Helen Sanders

Chief editor at Health Ambition (http://www.healthambition.com)

As the winter approaches and the temperature drops by half in many parts of the country, it brings with it the increased chances of catching a cold or flu. Here are the top five things you and your family can do to maximise your winter wellness and minimise your chances of getting sick this winter.

#1. Drink Plenty of Water

To warm us up in winter time, we tend to drink more hot beverages, like coffee, tea and yummy hot chocolate.

All of these are OK in moderation, but it’s important to drink at least 6-8 glasses of water every day too.

Keeping yourself well hydrated makes it easier for the body to flush out toxins and helps keep things working – including the immune system – at optimum levels.

#2 Eat Well

Colder weather generally makes us crave more warm, comforting foods. However, to boost our immune systems, it’s important to eat a well-balanced diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables. This ensures we get all the vitamins, minerals and other nutrients needed by the immune system to stay healthy.

Organic produce has been proven to contain significantly more nutrients, including almost 70% more antioxidants than non-organic produce.

In addition, choosing organic fruit and vegetables can reduce exposure to pesticides and toxic chemicals, which make extra work for our immune system (source).

Including probiotics in your diet is one good way of boosting digestive and overall health.

Moreover, consider supplementing your diet with echinacea – it has been proven to significantly boost immune system function (source).

#3 Reduce Stress

Stress depresses immune function, so it’s particularly important to do all you can to reduce your stress levels as much as possible.

Studies have shown physical activity, especially outdoors, can reduce our stress by as much as 87% (source).

Other research indicates that one third of Australians don’t get enough vitamin D, which we absorb through the skin from sunlight (source). Vitamin D is required by the immune system to tackle bacteria and viruses effectively (source).

To boost the immune system and keep colds and flu at bay, one of the best things you can do is exercise regularly outdoors to reduce your stress and get a dose of vitamin D at the same time.

New research also indicates that engaging in pleasurable activities has a big impact on reducing stress levels, including regular sexual activity (source) or spending time with a pet (source).

#4 Make Sure You Get Enough Sleep

While the amount of sleep needed by each person is individual, on average we need around six to eight hours.

Studies indicate the immune system is negatively affected by inadequate or disturbed sleep – when we are tired, our immune system has a much harder job of keeping bacteria and viruses from causing health problems.

Adequate amounts of sleep help us recharge our batteries and improve whole body function (source).

#5 Be Vigilant About Personal Hygiene

We’re not talking about showering every day here – hopefully we do that already. This is more about how you manage your personal hygiene to avoid viruses and bacteria during the winter season.

Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm running water. Do this regularly through the day, but especially after shaking hands with people, touching surfaces in public, like door handles, bannisters and lift buttons and handling money.

Carry a bottle of hand sanitiser with you to use when you don’t have access to soap and water – although using soap and water is preferable and doesn’t dry out the skin as much.

Get into the habit of avoiding touching your eyes and nose and mouth with your hands – this is one common way to allow any bacteria and viruses present to enter the body. In addition, only use tissues once and throw them straight into the trash.

Keep your distance from people who are coughing and sneezing, and don’t be shy about politely asking others to cover their mouth and nose when they cough or sneeze – preferably with the inside of the elbow, as this avoids transferring germs to the hands.

At parties and other events, avoid shared foods, like dips (beware the double dip!), and finger foods to which people help themselves.

While it may not be possible to completely eliminate your chances of catching a cold or flu this winter, these steps can dramatically reduce your chances of getting sick, and put you in the best position to manage any bacteria or viruses you come into contact with.

If you missed our informative post on our top cough remedies, make sure you read it. And for more information on immune health, read Jenna’s blog “From A to Z of Immunity“.

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