Sunday, January 22, 2012

Tips for Staying Healthy This Winter

Why do we always seem to get sick this time of the year?  According to experts, there are several reasons for this.  First, it’s cold outside and this reduces immune system functioning.  Second, we spend a lot more time indoors with others, increasing exposure to germs.  Here are a few things that you can do to boost your immune system and improve your chances of staying healthy.

  • Wash your hands.  Keeping hands clean is one of the most effective ways to avoid illness.  Also avoid touching your face, mouth and nose with your hands.  Carry a small bottle of hand-sanitizer with you for those times when you aren’t near a sink.
  • Get enough sleep.  Adults need 7 to 8 hours of quality sleep a night to rejuvenate.  Create a consistent bedtime routine which includes going to be around the same time every night.  Consider taking a warm bath or reading a book to help you relax before bed.
  • Get plenty of exercise.  Moderate exercise helps generate endorphins.  These chemical strengthen the immune system by increasing the production of “natural killer cells” which are white blood cells that destroy viruses.   Professional massage can also increase natural killer cell activity, boosting immune function. 
  • Laugh.  Laughing can increase levels of antibody IgA which is the body’s first line of defense against germs.
  • Eat healthy foods.  Good nutrition is fundamental to a healthy immune system.  Eat an abundance of bright colored fruits and vegetables as well as plenty of whole foods and grains.
  • Quit smoking.  Smoking weakens the immune system.
  • Take a vitamin D supplement.   The sunshine vitamin can help with everything from depression to immunity. 
  • Take some Astragalus.   According to Dr Andrew Weil, M.D., an expert in integrative medicine, the herb Astragalus can prevent germs from taking hold in your body.  Try taking it daily in the winter.

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