October marks the beginning of the cold and flu season, which ranges from October through March. Every year, there are approximately a billion cases of the common cold — averaging 2-4 colds a year per adult — with most people feeling under the weather for up to two weeks. That’s a lot of sick days, to put it mildly. And while we’ve all heard the common advice, such as “take more vitamin C” or “avoid other sick people,” there’s so much more we can do to support our immune system and bolster our health. If you want a healthier cold and flu season, these are the best new tips for stronger immunity in 2023.
The Basics of a Healthier Cold and Flu Season
Staying healthy and avoiding the cold and flu involves a combination of preventive measures and healthy lifestyle choices. Before we get into the top new trends for a healthier cold and flu season in 2023, let’s go over the research-backed basics (which are still tried and true methods for staying healthy this fall):
- Wash Your Hands Often: Wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after being in public places, touching your face, or sneezing/coughing (according to the CDC’s own estimates, regularly washing your hands prevents 20% of the cases of the cold and flu).
- Avoid People who are Sick: Stay away from people who are sick and maintain physical distance in crowded places.
- Practice Respiratory Hygiene: Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your elbow when you cough or sneeze.
- Eat a Healthy Diet: Consume a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to support your immune system (we offer dozens of free, immune-boosting recipes in our recipe archives!).
- Take Immunity Supplements: These include vitamin C and zinc, as well as BioPro-Plus 500.
But that’s just the start. If you want a healthier cold and flu season, take it up a notch and boost your immune system with some novel, yet science-backed, approaches.
3 Secrets to a Healthier Cold and Flu Season
1. Maintain Adequate Hydration With Herbal Teas
Stay hydrated with water and herbal teas to maintain optimal bodily functions. Those important functions include your immune system. For example, blood — which contains immune cells like white blood cells and antibodies — is mostly composed of water. Proper hydration ensures the efficient circulation of these immune cells throughout the body, allowing them to reach infection sites more effectively.
The same goes for your lymphatic system, a key component of the immune system. Lymph, a colorless fluid, carries immune cells and antibodies to infection sites. Staying hydrated ensures the lymphatic system’s proper function.
There are other ways that staying hydrated — especially during the drier, colder fall and winter months — helps. For instance, hydration helps maintain the health of mucous membranes, which act as a physical barrier against pathogens. When these membranes are adequately hydrated, they are more effective at trapping and eliminating invading microbes.
If you want a truly strong immune system this fall, think beyond simple water and try immune-boosting teas:
- Echinacea Tea: Echinacea is a popular herb known for its potential immune-boosting properties. It’s believed to stimulate the immune system and help the body combat infections.
- Ginger Tea: Ginger has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which can help reduce inflammation in the body and support the immune system. It’s also soothing for sore throats and upset stomachs.
- Turmeric Tea: Turmeric contains curcumin, a compound with powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects. It may help strengthen the immune system and reduce the severity of illnesses.
- Peppermint Tea: Peppermint tea can help relieve congestion, making it easier to breathe when you have a cold. It also has antimicrobial properties that may help with infections.
- Chamomile Tea: Chamomile is known for its calming and anti-inflammatory properties. It can help reduce stress, which can indirectly support a healthy immune system.
- Lemon Balm Tea: Lemon balm has antiviral properties and may help reduce the duration and severity of cold sores and other viral infections.
2. Yoga Your Way to a Stronger Immune System
Exercise plays a crucial role in boosting the immune system through a combination of direct and indirect mechanisms. Physical activity increases blood circulation, which helps immune cells move more efficiently throughout the body. This means that immune cells are better positioned to detect and respond to infections.
Regular exercise also has an anti-inflammatory effect on the body. Chronic inflammation is associated with various diseases and can weaken the immune system.
Exercise even stimulates your immune system by triggering the release of various immune cells, including natural killer cells, T cells, and macrophages, which play a key role in defending the body against infections and illnesses.
Instead of just hitting the gym or the running path in your neighborhood (which are beneficial, too!), try yoga. Yoga counts as exercise, but it also has an added benefit: Reducing stress.
High stress levels can weaken the immune system. Mindfulness-based workouts like yoga can help reduce stress by releasing endorphins, which are natural mood boosters. Lower stress levels can, in turn, enhance immune function. In fact, a systematic review of 15 different clinical studies found that yoga had significant impacts across the spectrum when it comes to the health and balance of your immune system.
3. Get Hot When the Weather Gets Cold
Raising your body temperature may help kill off potential infections by creating an environment that is less favorable for pathogens.
“A new Yale study reveals how body temperature affects the immune system’s response to the common cold virus,” reports Yale University. “At [a higher] body temperature [of 37 degrees Celsius], infected cells die more rapidly, preventing viral replication. Second, an enzyme that attacks and degrades viral genes, RNAseL, is enhanced at the higher temperature. Each pathway independently contributes to the immune system’s defense against the cold virus. The findings underscore the impact of temperature on the immune system’s defenses. They also offer further approaches for therapeutically tackling the cold virus.”
Of course, isn’t this just like your body’s own fever mechanism!
Exercise is a great way to boost your core temperature. Or, if you have access to a sauna or steam room, spend some time in these to increase your body temperature and relax your muscles. Don’t have a sauna? Take a hot shower and let the steam fill the bathroom. The warmth and humidity will raise your body temperature and create a relaxing environment. In either scenario, the steamy sauna or shower also helps open your airways and detox your body.
No single measure can guarantee you won’t catch a cold or flu, but by combining these strategies, you can significantly reduce your risk of illness and enjoy a healthier cold and flu season this year.