5 Ways to Help Out Your Immune System During “Sick Season”

Sick Young Woman Lying in Bed

1. Get some quality shut-eye! When you’re not sleeping well you lower your immune function & increase your appetite for sugar (which also does a number on the immune system). Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep a night and really focus on starting the whole sleep process about an hour before bedtime. Begin by turning off all electronic devices, take a warm bath/shower, have a cup of hot tea or warm milk, turn the lights down in the bedroom, etc.

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2. Eliminate or reduce stress. Stress lowers natural killer (NK) cell activity (a key player in a healthy immune system), raises fat-storing cortisol, and deplete vitamin C stores. Find healthy ways to reduce stress (e.g., massage, yoga, meditation, exercise, etc.).

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3. Exercise….moderate exercise can increase macrophage production, an immune system strengthener. Try a cardio & resistance training combo where you’re performing short bursts of each. Contrary to popular belief activities such as running, aerobics, and treadmill marathons can actually raise cortisol levels (stress hormone) which in turn breaks down muscle tissue & lowers immune function. If you’re a runner like myself this can be disappointing…my own personal advice would be to mix up your training (e.g., 3-4 short to moderate distance runs per week in addition to 2-3 resistance training days).

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4. Supplement with vitamin D! Vitamin D is a necessary component of robust and balanced immune function. Chances are that you are not getting enough Vitamin D during the winter months (your body makes vitamin D when exposed to sunlight…but a certain amount of skin must be exposed for a certain length of time…without sunscreen). Certain foods contain vitamin D but few contain optimal levels, so your best bet is to add a high-quality vitamin D supplement (ask me for more details).

 

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