Healthy Immune Systems for Healthy Families
Updated: May 30, 2022
August is here, summer winding down and crisp, fall air will soon be upon us. Our children will be returning to school, bringing along new schedules and routines. Unfortunately, this also means cold and flu season is right around the corner. Luckily, there are simple things we can do to keep us healthy and boost our immunity throughout the winter.
The first step in staying healthy is limiting exposure. Throughout the day, our hands touch many surfaces. In addition to keeping household surfaces clean, including doorknobs and countertops, we need to work to keep our hands clean. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are very effective for on-the-go cleaning. If you notice dirt on your hands, soap and water should be used. Try to avoid touching your face. If you find yourself touching your face, especially the nose or mouth, clean your hands as soon as possible.
Approximately 70% of our immunity is created by our gut. This offers many avenues for optimization. It starts with what we put into our bodies. Try to eat a diet that is low in both processed foods and added sugars. Incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables as often as possible. The daily addition of a quality probiotic supports the good bacteria in the gut. These bacteria help our body eliminate waste and toxins, supporting our overall health. Probiotics need fiber to grow and remain healthy. Fiber is considered a prebiotic, and acts as a “fertilizer” in the gut. As an added bonus, getting enough fiber will also regulate stools and reduce both constipation and diarrhea.
The right supplements also provide immune support. Taking a high-quality multivitamin every day will provide essential vitamins and minerals. In the winter, many of us need additional vitamin D, vitamin B, vitamin C and zinc. You should talk to your healthcare provider for personalized recommendations based on your current health and medications. Keeping your body hydrated supports your health as well; proper hydration means drinking 1⁄2 of your body weight in ounces of water daily.
We should get daily exercise, with a goal of 45 minutes each day. This may sound overwhelming at first, so build-up to it. Any amount of activity is better than nothing, so try to intentionally move your body daily. Do not be afraid to try new things, you may find you enjoy yoga, Pilates, strength training or running. Daily activity will also enhance sleep, which is another essential part of the immune system. Consistently getting 8 hours of sleep a night will help you feel better overall.
Starting to incorporate these lifestyle changes now will boost your immune system leading into the fall and winter months. Please remember, if you do get sick, stay home throughout your illness and recovery.
~By Emily Roling, MSN, ARNP, FNP-BC