We’d all love a magic formula to fight off illness – especially in the dark winter months when we are most likely to come down with whatever bug is going around.
While we can’t avoid falling ill forever, there are plenty of ways in which we can give our bodies the best chance of fighting off horrible symptoms that might try to strike us down.
Here are 20 tips for keeping the bugs at bay
Treat yourself to an early night – studies have shown lots of sleep helps the immune system to function, while a lack of shut-eye can weaken it.
In fact, people who get a good night’s sleep are likely to put on less weight, have greater levels of concentration and memory, and even are statistically at a lower risk of heart disease and strokes.
- Manage stress
High stress levels can weaken the immune system. So chill out!
Prolonged periods of stress can lead to serious mental and physical health issues such as depression, anxiety, high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. If you continue to suffer from high levels of stress, you may need to seek professional help.
- Have a hobby
Having a favourite activity or pastime keeps us active and boosts our happy hormones – helping us to stay healthy and keep sickness at bay.
Studies have shown that people who regularly spend time enjoying their hobbies have better mental health and wellbeing because doing something you enjoy can reduce your levels of stress and depression.
- Get outdoors
Cooped up in an office full of germs all day? Tear yourself away from the computer and step outside for some fresh air.
Doing so has been shown to lower blood pressure, heart rate and cortisol levels. You are more likely to burn calories and take in more Vitamin D.
Having a good chuckle will get your heart beating and also helps reduce stress levels. So book those comedy tickets, or switch on your favourite sitcom, now.
Not only does laughter release endorphins which make us feel good, it can, incredibly, improve your immune system as well by increasing your levels of infection-fighting antibodies.
Laughter is also good for your heart as you take deep breathes and therefore pump more oxygenated blood around your body
- Eat berries
Berries are a great source of vitamin C, a key cold-busting nutrient. But no cheating…blueberry muffins probably don’t count.
As well as Vitamin C, berries are also filled with fibre and antioxidants – and low on calories.
Eating berries regularly can strengthen your metabolism, as well as lower your blood pressure and cholesterol.
- Drink water
H2O is awash, if you pardon the pun, with health benefits – and not just when it comes to hangovers. It also helps flush out bad bacteria and can prevent dehydration, constipation and kidney stones.
Other benefits include regulating body temperature, lubricating joints, maintaining blood pressure, helping with weight loss and helping prevent skin disorders.
- Munch some (proper) chocolate
This is always a popular one. Eating chocolate can help you fend off illness, because it contains immune-boosting cocoa. Please note, we’re talking about the proper dark stuff, not the sugar-loaded milk and white choccy treats.
Quality chocolate can also lower bad cholesterol levels and improve blood flow. A moderate amount of dark chocolate can lower the risk of heart disease.
So, what more excuse do you need? Chocolate can be good for you, as long as it’s the right kind.
- Gargle diluted TCP
This liquid antiseptic can be used as soon as you get the inkling of a sore throat. Just gargle (but don’t swallow) TCP diluted with five parts water, twice a day.As well as helping with sore throats, TCP also helps to sooth stings, bites, cuts, and spots.
- Get steamy
An oldie but a goodie. Hover over a steaming bowl of water with a towel on top of your head to clear the sinuses.
Sitting in a steam room can improve circulation, particularly in older people, which, in turn, helps to lower the blood pressure.
- Hands to yourself
Keep handshakes to a minimum during cold and flu season. How about a fist pump instead?! Failing that, get yourself some hand sanitizer.
- Try ginger
Ginger can sooth sore throats, reduce fever, and aid circulation. What’s not to love?
It is full of antioxidants which help to protect you against high blood pressure, heart disease and lung disease.
- Wash hands
Wash your hands after using public transport. If you take a train or bus to work, you’re leaving yourself exposed to all sorts of bothersome bacteria. Tube passengers, take note: research has found the most germ-ridden line on the London Underground is the Northern Line.
- Take some Echinacea
This native American herb is known for its healing qualities and is a popular choice for fighting the first signs of cold and flu. Note, however, that it can lose impact if used long-term.
The plant is good for your immune system and research has shown it helps your body create white blood cells.
- Get garlicky
Garlic may not make you popular with those close to you, but it boasts compounds which help the immune system fight germs. It also contains several antioxidants and can help to fight inflammation.
Several other benefits are linked to garlic such as lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol
- Use sterilising wipes
Some exposure to germs is good for children, but if you have very little ones who like to chew on everything, rub their toys with a sterilising wipe after a playdate to stem the spread of nasties.
Most wipes claim to kill 99.9% of germs and help to prevent the spread of disease.
- Nip cold sores in the bud
Cold sores are a symptom of being really run-down. So keep some cold sore busting cream in your desk drawer or bedside table, and zap it at the first tingle.
Other measures you can take to reduce the risk of cold sores include not spending too much time in the sun, getting a regular good night’s sleep, eating a healthy diet and maintaining good personal hygiene.
- Get a massage
Along with relieving stress, a study found that participants who had a 45-minute massage had an increased number of disease-defending white blood cells.
While the relieving of stress if good for your mental well-being, a good massage can also give your physical well-being a boost by improving circulation, reducing muscle pain and soreness and lowering blood pressure.
- Jump in the shower
Cold showers get the blood pumping, help reduce migraines and strengthen immunity.
Hot showers can help to open up your airways and nasal passage which is important if you are ill with a cold.
Showers can also relieve pain and soreness, improve blood flow and circulation, and even benefit your immune system.
- Eat sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes contain beta-carotene, an antioxidant which helps protect our immune system. Not only that, they’re delicious. Tuck in!
They are also paced with potassium, magnesium, vitamin C and vitamin B6, which is great for both your brain and nervous system.
This may seem a long list but most of these suggestions are not a great inconvenience – especially once you incorporate them into your new, healthier, routine.
You will thank yourself next time you dodge that horrible bug that will inevitably come around.
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