For the average person a long, frigid winter usually means having to battle a cold, sore throat, cough, and/or flu at some point during the season. Doctor visits and trips to Walgreens become all too common as folks scurry to get prescriptions, flu shots and medication to “be well.” Yes, at times medicine is necessary, however, solid nutrition, smart lifestyle choices and a little OCD can keep you from getting sick in the first place. Here are some tips to bulletproof your immunity and keep you away from the doctor’s office year after year!
1.) Sleep: This should not be a sometimes thing! In addition to recovery and repair, adequate sleep keeps your body primed to ward off any foreign invasions. In the winter months, make it a point to carve out 9 hours of hibernation every night.
2.) Wash Your Hands a Lot: And keep them away from your face while you’re at it. Who knows where that guy’s hand you just shook has been all day?! And how many gross people touched the money you just received back from the cashier? Opt for soap and warm water over hand sanitizers whenever possible.
3.) Exercise Smart: I’m a fan of short, strength workouts as well as yoga and casual walks for an immunity boost. If you’re putting in hours at the gym, 4-5 times per week, then there’s a good chance you have chronically high cortisol levels (the stress hormone), which will compromise your immunity.
4.) Eat More Nutrient Dense Foods: Having a daily regimen that consists of a variety of whole foods will ensure that your body is getting all the nutrients it needs to stay healthy. I eat a lot of wild salmon for omega 3’s, pasture raised beef for zinc and a ton of organic vegetables for minerals and antioxidants. I also limit my intake of sugar and alcohol which are known to depress immune function.
5.) Avoid Crowded Places: What happens to animals that are raised under crowded and confined conditions? They get sick and spread disease. Malls, airports and fitness clubs are great disease spreaders and should be visited with caution.
6.) Get Extra Vitamin C: In addition to eating C rich foods like berries and dark green leafy vegetables, I also add a whole food supplement like this one from Mega Food.
7.) Sauna: In Finland, the majority of households have a sauna. They’re also extremely popular in Germany at health clubs and thermes. The warmth will help you relax and de-stress, improving your immune response. It’s also a great way to detoxify through the skin.
8.) Have a Cold Shower: I started taking cold showers a few years ago and haven’t stopped. By subjecting your body to certain stressors such as exercise or cold water, you can in turn improve its vitality and resilience. Cold water therapy has been practiced for thousands of years so its worth a try. I like to turn the water to cold for the last minute or two of a morning shower. You can also make like zeee Germanz and upon exiting the sauna, dump a huge bucket of cold water over your head!! Or just jump right into a frozen lake like the guy pictured above!!
9.) Consider Vitamin D: The T-cells in your body that seek and destroy foreign invaders rely on vitamin D to function. If there’s less winter sun in your area, and you feel that you don’t get enough through diet (which most people don’t) then it would be a good idea to get your levels tested. If a supplement is in order I would recommend one of the two that I’ve used. Green Pastures fermented cod liver oil/butter blend is the best out there. It’s high in vitamin D and A, which work harmoniously together. Nordic Naturals is another good product.
*Start adding these tips into your daily regimen and you’ll notice a huge drop in how often you come down with the cold or flu. Be consistent with them and over time your body will become bulletproof to the threat of nature’s invisible elements!
*Photo Credit: Andrey Papko