Catching a cold or the flu is often a miserable reality of the winter months. And while there’s no stopping it once the bug is already in your system, there are ways to make it less dreadful. It all comes down to how you take care of yourself.
“You want to make sure that your immune system, which absolutely depends on getting the right nutrients on a daily basis, is being nurtured and supported,” Jonny Bowden, a health expert and board-certified nutritionist, told HuffPost. “The goal, once you get sick, is to reduce the number of days you’re out of commission.”
Looking for ways to keep your sickness at bay? Here are some expert-backed tips to help keep your immune system as healthy as possible and make that pesky cold suck a little less.
Take your vitamins.
Zinc and vitamin C are both necessary for a thriving immune system. Whole grains and milk contain zinc, and oranges, strawberries and pineapples are high in vitamin C. You can also take a supplement, Bowden said. (Just don’t expect it to stave off your cold entirely.)
Get more rest than you usually do.
Take naps when you can, and make sure to go to bed as early as possible in order to get the optimal amount of sleep overnight.
“Your immune system needs rest to regenerate,” Dr. Ian Tong, chief medical officer at Doctor On Demand, told HuffPost in an email. “You can help maintain a healthy immune system by sleeping regularly.”
Cool it on your workouts.
Exercise is key to staying healthy, but once you’ve caught a bug, it’s best to put off those HIIT workouts for a few days.
“If you are an exercise enthusiast,” Tong said, “consider turning the intensity level down a few notches to light walks until you are feeling better.”
Keep that stress in check.
Mental health and physical health go hand in hand, and stress can wallop your immune system, according to Bowden. Looking for a way to keep calm? Try one of these simple stress relievers.
Drink lots of water.
Staying healthy means staying hydrated. Water is vital to your immune system’s functioning, and when you’re sick, you’re more likely to be depleted of H2O.
“Staying hydrated with water, decaffeinated tea, sport drinks and sugar-free drinks are best to help fight dehydration associated with fever,” Tong said.
Don’t skip meals.
Even if you don’t have much of an appetite, Tong says, you should still try to eat as regularly as you can.
“Getting sick is work,” he said. “Your body burns calories to fight against illness so be mindful of providing the much needed fuel it needs to win the battle.”