It’s that time of year! Everyone in your life is either sick, starting to feel sick or just getting over being sick. Conversations always seem to contain the phrase, ‘it appears to be going around…’ and your workplace sounds like a hospital ward with all the coughing, sneezing and nose blowing.

While there are some amazing natural remedies for treating the cold and flu, ideally strengthening our immune system as much as possible before we catch that dreaded sickness is the best way to keep us healthy all season long. Nutrition and Exercise are both essential to help strengthen the immune system naturally.

Mango Banana Green Smoothie Bowl with 2-Ingredient Granola - Vegan

5 Ways to Use Food to Support the Immune System

1) Eat Vegetables!

Yes, we all know vegetables are good for us but the majority of us simply do not eat enough of them. A good goal is to fill half your plate with colorful vegetables. This ensures you are getting a good variety of vitamins and minerals. A few great examples are; leafy greens, immune boosting carrots and detoxifying cabbage and Brussel sprouts.

2) Decrease Refined Sugar

Sugar has been shown to suppress our immune system and encourage the growth of unhealthy yeasts and bacteria. Replace white sugar with natural sweeteners like raw honey, pure maple syrup or fruit.

3) Fermented Foods

70-80% of our immune system resides within the beneficial bacteria colonies of our gut otherwise called our microbiome. We can support our gut flora by regularly consuming fermented foods such as; traditionally fermented vegetables, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, and kombucha. Look for these items in the refrigerator section of your grocery store.

4) Raw Garlic

This antiviral, antibacterial powerhouse is wonderful for fighting off colds, flus, stomach viruses and candida yeasts.

5) Homemade Soups

As the weather gets cooler our bodies crave warming foods rather than raw salads. Homemade soups heaping with nutrient rich vegetables are a wonderful way to ensure we still get enough veggies during the winter months. Get an extra boost of minerals by tossing in some local seaweed such as; nori, kelp or dulse.

5 Reasons to Stay Active During Cold and Flu Seasons

1) Muscular contractions during exercise help the lymphatic system to circulate immune cells and increase the removal of wastes from the tissues more quickly. This strengthens the immune system, improving its efficiency at fighting infections.

2) Exercise helps combat chronic stress, which suppresses immune system function. Decreasing stress hormones in the body signals the nervous system that it is safe to enter “rest and digest” mode, where the immune system is the most proactive.

3) Regular exercise is shown to promote restful sleep at night. Getting adequate sleep is essential for our bodies healing, rebuilding and detoxifying processes.

4) Sweating allows the body to release toxins through one of the largest eliminatory organs in the body; the skin. Our immune system functions much more efficiently when less toxins are present in our body.

5) Exercise enhances the immune system response that occurs during fever, your body’s natural infection-fighting mechanism. But remember, it is more difficult for your body to raise its core temperature when you are exercising in the cold!

To enjoy all the benefits of exercise, it is important to balance activity with rest and recovery. Listen to your body; if you are already sick, do not over do it! Restorative yoga or walks in nature are wonderful ways to stay active even during recovery.

Heather Woodruff, CNP RNCP is a Nutritionist and Breanna Walker, BKin is an Exercise Therapist with InspireHealth in Vancouver. Connect with Inspire Health on Facebook and Twitter.