased appetite), diabetes and heart disease… Conversely, various illnesses and conditions can interfere with sleep, such as pain, heart disease and sleep apnea. All adults should make 'sleep hygiene' every bit as much a priority as other hygienes; this includes getting to bed on time, avoiding TV and computer work at night, avoiding coffee and other caffeinated beverages if the individual is caffeine-sensitive.”
“One of the things most overlooked when talking about preventing colds and flu is the effect stress has on our immune system. Though stress temporarily boosts the immune system, long-term low-grade stressors like we experience in our everyday lives deplete the immune system and prevents us from mounting the attack we would need to keep from getting a cold or flu,” said Kathy Gruver, PhD, a health and wellness expert who specializes in stress and mind/body medicine. “Things like simple meditations or affirmations can help.”
Since stress can cause big problems for your immune system, it’s important to find several ways to keep it to a minimum. “Make sure to include daily stress management techniques in your schedule – even if it is just a few minutes. These techniques, like exercise or socializing with friends and family, are critical to strong immunity,” said John P. Richie, Jr., Ph.D., Penn State University School of Medicine.
We’ve said it before—eating the right foods can help in pretty much every aspect of your health. From getting a better workout to keeping your immune system strong, foods that are high in vitamins and nutrients can greatly benefit your health. For avoiding seasonal sickness, try these 11 foods.
“Even if you are not a regular tea drinker, try sipping on a cup or two daily during cold and flu season,” said Jenna Gagnon, the communications specialist for Aidance Skincare. “Steam from tea stimulates cilia, which are those little hairs inside your nose. Think about cilia as the air filter of nose; keep the cilia healthy and abundant to keep germs from making you sick.”
“Wash your winter gloves regularly—so many of us forget to do this,” Gagnon said. “Gloves protect our hands, but they also pick up and hold onto the cold and flu viruses and e-coli. Scarves may also harbor your bacteria. Keep yourself warm while also keeping these items clean.”