The days are getting shorter. It’s a little tougher to get out of bed. There’s an occasional crisp in the morning air that brings some respite from the oppressive Southern heat. And that can mean only one thing. We’re easing our way into fall and then eventually, what’s expected to be another icy winter. And with this change in season comes pumpkin everything, fabulously cozy fall fashion… oh, and lots of colds.
And while the debate over whether Bigfoot exists rages on, one thing we can all agree on—there’s no cure for the common cold. So the key is to just not get sick in the first place. Duh! Why didn’t you guys think of that? Well, because sometimes it’s hard to avoid germ-y coworkers and crowded elevators, and do you really want to be that weirdo that walks around opening every door with their elbow or the back of their hand? (No judgment, I totally do this.) Not to mention all the surprises kids tend to bring home from school and daycare.
There are many things you can do to create a buffer between those bugs and your body. And everything you need is probably already right in front of you.
Here are some tips to help prevent colds during the cooler months:
Ditch the sugar. This is something we hear time and time again but it bears repeating. Sugar weakens your immune system, among other ill effects that come with downing the sweet stuff. What we’re really focusing on is the processed stuff. No need to shun fruit, which is full of antioxidants, or honey, which actually has some nice antimicrobial properties and can soothe a sore throat or cough if it strikes. Just consume nature’s goodies in moderation.
Sleep. As if you needed another excuse to get more shuteye, lack of sleep creates stress in the body, thus weakening the immune system. If you’re having trouble sleeping, try cutting back on or eliminating coffee. Before you throw your empty coffee mug at me, how about a compromise? At least try not to consume any caffeine past 11 a.m. It takes your body 8 hours to cycle the caffeine through, so anything past this time will make it harder for you to unwind in preparation for bedtime. Other sleep interruptors include screen time too close to your bedtime. Try relaxing with a good book and a cup of chamomile tea instead of stalking your ex on Facebook til you fall asleep.
Exercise. Sorry, just because old man winter is coming is no excuse to hibernate on the couch with Netflix. Getting in a daily sweat session has been proven to stimulate your immune system. Just don’t go overboard, as too much exercise can have the opposite effect and wear you down.
Embrace herbal immune boosters. Frequently cooking with garlic and other potent herbs like turmeric, rosemary, oregano and ginger can provide immune protective properties. These and other herbal remedies such as elderberry can also provide some relief if you find yourself in the throes of a cold.
Boost your vitamin D levels. The sun is the most effective way to naturally increase your blood levels of vitamin D, but at this time of year it’s tough to get the daily requirement, even though it’s still fairly warm outside. You can also squeeze it into your diet by consuming wild salmon, pastured meat, butter and eggs, though these will be in lower concentrations. And if you’re feeling brave, try some fermented cod liver oil, an old Nordic health tonic that’s been used for centuries. A D supplement (in the form of cholecalciferol) is another easy way to get it in.
While there is no guarantee that you won’t get sick, these tips are a good place to start. And besides, they’re just a good way to take care of yourself year round.