At the end of 2015, I was hit with the stomach flu, a cold, pink eye, and a sinus infection–all within a month of each other. This shot my immune system, and I spent 2016 being sick 1-2 times every month. At the end of 2016, I decided 2017 was going to be different and I was bound and determined to strengthen my immunity (along with my family’s).
You see, I’m a little bit of a germaphobe. Okay, I’m actually a huge germaphobe. And with cold and flu season, germs seem to multiply…along with my fear. I start to worry about leaving my house (what if we catch something?! 😱). To combat this fear and avoid spending so much time feeling crummy, I spent this year learning about immune systems then implemented some new things into our everyday lives. We’re still working on a lot of these, but with the changes we’ve made, our immune systems have definitely strengthened!
So how exactly do we strengthen our immune systems and help them work their best? Here’s what I’ve learned:
Eat Lots of Fruits and Veggies
Sure, this is pretty obvious, but it’s also crazy important. Fruits and veggies are filled with all sorts of nutrients that our bodies need and crave, so it only makes sense that the more of them you’re eating, the better chance you’re giving your immune system at staying strong and healthy. Lots of greens and lots of citrus are a bonus 😉!
Take Vitamins and Supplements
Make sure you’re taking some vitamins and supplements to give yourself an extra dose of the good stuff. Some of the best options for immunity are vitamin D, echinacea, elderberry, vitamin C, and zinc. It’s also a really good idea to take a multivitamin and omegas as well.
You can also take immune booster specific supplements like Airborne or Emergen-C when you feel like you need an extra bit of protection or feel a little under the weather. Also, please note that you don’t need to take everything every day. We don’t! I rotate a few of them every couple of days (especially for my kids!).
In general, avoid tablets. The body has a really hard time fully breaking them down, so you won’t get the maximum benefit. Gummy versions are going to have some sort of sweetener in them, but for kids, they might be your only option. If you can, aim to take capsules or liquid versions as often as possible.
Focus on Gut Health
If you were wondering why I didn’t list probiotics on the vitamins and supplements list, it’s because gut health needs its own category. If you want to be healthy, you HAVE to start with your gut health! Take a high quality probiotic (and yes, the quality is very important).
Additionally, drink a glass of warm water with lemon and a teaspoon (or more) of apple cider vinegar every morning. It can be really hard to stomach at first, but over time it becomes less overwhelming. You can also add a little honey to it, if you want, but try for a raw local honey. Also, if you have any known food sensitivities, avoid them as much as you can. All this will help keep your gut super healthy, and therefore YOU super healthy!
Avoid Processed Sugar
Oh, how hard this one is–especially this time of year! Everywhere you look, there are sweets just begging to be eaten. Cookies, cinnamon rolls, peppermint chocolate chip shakes from Chick-fil-A…sugar is everywhere! And right after you managed to muster up the strength to pass up the cookies at a party, you come home to find a neighbor left homemade fudge on your doorstep. And it’d be rude to not at least try it, right? But the less sugar you eat, the better off your immune system will be, so try to limit sweets as much as possible.
Depending on where you live, getting outside can be difficult this time of year (can you say ice and snow?). I’m lucky to live in a place that doesn’t snow, so I can get outside a lot during the winter. But if you live in blizzard town, just get outside as much as you can. The sunshine, the fresh air, and just being in nature give your immune system an extra boost. Just be sure to bundle up first!
I use DoTerra oils, so I love the OnGuard this time of year. I use the OnGuard touch roller bottle on the bottoms of my kids feet at night. I diffuse it when we’ve been exposed to lots of germs. I put a few drops in my homemade kitchen counter cleaner. And I take the OnGuard+ soft gels when I feel a little run down or I’ve been around someone who’s sick. I don’t know much about other brands of oils, but I’m sure there are other immune boosting options. Just do your research first!
Get Plenty of Sleep
This is another pretty obvious one, but you need to take your sleep seriously. If you’re not getting enough sleep, your body is already a step behind, so when germs attack, your body is slower and less able to fight them off. Please, please, PLEASE get enough sleep. Yes, this is extremely hard (and sometimes impossible) as a mom–especially if you have kids who aren’t sleeping through the night But do your best. If you know you’re going to be getting up a few times at night, go to bed extra early to try to get that extra time in. Aim for a minimum of 7 hours per night, but 8 is better (and if you’re feeling a little sluggish, try to get 9 for a few days).
Yep, I’m talking exercise…and just living a more active lifestyle in general. Park further away from the store. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. If you’re working at the computer or on a sitting task, set an alarm on your phone to remind yourself to get up and move every so often. Do some squats while you wait for the microwave. Do calf raises in the shower. Get creative and work movement into your everyday life. And try to squeeze in an actual workout at least three days per week.
Wash Hands Often
Wash your hands often with warm water. Aim for 20-30 seconds of wash time. Definitely wash your hands before eating anything, but also try to wash after being in a public place or with other people–when you get home from the store, after work, when you get home from a friend’s house, etc. If you don’t have access to soap and water, you can use hand sanitizer, but try to limit the use of it. Soap and water is always best and too much sanitizer can actually weaken your immune system.
Avoid Touching Your Face (Eyes, Ears, Nose, Mouth)
Try to pay attention to how often you touch your face. If you’ve never paid attention to it before, I bet you’ll be surprised how often you do it without realizing. If you need to touch your face, wash your hands first! If the germs aren’t getting to your face, they’re less likely to affect you.
This is another difficult one, especially at this time of year. But if you start to feel a little overwhelmed with life, stop and take a deep breath. Do something calming. Take a bath, use a face mask, watch a Christmas movie, read a book, journal, whatever will help you ground yourself and feel relaxed. Then you can get back to your to-do list with a renewed spirit!
Drink Lots of Water
Keep your body hydrated and flush out those toxins! Water is SO good for you, so drink as much as you can. 64 ounces should be your daily minimum!
Overwhelmed? Don’t Be.
Looking at this list might seem overwhelming, especially if you’re not doing a lot of these things. I know it was for me when I first started learning about immune systems! But remember that you don’t have to do everything on this list to have a strong immune system.
My suggestion is to pick one area that you feel will work well for you and your family and work on implementing that first. Then, once you’ve got that one down, pick another category to improve.
Immunity Booster Kit
I put together a little immunity booster kit to keep handy and remind me to give my family what we need to keep our immune systems working their best. If you want to make your own, I created a FREE printable tag for you to attach to your kit and another one to keep with your kit that has a list of all the things you can do to help your immune system (since most can’t be put into the kit).
Click here to download your FREE printables!
Stay tuned next week for a Sick Kit for Kids for those times you aren’t able to avoid the sickness!
What do you do to keep your immune system working at top notch?