Synthetically Sick or Organically Healthy? Natural Ways to Boost your Immune System

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Cough, sneeze, sniffle and wheeze. It’s that time of year when germs are flying and bodies are trying to keep infections at bay and sickness away.

Luckily, our bodies are well equipped with a pretty snazzy immune system that defends us from disease-causing bacteria on a daily basis. But to ward off sickness, we should do our share to keep our system in tip-top shape. What we eat, drink and do to our bodies is very important to how we feel, and we don’t need a handful of pills to keep us perky. Here’s what we can do to winterize our bodies and fight germs the natural way.

Eat Your Way to Resistance
Everything you eat affects your immune system. Unfortunately, Americans often aren’t getting enough fresh fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods on a regular basis. And don’t think eating an orange every now and again will keep you from getting a cold that’s been going around the office. A truly healthy immune system relies on a daily balanced diet.

Fruits and vegetables provide your body with the nutrients your immune system needs. Look for foods that are red, purple, orange and blue. Rich colors mean rich in antioxidants.

Garlic keeps vampires away and helps keep influenza and other sicknesses at bay. But add it to foods just before serving. Heating it up deactivates some of its protective properties.

Mushrooms such as shiitake, reishi and maitake improve cardio health and immunity. If you are trying a certain variety for the first time, make sure to eat a very small bite, as some mushrooms may have opposing effects on the body.

Lessen Stress
Work, kids, finances and a myriad of other daily pressures can all contribute to our stress levels. Too much strain can create chronic inflammatory illness and lower the resistance of people who otherwise might be very healthy. Everyone has stress, but how you handle it directly affects how you feel. Simple tasks such as deep breathing may be helpful, but meditation, yoga or other forms of exercise will give your system a bigger boost.

Don’t Belly Up
As much as we don’t want to hear it (and we probably already know it), excessive alcohol consumption impairs the immune system and increases vulnerability to infection. But sip that drink with a friend. A glass of wine or beer actually does provide health advantages, and sharing with a buddy provides socialization, which is a fun way to fight the yuckies.

Sun Your Buns
Sunshine plays a major role in how we feel, especially in the winter. Grab a coat, head outside and nab yourself at least 15 minutes of sunlight each day. In colder climates, where sun isn’t strong enough, taking a vitamin D supplement daily will help keep you in flu-fighting shape. Speaking of buns, make sure you are working them out on a regular basis. A fit body will wreak havoc on many intruding infections.

Get a Pet!
Like you needed a reason! Animals bring out the best in just about anyone. Stress-fighting, social-connecting, mood-boosting cats and dogs can help combat sickness and fight heart disease. If owning a pet is not for you, then offer to pet sit for a neighbor or walk dogs at the local pet shelter. There’s a reason they call them woman’s best friend.

Stay Positive
If you’re a glass-half-full kind of person, then your immune system will thank you for it. Positive people with optimistic attitudes not only make more friends, but are often more resilient. Affirmative thoughts have been proven to strengthen the immune system and lower stress levels, fighting heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.

Get your ZZZs
A night without sleep won’t bring you down, but regular sleep deprivation causes excess amounts of the hormone cortisol. Lose too much sleep over a couple of weeks and you may be on the road to Virus-Ville.

Make Like Marvin Gaye and Get it On!
Now, if you have to lose sleep, don’t lose it to stress or worry; lose it because you’re having fun! Make love to your honey and lose sleep like a winner! Regular sex improves bladder control for the ladies and lessens the chance of prostate cancer for men. Since sex counts as a form of exercise (it burns 5 calories a minute), a whole lotta lovin’ helps lower blood pressure and decreases the risk for heart attack.
Let’s face it. Our bodies are armed with a myriad of defenses to guard against germs and bacteria. But it is up to us to bring our well-tuned weapon to the battle. Take a cue from Mother Nature and give your system the natural boost it needs to stay happy, healthy and strong during the cold winter season. HLM

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