As the leaves change and the nights grow chillier, are you dreading the colds you will have to fight off this year?

While you are busy with the hustle and bustle of autumn, your immune system is hard at work, defending you from attacks on a variety of fronts that are trying to keep you down. 

Avoid these 5 common immune system wreckers and get back to focusing on all things fall.


1. Am I Eating Enough Micronutrients?

Getting enough micronutrients in your diet is a necessary step for optimal immune system function.

Take vitamin C for example.

One in three people are not getting enough of it.

When you lack adequate vitamin C, immune system byproducts can damage tissues in your body. This damage can increase your risk of developing future health problems.

Think of these immune system byproducts as little fires that vitamin C is able to put out before they start to cause damage. Therefore, getting enough vitamin C helps your immune system function without harming you in the process.  

Another example? Vitamin D.

Though difficult to find in food and challenging to get year-round from sunlight, vitamin D helps your immune system function in tip-top shape and may protect you from developing certain autoimmune conditions. 

Find micronutrients in brightly colored fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and dairy.

If you feel your diet is lacking, round it out with a hiqh quality supplement.


2. Am I Eating too Much Fast Food?

Fast food, while cheap and convenient, can alter the healthy balance of beneficial bugs in your gut. Over time, this imbalance weakens your immune system’s ability to protect you from certain chronic conditions.

In addition to helping you digest your food, your gastrointestinal tract acts like a fence. When it works the way it should, germs you are exposed to in food and drink can't enter your bloodstream. 

The added sugars and refined carbohydrates in fast food may overfeed the bad bugs in your gut and starve the good ones.

This condition, called dysbiosis, weakens your gut's ability to keep certain proteins and bugs from passing into your bloodstream. 

Leaky gut syndrome is the condition that develops when proteins and microbes breach the gut barrier. This scenario has been linked to autoimmune conditions and allergies. 

To help keep your gut healthy, eat plenty of prebiotics, the food the good bugs love.

Find prebiotics in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and supplements. 


3. Am I Making Enough Time for Movement?

Being active for the recommended 150 minutes per week may get you through this year's cold season, more or less unscathed. 

While no one can say for certain why exercise may help the immune system, there is some promising research. 

Some researchers believe that being physically active helps the lungs “flush out” bacteria that might otherwise make you ill. Being more active has actually been linked to a lower risk of the flu

Make physical activity you enjoy a priority and reap additional benefits like dealing with stress and sleeping better, moves that also help your immune system.  


4. Do I Manage My Stress Well?

Stress is a necessary part of the human experience. And in short-lived and specific instances, it may help boost memory and cognitive function. Think about how stress motivated you to nail that last job interview or presentation.

When you experience high levels of stress on a continual basis, however, harmful changes in your body’s immune system ensue. As a result, it's much easier to pick up that cold that’s going around.

Years of chronic stress can suppress your immune system and increase your risk of developing infections or even overactive immune responses to triggers in your environment.

Keep stress in check with healthy coping strategies like physical activity, maintaining positive relationships, and getting enough sleep.   



5. Am I Getting Enough Sleep?

A lack of sleep, aside from making you sluggish and tired, might also be weakening your immune system.

 About 1 in 3 adults get less than the recommended 7 hours per sleep each night. Are you one of them? If so, you may want to try a natural sleep aid.

Inadequate sleep leads to changes in immunity that can make you more susceptible to falling ill. 

In one interesting study, healthy adults recorded how long they slept each night for two weeks. At the same time, researches exposed the adults to the common cold virus and monitored the rates at which they got sick. 

Those who got fewer than 7 hours of sleep were almost 3x more likely to develop a cold than those getting at least 8 hours of sleep.

As you can see, when it comes to staying healthy this cold and flu season, sleep matters



While it is possible to stay healthy during the winter months, you may find that you are sabotaging your own immune system.

It is important that we care for our bodies through all aspects of health. Not just through diet and exercise, but emotional health as well. 

You may need to take a look at your life and identify unhealthy habits and behaviors that are affecting your health for the worse. 


 Samantha Tinsley, MPH, RD 
Samantha Tinsley is a Registered Dietitian. She enjoys sharing practical information about how people can lead healthier lifestyles by making simple changes.
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