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Published on January 23, 2015

woman in bed sick with a cold

6 Tips to Optimize Immune Function and Stay Healthy

Cold and flu season is upon us! Utilize the following tips to boost your immune system and stay healthy.

  • Contact precautions — Prevention is always the best medicine! Cover coughs and sneezes with your inner elbow, wash hands frequently, take advantage of hand sanitizers and wipes in public places. Additionally, keep your vaccines up to date for your age and the season. Vaccines stimulate the immune system for early recognition and prevention of illness.
  • Eat healthy — Give your immune system the nutritional energy it needs for a victorious battle with the bugs. Include a variety of immune-boosting foods in your diet such as fruits, vegetables, mushrooms, garlic, nuts, whole grains and omega 3 oils. Avoid foods that restrict your immune system function. Processed foods, white sugars and saturated fats cause inflammation in your body, distracting the immune system from doing its more important job of fighting illness.
  • Sleep — Your immune system requires seven to eight hours of sleep regularly for optimal function.
  • Modulate stress — When people are living high-stress lifestyles or dealing with unexpected additional stressors, they are more susceptible to infection. Similar to a poor diet, prolonged stress creates cellular inflammation in the body resulting in decreased immune function. A healthy diet, adequate sleep and regular exercise are a great foundation for stress management. I encourage patients to explore other stress-busting routines such as yoga, tai chi, utilization of essential oils, massage, acupuncture, guided imagery, meditation and prayer.
  • Nutritional supplements — Multivitamins, B vitamins, zinc, vitamins C and D, and mushroom supplements can benefit immune system function.
  • Acupuncture — Treatments with acupuncture can benefit patients such as improving sleep, reducing the effects of stress on the body, and optimizing the function of the immune system.

To learn more about integrative medicine at Avera, call 605-322-3341.

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