Okay, so technically, fall doesn’t start for another couple of weeks. We just wrapped up a long Labor Day Weekend though and to me, that always feels like the end of summer.
Regardless of whether you usher in the fall season now or on the official Fall Equinox (Sept. 22nd), the bottom line is that cooler temps, football games and Pumpkin Spice everything is just around the corner.
Unfortunately, along with all of the cozy, colorful goodness of fall, also comes the increased risk of illness. Make sure that your family doesn’t get sidelined from the pumpkin carving, corn maze hiding, leaf pile jumping fun of the new season by following these six simple tips to help boost your immunity and keep you healthy, well into winter.
Six Fab-YOU-lous Ways to Keep Your Family Healthy this Fall
1.) Manage stress levels. Summer has (thanks to vacations and breaks from school) a low-key, relaxed feel to it. Fall, on the other hand, means back to school, back to a more scheduled routine, holiday preparations, etc. Even if these are things that you tend to look forward to, they can still bring an added element of stress along with them.
Chronic stress wreaks havoc on the body’s immune system. When you’re stressed out, your body releases a number of hormones, including cortisol, which suppresses your immune system response and can increase your risk of illness. Over time, chronic stress can lead to weight gain, sleep issues, an increased risk of heart disease and depression.
Reducing stress levels is an important way to boost health and vitality. If your child is stressed out about homework or school, make sure that he/she has plenty of downtime to relax and is getting plenty of sleep. If you are the one who is frazzled or overwhelmed, try taking a walk around the block or engaging in some deep breathing exercises or meditation.
Start off by managing your stress for just ten minutes a day–it can make a big difference when it comes to boosting your immunity.
2.) Eat to live–not live to eat. This can be so challenging this time of year. I mean, how are we supposed to resist raiding the Halloween candy or reaching for thirds on the mashed potatoes and gravy at Thanksgiving?
Fortunately, a little indulgence is okay but be sure to balance your indulgences with lean protein, whole grains, low-fat dairy, fresh fruits and colorful veggies.
Simply put–there’s no getting around the fact that what you eat is of critical importance when it comes to keeping your immune system strong. For more info. on how to eat well for your particular body type, visit choosemyplate.gov.
3.) Be smart about supplements. Though nothing can take the place of a healthy, balanced diet, there are ways to supplement your nutrition and provide an added boost to your immune function which, in turn, can help to fend off seasonal incidences of cold and flu. Some of the most beneficial supplements (according to Dr. Andrew Myers, co-author of The New Heart Health and the Health is Wealth series) are…
- Vitamin C: This foundational immunity booster is well known for its ability to help fight illness and support overall immune health. Recommended dosage: 1,000 to 2,000 milligrams a day.
- Vitamin D3: During the fall months, we tend to not get as much natural sunlight as we do during the summer. This can cause a decrease in this “sunshine vitamin” and sap the potency of our immune systems. Recommended dosage: 2,000 to 5,000 international units daily.
- Elderberry: Science has shown that the anthocyanins in black elerberry can boost the production of proteins that act as messengers within the immune system, enhancing immune response. Recommended dosage: as directed by the manufacturer.
- Echinacea: This herbal medicine is derived from flowering plants known as coneflowers and helps to activate the immune system so as to combat colds and the flu. Research shows that it might also boost immune function and thereby help to fight infections. Recommended dosage: as directed by the manufacturer.
4.) Catch some zzzz’s. We all know that when we are sick, we need to sleep in order to recover. Well, it shouldn’t come as a surprise then to learn that sleep is hugely beneficial when it comes to boosting our immunity. This is helpful when we are sick but also good to remember as we work to avoid sickness.
As you slumber, you immune system releases antibodies and cells that fight disease and infection. Over long periods of time, lack of sleep can increase the risk for obesity, cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
Every person is unique and therefore, every person’s sleep need is different. Children require more sleep than adults but it is important that you get enough sleep so as to wake up feeling rested and refreshed. If you’re not sure how much sleep you need, start with eight hours and add more time in fifteen minute increments until you are able to wake up feeling truly rested.
5.) Work it out. During the summer months, it is easier to get an adequate amount of exercise because the days are long and the weather is conducive to increased outside activities like biking, hiking, swimming and running. Exercise is no less important in the fall though and it plays a major role in supporting immune health.
According to the National Institutes of Health, physical activity flushes bacteria away from the lungs and may even help to remove cancer causing cells from the body through increased waste, such as urine and sweat. Additionally, exercise also increases the circulation of disease-fighting white blood cells, which may allow the white blood cells to detect disease earlier. Plus–when you work out, your body temperature naturally rises which may inhibit the growth of bacteria. All of these benefits are in addition to the fact that staying active can help to reduce stress levels (see item #1 on the list) which reduces the risk of illness.
So…even though the temperature is getting cooler, bundle up the family and stroll through a corn maze together or take a hike to check out the fall colors. There are many wonderful ways to enjoy the season and still get a dose of physical activity as well.
6.) Make good choices. There are a myriad of other choices that you can make every day to ensure that you and your family give your immune systems a fighting chance during cold and flu season. Wash your hands frequently, avoid people who are sick, maintain a healthy weight, don’t smoke etc. While there is no way to guarantee that you won’t get sidelined with an illness this fall, your everyday choices do play a major role in your overall health and wellness. Make sure that you are making choices that strengthen your immune system so that it is best prepared to fight on your behalf.