Is it just me or is everyone sick right now? In the past week, I’ve had family members, friends around the country, clients, neighbors, houseguests, and airplane seatmates tell me they’re sick. And it’s not just a little sickness, it’s full-on, knock-you-down style.
The common explanation is that it’s “that time of year,” and to a large extent, it’s true. Temps are cooler over the winter, we’re going to more holiday parties, and we’re eating and drinking outside of our normal routine – all things that suppress our immune systems.
I don’t know about you, but I reeeeally hate being sick, so keeping my immune system working well is constantly on my mind.
There’s definitely an argument to be made that given my job, I’m pretty likely to get sick. Every day, I see come into contact with women coming in and out of the studio. We’re touching the same barbells, dumbbells, medicine balls and other equipment, so it’s easy for germs to spread around.
I also fly on a plane every Christmas (ever notice how many sick people are on planes?), host sick family members (love you guys, though!), get invited to holiday parties, and shake hands.
Despite this, I’ve managed to not get sick more than a couple times over the past few years. Oh, and shh, I’ve never gotten the flu shot. Not once.
But I’m also super deliberate about sickness-proofing myself. Yep, I’m the one walking around the house with the disinfectant spray getting all the doorknobs when there’s sickness going around. Call me crazy, but I’d rather be that than sick.
Here are some simple tricks to boost your immune system at the times you need it most:
01. Pound water.
In everyday (non-sick) life, the goal for each of us is to drink half our body weight in ounces. So if you weigh 180 lbs, that’s 90 ounces of water a day. When you’re sick or hanging around sick people, your body needs extra water to flush out toxins and handle the germs you’re coming into contact with. We’ve all heard the stat that our bodies are 60% water. Water is essential for helping our bodies thrive, and sickness makes us lose lots of it. Just think of how many times you blow your nose when you’re sick.
Whenever I feel sickness coming on, I make it a goal to have way more water than normal. Usually, that looks like having a 16-ounce water bottle during each hour-long client session, plus more in the morning and evening.
02. Apple Cider Vinegar.
One of my favorite ways to get more fluids and boost my immune system is to make a homemade hot apple cider vinegar drink. In the past, ACV has been suggested to be a cure-all (turns out it’s not), but it does have plenty of plant-based antioxidants. The key is to get ACV that contains the “mother.” The mother is the bits you see in unfiltered ACV. It looks kinda gross, but it’s those strands of yeast and bacteria that work as a probiotic.
Pour about a tablespoon of unfiltered ACV in a mug (I use Braggs), fill the mug the rest of the way with hot water, then add a spoonful of local honey to the mixture. Raw honey soothes your throat and helps shorten the duration of the common cold. This cozy drink tastes a little tart at first, but once you get used to it, it works.
03. Eat green vegetables every day.
While you could take lots of medication to prevent or cure a cold, diet is a way more natural way to keep you healthy. I don’t know about you, but I don’t like putting synthetic medicine in my body if I can avoid it. Green vegetables, along with a variety of other fruits and veggies, deliver essential vitamins and minerals to your body to help you ward off sickness.
Of course we think of citrus as the go-to cold cure, but did you know that a cup of spinach or kale has more Vitamin C than an orange? And broccoli is high in iron, selenium, and vitamin E, all nutrients that help your body control inflammation and kick the cold.
So if you feel like you’re spending a lot of time with sick people, make sure you’re eating a variety of salads regularly. Need some recipe ideas? Here’s a list I’ve pulled together for you.
04. Eat a ton of fresh fruit every day.
Fruit brings us many immune boosting benefits: many fruits are natural antioxidants, boost your vitamin and mineral levels, and help you stay hydrated. For me, staying healthy means making fruit a regular part of every single day.
Imagine what would happen if you started the day with a fruit smoothie, had a grapefruit for a snack, threw apples and pomegranate into a salad you make, and finished with a bowl of berries. Suddenly you’d give your body a way better defense against germs!
The one thing with this? Avoid fruit juice. I know we’ve all been taught that orange juice is the best thing for colds, but juice is stripped of its fiber and often has added sugar, which means you’re only contributing to the inflammatory response in your body, not taming it.
Getting into a regular exercise habit is one of the best things you can do to keep your body working well. If you’re in good cardiovascular health, you’ll have lower blood pressure and a better chance of avoiding sickness to begin with. And from my experience, it can help ward off a sickness when you first feel it coming on by helping you flush everything out.
Not sure whether to exercise when you’re feeling a little down? Here’s a good rule of thumb: if your symptoms are above the neck, meaning a stuffy nose, headache, or a sore throat, it’s ok to do easy steady exercise. You’ll probably even feel better afterwards! But if you have “below the neck” symptoms like a fever, body aches, or chills, it’s better to rest.
Speaking of rest, this should be high on your list during times you have a lot of sick people around you. Sleep helps boost your immune system and give your body a chance to rest and recover. Here’s the research to support it.
Between hosting holiday gatherings, getting gifts for loved ones in time for the holidays, and travel plans getting thrown off last-minute, stress is an inevitable part of the winter season. Too much stress lowers our body’s immune system, so build in moments to relax, unwind, and keep things in perspective.
08. Wash your hands like crazy.
Make it your mission to wash your hands every hour when you’re in contact with other people. Do it way more than normal! Train yourself not to touch your eyes or put your hands in your mouth. This little change seriously works wonders.
Here’s another quick little habit: disinfect anything that’s touched by many people a day, especially door handles, light switches, and faucet handles. My clients see me doing this to the equipment after every session at the studio and my family sees me doing it nonstop at home.
I’m not one for taking medicine, but I am a fan of taking homeopathic zinc tablets to prevent sickness from even starting. The moment I feel a slight little scratch in my throat, I take a Zicam tablet. There’s a good amount of research showing that zinc shortens the duration of the common cold, and this stuff has saved me from many colds in the past.
I can’t help but think about the habits that contribute to keeping us healthy or allowing us to get sick. I hope this list reminds you that with the right intentionality and by controlling our inputs, our immune systems can be pretty amazing at keeping us healthy.