Bug Busters: An Immune Boosting Routine to Start Right Now

By: 
Elise Museles

It’s that time of year again: the trees are bare, snow is on the ground (in many places), and winter is definitely here! And so are the stuffy noses, hacking coughs, and hide-under-the-covers flus that cold weather notoriously brings.

Every winter, I tell myself the same thing: This season I’m not going to get sick. And then somehow with back-to-back travel and the busyness (and stress!) of the holidays and beginning of the new year, I have major regrets about putting my own immune-boosting routine and self-care on the farthest back burner. So this year, I’m already being proactive and not waiting until I start to feel sick to give myself some extra TLC!

With a little planning, you can arm yourself with some simple, not-so-traditional ways to keep your immunity up and your body healthy during this season, and beyond.

Laugh More

Yes, it’s true (and it comes at the right price!). Laughter really does boost your immune system. A good chuckle decreases stress hormones and increases immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, which improves your resistance to disease. So share some silly jokes at the dinner table or watch reruns of your favorite old comedies. Find ways to lift your mood and make sure to get in those belly laughs … for your health!

Work Out

Take some time today (yes, today) and make an appointment with exercise on your calendar. Then, treat it like an important meeting that you can’t cancel. Moving your body shouldn’t feel like an obligation, however. You already have enough commitments! Schedule workouts that you absolutely love, so you feel inspired to move. Studies have shown positive links between moderate exercise and a healthy immune system. 

Slow Down

C’mon, you knew this was coming. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with the chaos of our daily lives, so it’s crucial to set aside some time for yourself. I know what you’re thinking: I’m sooooo busy, especially right now. But remember, a slower life is a healthier, more centered life, and your hurried body and frazzled mind will thank you.

If you still feel overwhelmed, carve out a few minutes every day to get calm and centered, either by meditating or by trying an easy (and fun!) non-conventional form of meditation (such as walking, hiking or playing music) that doesn’t require sitting still or chanting “om.”

Get Some Sleep  

We already know that operating on a sleep deficit lowers our immunity, in addition to impairing our judgment and decreasing our metabolism. But when there’s so much going on, it can be hard to settle down. That’s where a strong nighttime ritual comes into play. It will set you up for a good night’s sleep—and a better tomorrow! Note: If sleep is an issue for you (as it is for me), I highly recommend Arianna Huffington’s book, The Sleep Revolution. It completely changed my approach to and understanding of how to incorporate more, better sleep into my schedule.

Say No 

Parties, gatherings, and events are a great way to stay connected, but they can also be exhausting. If your social calendar is packed, it’s important to resist accepting every single invitation that comes your way. Constantly saying “yes” will only leave you exhausted, with a depleted immune system, stuck under the covers, shivering, sweating, and desperately trying to get comfortable. Learn to say “no” with grace, and realize that you can’t care for anyone else until you release some of your busyness and take care of yourself first.

Drink Up  

As the chill settles in, it seems pretty obvious to warm up with a toasty immune-boosting drink. (Think: turmeric and matcha teas.) Aside from serving as an inner space heater, warm liquids are essential for fighting off colds. By keeping your body hydrated and flushing out your system, those unwanted germs are less likely to hang around.

Nourish Your Gut 

Hippocrates said, “All disease begins in the gut.” Since your gut guides your wellbeing, make sure to load up on fermented foods and probiotics to build up the “good bugs” for vibrant and lasting health. Learn more about the importance of a healthy gut here.

Eat Better

You didn’t think that I would skip some of my favorite immune-boosting foods and flu-fighting remedies that I always keep on hand at this time of year, did you? Right now, it’s more important than ever to add lots of bright harvest color to your plate—think veggies of every color. But there are also specific foods with extra nutrients to help kick it up a notch.

Begin the day with a mug of hot water, lemon, ginger, raw honey, and elderberry extract (an antiviral herb that helps fight off colds and flus before they start). Or kick start your morning with a green juice to wake up your cells with turmeric, ginger, cilantro, pineapple, and greens all in one glass!

Warm up with immunity soup filled with anti-inflammatory spices (ginger, garlic, turmeric, curry) and boast with flavor and nutrients that feel healing with every single spoonful.

Add our favorite nutrient-dense golden spice to anything from lattes to quinoa to roasted vegetables. You can’t get enough turmeric this time of year!

Load up a sweet potato with lots of toppings for a supercharged plate of vitamins and minerals that happens to taste (and feel!) like healthy comfort food.

Mix in a dose of flavorful cumin, another immunity-boosting spice.

Make a colorful parfait using chia pudding, along with layers of phytonutrient-rich berries.

Prepare an all-purpose immunity vegetable broth, with lots of veggies, plus ginger, garlic, turmeric, parsley, and spices. Simmer it on the stove for hours and then sip it on its own or use it as a base for soups and other dishes.

Who knew that kicking up your immunity could be so easy and delicious? The best way to boost your immunity is to think ahead and be prepared, rather than waiting to get sick and then taking action. Mix in a few simple, non-conventional tools with some of your favorite traditional remedies, and it will be a snap to keep your body in bug-fighting mode all year long.

Cheers to your health!

Want to read more about nutrition's important contribution to your health? Also, read Elise Museles' article - Feeling Foggy? Try these 5 Brain-Boosting Habits You Can Start Start Right Now.

Or try another wonderful soup recipe from Elise Museles - this one is loaded with anti-inflammatory ingredients - Coconut Curry Soup.

Reprinted with permission from Kale & Chocolate.

 

Elise MuselesElise Museles is an attorney turned Certified Eating Psychology & Nutrition Expert and creator of Kale & Chocolate.  A writer, speaker, teacher and healthy lifestyle advocate, she empowers people to reset their relationship with food & their bodies—by creating a happy, healthy, and ridiculously delicious Food Story. Elise is also the author of the recently released book, Whole Food Energy, (Barron’s Educational Series, January 2016) and shares daily inspiration (and mouth-watering photos!) on FaceBook and Instagram.