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6 Tricks to Avoiding Cold and Flu Season

As a dietitian and educator, I think a lot about prevention of disease and the health of our mind and bodies. Like an athlete preparing for a race, can we prepare our bodies to be in tip-top shape for flu and cold season through healthy behaviors?

pouring tea in fall, Boost your immune system

This fall, there seems to be multiple viruses and colds going around and spreading quickly especially with school being back in session. We are entering into flu season which can mean multiple days feeling miserable, missing work or school and can even be dangerous depending on your overall health.

For people with diabetes, we are not more likely than the general population to be sick, but managing blood sugar along with the illness can be really complicated, and it tends to take longer for us to recover from that illness. We also have to be aware of developing and treating for ketones as those can make us even more ill.

So, what can we do to keep that immune system in fighting shape?

There are many factors that affect immune function, many of which we already focus on when providing for our families and when caring for ourselves. Take a look at the list below and note the ways in which you are already supporting your immune system. Is there anything else that you might do to power up your immune system even more?

  1. Get regular sleep. Rest allows our immune cells to work harder. If you feel a cold coming on, taking the day off to sleep as much as possible may mean you feel better faster. Stress reeks havoc on the immune system, so allowing time to decompress and cope with stress will allow your body to be a better fighting machine.

  2. Move your body. Moderate exercise has been shown to increase immune cell function. Regular activity is important but if you feel a cold coming on, a walk can help rev up those immune cells.

  3. Eat fruits and vegetables every day. The vitamins and minerals contained in these magical foods are vital to immune cell function. Many, like peppers, oranges or strawberries, contain vitamin C which has been shown to decrease the length of illness. Mushrooms, garlic and onion are some examples of specific vegetables that can aid the immune system.

  4. Drink plenty of fluids. Water is best, but if you don’t like water, make sure you avoid drinks with added sugar.

  5. Consider taking supplements. Immune modulating supplements may include:

    1. Vitamin D: We see vitamin D insufficiency and deficiency all too often in Oregon and Washington, which is why I recommend supplements to most of my patients.

    2. Zinc: Not stored in the body and necessary for a variety of immune responses, eating shellfish, pumpkin seeds or using zinc lozenges may be beneficial.

    3. Elderberry: Elderberry has been used to prevent viral illnesses and to treat them. It also contains vitamin C. Some studies suggest that it helps reduce the length of illness and it may play a role in prevention.

  6. Do things that make you happy. Low mood depresses immune function, so try to take time daily to laugh, play and smile.

happiness helps immune function

I hope this season finds you well, and if you find yourself getting that cold, try to give yourself the space to heal. If you would like to learn more about how to prepare for cold and flu season, schedule an appointment to talk with a dietitian today.


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