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As cold and flu season starts to ramp up, we’re all focusing a little more on how we can support our immune systems to stay healthy. Luckily, there are several easy things that you can incorporate each day to help maintain your energy levels, ease stress, and help you keep feeling your best.
While healthy eating plays a huge role in maintaining your immune system and keeping you healthy, some specific foods can help to support your immune system even more. If you’re feeling especially worn down, you might want to make sure that you make getting these essential nutrients. Because the immune system relies on protein toke cells and antibodies, ensuring that you get enough protein is a great way to keep your immune system healthy; a good rule of thumb is to aim to eat 0.36 grams of protein per day for each pound of your body weight. Omega-3 is another important nutrient that is essential for immune health as it boosts your immune system cells. Some of the best sources of Omega-3 include cold-water fatty fish such as salmon and tuna, nuts and seeds, and plant oils.
Although it seems simple, getting outdoors - even for just a few minutes per day - can have a ton of benefits for your mental and physical health. One of the biggest reasons that it’s so important to get outside in the winter is to ensure you’re getting enough vitamin D, which is an important component of your immune system. Plus, when you’re getting outside, you’re more likely to get exercise and relieve stress, both of which can support your immune health. Breathing in the fresh air can also be beneficial as plant particles can support your body’s production of white blood cells which helps your immune system to fight off infection. Sunlight can also help to trigger T-cells, which are necessary for fighting infection.
We can tend to not drink as much water in the cooler months of the year, but hydration is important for your overall health, including your immunity. Essentially, it ensures that your lymphatic system is working properly, which maintains your immune health. Staying hydrated doesn’t just have to be about drink ice-cold water either - warm water, herbal teas, and hydrating foods like lettuce, cucumber, radishes, tomatoes, cabbage, cauliflower, and broccoli all count too.
Because sleep is when your body repairs itself, it’s one of the most important parts of having a healthy immune system. Plus, if you do get sick, a lack of sleep can make it more difficult for your body to recover. If you’re having trouble getting enough rest some simple switches like a consistent bedtime and practicing good habits like leaving phones and tablets out of the bedroom can help. Other good options include practicing relaxing activities before bed like yoga, meditation, or a warm shower.
Although it’s something you might not often think about when considering your health, our relationships are important components of our health. People who have strong social support are more likely to stick with healthy habits like managing stress, getting great sleep, eating healthy, and staying active, further boosting their immune system and health. While it can be difficult to stay connected and social these days, activities like socially distanced walking or checking in with a phone call can be a great mood booster.
While it’s certainly best to get all your nutrients from food, if you’re feeling overwhelmed, supplements can help to fill in the gaps. Vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin E, and zinc are all frequently-recommended nutrients for a healthy immune system. If you do happen to come down with something, vitamin C and zinc can help to reduce the duration of your illness if taken within the first 24 hours. And, if you are considering taking supplements, do be sure to check with your healthcare provider to ensure they’re a good choice for you.