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Five Ways To Boost Your Immune System

How To | Nutrition Tips

I’m pushing off my last Ricotta Week recipe until tomorrow because I want to talk about my immune system.

I swear that’s not a one-antlered reindeer.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I was coming down with a cold. That was my second cold in just over a month. Although it didn’t last as long as the first cold (which gave me a cough for three and a half weeks, no lie), it still knocked me flat for a while. All in all, over the past two months, I spent more time sick than healthy.

Unacceptable.

Therefore, I’ll outline five steps I’m taking to boost my immune system. I enjoyed reading this discussion on steps you can take to boost your own immune system. The discussion also acknowledges that identifying fail-proof techniques is just about impossible, but offers open-ended suggestions that anyone can follow.

Zee Five Steps:

(1) Plenty of fruits, veggies, and whole grains (of course).

Who called this one? (Yes, YOU!) What kind of dietitian would I be if I didn’t start with this one? Besides being good for all-around health, a diet packed with fruits and vegetables and whole grains will provide the micro nutrients needed to make sure all my body processes (including my immune system) are running properly. I already eat quite a few fruits and veggies, but now I’m making a conscious effort to include a leafy green, a cruciferous veggie, an orange veggie, and an apple or orange nearly every day. I’ll switch it up often so that I make sure I’m getting as wide a variety of nutrients as possible.

I just picked up a few new whole grains to try last weekend.

I’ve already cooked with teff and am now looking for a good quinoa recipe. Anyone have any suggestions?

(2) Take a multivitamin.

I haven’t taken an MVI in years because I eat a wide variety of nutrient-rich foods, and I feel it’s better to get your nutrients from food rather than pills. Who knows what micro nutrients are in foods that could never be replicated in a vitamin? Besides, a healthy diet displaces not-so-healthy choices.

However! Whenever I catch a cold, I tend to lose my appetite. As a result of the combined two colds over the last few months, I haven’t been eating as much as I used to, and I’m finding it hard to take in what I need for maximum health. So, at least for the near future, I’ll be using a multivitamin to fill in some of the nutritional gaps.

(3) Exercise regularly.

I already have an exercise regimen (alternating running, biking, and weight-lifting). But, as you may have guessed, exercise has fallen by the wayside during my illnesses. Weight-lifting was the first to go, followed by running. Both will make a comeback. I also plan to incorporate more high-intensity interval training into my running workouts.

(4) Stress less.

Yes, I always do yoga in a red dress and ’80s-style hair. Why do you ask?

When Peter and I began preparing for our move around mid-July, my stress levels went through the roof. It does take me a little while to get used to new situations, and living outside the Northeast for the first time in my life was a pretty new situation. I know some of you (particularly the world travelers) may say “that’s not bad at all! You’ll get used to it, so relax!” True — yet everyone deals with stress differently (you can read a little more about this in my vintage guest post on Nicole’s wonderful blog, PreventionRD).

My favorite ways of coping with stress in the past have been exercise, cleaning, writing, and reading. Oh, and rearranging furniture. I kid you not. Peter never knows what our living room will look like after the end of a long day. All of these coping techniques have disappeared while I’ve been busy with other things, including looking for a supplemental job in this new area. I can’t remember the last time I sat and read a book from cover to cover, like I did as a wee tot. It’s time to bring some of these techniques back.

Anyone have any suggestions for a good book?

(5) Sleep like a THIH baby.

This is a tough one. I’ve always been a bit of an insomniac (do you know anyone else who was up at 5 am every morning as a teenager?), and recent weeks have been no exception. While I had my first cold, I didn’t sleep more than a few hours a night for over a week (unpacked from our move in lightning time, though!). I’m not a fan of sleeping pills, so I’ll try the following instead:

*Keeping a consistent bedtime and waking up time (the latter has been the most difficult!)
*Turning off all electronics 1 hour before bedtime
*Read something funny before bed
*DON’T read in bed (I’ve done this one before and it really helps!)
*Make sure I’m not hungry before bed. A light protein-rich and carb-rich snack before bed may help if I need it.
*Some of the tips you guys have given me here.

***

Each of these affects the other (for example, an excess of #4 definitely stole from #5!), and that’s one reason why maximizing health is so difficult to predict. Everyone reacts to each of these techniques differently, and what may work for one person may not work for another. Our bodies are complicated systems that interact with our environment in ways that we may not understand yet. I’m doing the best I can based on the information I have. And if I catch another cold, you’ll be the first to know 😛

Q: What are your tips for preventing/getting over a cold?

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13 Comments

  1. I totally was an early riser as a teen sleeping in for me was like 7am.

    1. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one!

  2. An early riser since your teens? You’d be friends with my mum. She would naturally wake up at 5am every single day to cook before waking me up getting me ready for school and then going to work, and she would be in bed by 9pm hehe It took 3 or 4 years after retirement to hear my mum say, wake you up at 7am for your flight? Better set the alarm clock! 😀

    As I am having a persistent and annoying cough almost 2 weeks after I had the flu, I can totally understand how stubbornly coughing can cling on to you.

    My bf swears by echinacea extract when he feels like he’s coming down with something. He made me take it too, but it was too late I already had a fever by then, so I can’t say if it works or not. My dad’s trick is to force himself to eat crazy amounts of food even though he didn’t have any appetite. You could barely tell something was up.

    1. Your mum sounds like Superwoman! Usually when I’m up at 5 am, I don’t do anything productive for at least 2 hours 😉

  3. I’m really trying to stave off getting sick before the marathon so I need to keep this in mind! Especially number 5. I am AWFUL about getting enough sleep!

    Also here are three of my favorite quinoa recipes – http://www.joanne-eatswellwithothers.com/2012/01/recipe-quinoa-chowder-with-sweet.html, http://www.joanne-eatswellwithothers.com/2011/08/recipe-peppers-stuffed-with-quinoa-corn.html, http://www.joanne-eatswellwithothers.com/2011/02/african-curried-coconut-soup-with.html

    1. Yum! I’m definitely making one (or all!) of those! Thanks for the suggestions, Joanne!

  4. I think if we follow all of these steps, we will become superheroes 😀 Hope you’re feeling much much better now!

  5. Sorry to hear about the colds and the stress, Jessie. I suspect that part of your double cold whammy may be because of your move and changing germ communities. I am not the scientist you are, but there certainly seem to be regional or local germ systems (if that makes any sense!). At school pretty much everyone gets a cold a few weeks into the school year because we’re all together again and sharing a fresh set of germs. I get a cold every late September like clockwork!
    As for books, I’ve been re-reading a lot of old favorites lately, partly because during our move a lot of books that had been stashed at my parents’ house resurfaced. I found it very comforting the first few nights here to have an old friend type of book to read when I was in the middle of so much change.
    Good luck with your immune system efforts, and I’m going to email you back once I get through this next round of tests!

    1. Thanks, Marie! I think you’re absolutely right — these rogue Illinois germs have it out for me 😉 That’s too bad about you getting a cold every September. I’m hoping it’s over now!

      I did bring a few favorite books from CT and am in the process of slowly rereading one. It’s definitely comforting to have such an old friend around 🙂

      Good luck with your next round of tests! The kids will be great!

  6. If I may suggest another valuable one: make sure you keep your vitamin D topped up. From October through April (if you live in the Northern hemisphere) the sun isn’t strong enough to produce a sufficient amount so a supplement is a good idea…

    1. I agree with you there – the amount of evidence tying low vitamin D levels to many ailments is growing. I already know my vitamin D levels are a little low, so I take an occasional supplement. Thanks for the tip!

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