With temperatures across the country dipping well into the negatives last week, one thing is clear: winter is here and with those downright freezing (and dangerous) temperatures, cold, flu and other infections are here, too. What is it about cold weather that seems to render a normally robust immune system so helpless against cold and flu viruses?
Turns out, those viruses aren’t caused by too much time spent outdoors on freezing cold days, but that cold weather — and the dry air that comes with it — could exacerbate our exposure to viruses by drying out our sinuses and skin, practically laying out a welcome mat for the latest bug to make its way around the office or playground.
It’s enough to make you feel powerless against the cold or flu du jour, but the good news is, there are measures you can take to shore up your system and support immunity all season long. While these methods aren’t foolproof, taking the defensive strategy to protect your wellbeing not only ensures you’re taking the best measures to protect yourself, but helps keep those around you safe, including vulnerable populations like babies and the elderly. Ready to be a flu season warrior? Read on for our tips:
Making it through the cold winter months flu-free is about more than simply getting your annual flu shot (although that’s a great place to start). Taking a proactive approach to your wellbeing to strengthen your immune system is like mending a fence before it breaks — optimizing your health won’t make you impervious to coming down with something, but it’ll certainly support you more effectively than waiting until you get sick to take action. Be sure to stay active throughout the winter, bundle up when heading outdoors, and load up your plate with plenty of fresh, in-season veggies, like dark leafy greens and root vegetables, which are packed with grounding nutrition to support you throughout the season.
Did you know that thirst response is diminished in cold weather by nearly 40%? It’s true! In fact, people become more susceptible to dehydration in cold weather because they simply don’t realize they’re thirsty. What does hydration have to do with your immune system? Well, remember when we mentioned that the drying winter air can make us more vulnerable to viruses? By staying hydrated, you’re giving your system the best possible defense against dry air and the viruses it ushers in. Additionally, when we get dehydrated, the heart concentrates blood to the organs and core, leaving extremities susceptible to frostbite (arguably worse than a little congestion). How much water should you drink per day? Most experts recommend half and ounce to an ounce of water for every pound of body weight per day. So a 150 pound adult would aim for 75 to 150 ounces of water per day. Learn more about the benefits of hydration here!
Sip some chaga
Rich in antioxidants, the chaga mushroom (it’s actually a fungus) has been used by different cultures for hundreds of years, both for its deeply supportive antioxidant properties and coffee-like flavor. Chaga is an adaptogen, which means it can work with the body to support wellbeing throughout the system. Try switching up your coffee routine by trading your afternoon cup of joe for a cup of antioxidant-rich chaga tea or elixir — like this option from Four Sigmatic — to support wellbeing from the inside out. Bonus: it’s caffeine free, so you can catch quality Z’s and can help you reach your hydration goals. Learn more about chaga here.
Quick — how much sleep would you say you get per night? Five hours? Six? Now, how much sleep do you actually need? For many, that question is hard to answer simply because we don’t know. Winter is the perfect time to embrace the hygge lifestyle and hibernate — just a little (we’re talking a solid eight hours, no need to make like a grizzly bear) — and find out exactly how much sleep you really need. Why is sleep important to immunity? Sleep deficiency could lead to hormone imbalance, weight gain and chronic illness, in short, when we don’t sleep or don’t sleep well, our immune system could become compromised. Aim for eight hours of quality sleep per night and adjust as needed — maybe you need more, maybe a little less. If you need help cleaning up your sleep routine, check out this post on improving sleep hygiene!
And what should you do if you do catch the latest virus to make its way around the office? If you can, stay home, get some rest and drink plenty of fluids. Your co-workers, friends and family members will thank you.
How do you support your immune system all season long? Share with our community via social by tagging us @AvocadoMattress and #AvocadoGreenMagazine!