Here we are in the doldrums of winter, with January mostly behind us and all of February ahead. Prime time for the sniffles or worse, right? Well, not necessarily. Consider taking a few preventive measures, such as the seven very doable suggestions below. Good news: becoming a germophobic, surgical mask-wearing hermit is not required.
1) You are what you eat. No kidding.
More and more, research is confirming what moms have been saying forever. Healthier foods make a healthier you. So, which foods provide the best prevention?
According to this article on FamilyCircle.com, fresh fruits, veggies, lean meats, and fish are healthy choices year-round, but according to Bonnie Taub-Dix, R.D., these foods give an extra boost to your body’s infection-defeating abilities. Carrots, bell peppers, kale, broccoli, sweet potatoes, and squash are beta-carotene powerhouses that protect the lining of the nose, trapping germs before they can infect you. In a study at the University of Florida, people who consumed two cups of green tea daily for three months had 32% fewer colds than those who didn’t. Nonfat Greek yogurt boosts immunity with high protein and live and active cultures. One serving of salmon contains up to 1,000 IU of vitamin D, which a University of Colorado, Denver, study found can stave off colds. In another recent study, people who took a daily garlic supplement had 36% fewer colds over the course of a year.
Eating locally may be even more important than eating organically, says WebMD.com. Because the trip from farm to table is faster, a head of locally grown lettuce, for example, may be more nutrient-dense than one shipped coast to coast.
Also, a diet low in refined sugar strengthens the immune system and can potentially protect the body against cold and flu, says Alan Gaby, M.D., who specializes in nutritional medicine. “Some doctors have observed that people who reduce sugar consumption have fewer infections and are generally healthier overall,” he says.
2) Break up with your couch.
Exercise can be some of the best preventive medicine. According to the same Family Circle article, people who exercise for at least 20 minutes, five days a week, catch half as many colds as those who get moving just one or two days a week. Researchers believe that exercise helps raise the number of immune cells in the body. And be sure to get the whole family moving. Here are some ideas for how, including disguising a healthful cardio session as Frisbee tossing or dog walking, which leads us to…
3) Make a date with Mother Nature.
Six out of every 100 Americans may suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a malady of mood swings that occurs when light diminishes in winter. To keep you and your kids feeling perky, encourage them to head outside whenever there is a sunny day. About 10 to 15 minutes of play in the sun is a good mood-lifter (and source of vitamin D), says Parents.com.
And of course, if you live at Stepping Stone, it shouldn’t take too much arm twisting, thanks to a fine complement of parks, trails, and open spaces. Parks are a creative place to play, with each (existing and planned) providing its own purpose and personality. Read about Sunburst Park, opening next summer, here. Seven miles of trails, which connect to regional trails, also provide great places to walk and bike.
4) Power down your stress.
Repetition is at the heart of meditation’s soothing power. Banishing negative thoughts, focusing on your breathing, and repeating a single word or phrase fires up your body’s natural relaxation response. And meditation can do more than soothe away stress. Research shows it may help lower blood pressure and boost immunity. Get the how-to here.
5) Keep it clean.
Wash your hands, and don’t forget to take a scrub brush to those fingernails, where germs accumulate. Be sure to change your toothbrush regularly, especially after a bout of illness. Keep a pack of antiseptic wipes handy, especially if you’re traveling. Think about the ick on airplane armrests, hotel remotes, doorknobs etc. (But maybe don’t think about it too much.) Consider nasal irrigation too. Studies have shown that those who rinsed their nasal passages every day for six months had fewer symptoms from allergies and sinus infections—and cut back on antibiotics and nasal sprays. Get directions here.
6) Give your home a checkup, too.
We’re all indoors a lot more this time of year, so make sure your home is in tip-top shape.
Have a professional service check your heating system to make sure it’s clean, working properly and ventilated to the outside. Inspect and clean fireplaces and chimneys. Install a smoke detector and test batteries monthly. Install a carbon monoxide detector to alert you of the presence of the deadly, odorless, colorless gas. Get more tips like these here.
7) Have a Plan B if you do get sick.
Hopefully your diligent prevention practices will keep you healthy all winter long. But in case some little bug slips in between the cracks, here’s your backup plan for quick recovery, outlined by StayHealthyandWell.com:
- Eliminate all dairy products.
- Eliminate all alcohol.
- Eliminate all grains (bread, rice, pasta, etc.).
- Boost your vitamin C intake.
- Boost your intake of zinc.
- Increase water consumption.
- Eat less food to divert energy away from digestion and toward fighting off invaders.
- Add herbs like Echinacea, Goldenseal and Grapefruit Seed Extract.
- Get plenty of sleep
Stay safe and healthy out there!