How to Prevent Getting Sick This Winter

Are you one of those people who gets sick all the time during the winter? It doesn’t have to be that way! Once I started implementing these holistic factors into my lifestyle, I noticed that my sick days drastically decreased.  Let’s dive right in and learn how to prevent getting sick this season!

how to prevent getting sick | sick all the time | cold prevention

#1 Get 7-8 hours of sleep per night

how to prevent getting sick - sleep

There is an intricate relationship between sleep, the immune system, and getting sick. You may already know that inadequate sleep is one major factor in getting sick all the time. One study even showed that people who sleep six hours or less per night are FOUR times more likely to catch a cold, versus those who sleep more than 7 hours a night (1).

But why? One researched theory is that during sleep your body releases chemicals called cytokines (2). While these chemicals sometimes get a bad rap in the health world, they are a necessary part of your immune system to fight off infections and viruses. If you don’t get enough sleep, you may not produce as much of these chemicals to prevent getting sick.

Vital sleep hygiene tips to get 7-8 hours a night:

  • Avoid electronics at least 30 minutes before bed.
  • Avoid stimulants like caffeine or nicotine after 1pm.
  • Incorporate some form of physical activity during the day – as little as 15 minutes of intentional exercise, such as walking,  may improve sleep quality at night.
  • Establish a regular relaxing bedtime routine. Adults need a regular routine just like kids do. Consider reading, stretching, meditating or doing a light yoga session before bed.

Related Post: 20 Shocking Sleep Facts to Convince You to Fall Asleep ASAP

#2 Amp up the probiotics

Bacteria have gotten a bad reputation for spreading germs and getting us sick all the time. Yet, there are trillions of bacteria in our gut, called probiotics, which actually BOOST our immune system. Nearly 70 percent of our immune system resides in our digestive tract (3). So, if we’re interested in learning how to prevent getting sick, supporting our gut health naturally with probiotics is a HUGE step.

Studies show that probiotics can reduce sick days by up to 60 percent (4). The first way to prevent getting sick is by amping up the foods that contain probiotics. These are also known as fermented foods and include things like:

  • Yogurt (full-fat and lower sugar is optimal).
  • Kefir
  • Kombucha
  • Sauerkrat
  • Fermented vegetables
  • Tempeh
  • Kimchi
  • Raw Cheese

During the cold and flu season, I highly recommend including a natural probiotic food source at least ONCE PER DAY. If you need ideas in how to implement these foods into your meals and snacks, download this guide!

What about probiotic supplements?

Although I always like to aim for food sources first, probiotic supplements also can play a positive role in how to prevent getting sick. I am VERY picky about probiotics and usually recommend brands that list at least 5 listed strains containing at least 10 billion probiotic units total. Probiotics are NOT regulated, so it is very important to choose a reliable brand that lists the strains and conducts third party testing.

A few of my favorite probiotic supplements for health promotion include:

  • Probiotic-5 by Pure Encapsulations
  • Multi-probiotic by Douglas Laboratories
  • Probiotic Supreme by Designs for Health.

You can order any of these on my online dispensary for 10% off (cheaper than Amazon!).

Related Post: How to Choose the Best Probiotic: A Guide

#3 Optimize your vitamin D levels

Getting sick - Vitamin D

Ensuring adequate blood levels of vitamin D is one of the key ways to prevent getting sick during the winter. One of the best sources of vitamin D is natural sunlight exposure – which we often get less of during the winter months. Over 40 percent of the U.S. population is suspected to be deficient in vitamin D (5).

A large research review looking at almost 11,000 people found that taking daily vitamin D supplements significantly reduces your risk of getting sick with an acute respiratory tract infection – like the common cold (6). The immune enhancing effect of vitamin D is stronger if you are deficient in this vitamin (<25 nmol/L for this study), and if you take daily or weekly doses (versus just a huge monthly dose).

You can ask for a vitamin D check during your annual physical if your doctor is willing; however, you can also take preventative measures without blood testing to optimize your levels:

  • Aim for 15 minutes of natural sunlight with arms or legs exposed, if weather permits.
  • Increase foods naturally containing vitamin D such as: salmon, sardines, egg yolks, shrimp, oysters, cod liver oil, and mushrooms.
  • Take a vitamin D supplement of 1,000-2,000 IU per day (try to get one with vitamin K2 included, if possible!).

#4 Cut back on sugar

Too much sugar may be hurting your immune system. Convenient isn’t it, that we tend to eat more sugar in the winter (holiday) months?!

Sugar may reduce your immune system’s ability to fight off infections (7). Observational studies show us that excessive sugar intake can also lead to increased inflammation in the body (8), which further increases our chance of getting sick all the time!

Cutting back on sugar plays a beneficial role in how to prevent getting sick this winter. Here’s a few tips on just how you can do that!

  • Eat a balanced breakfast with adequate protein and fat.
  • Incorporate snack pairing.
  • Ensure adequate sleep (sleepless nights increase sugar cravings).
  • Reduce stress levels.
  • Increase the healthy fats in your diet.

And so much more! Do you struggle with sugar cravings? Join hundreds of others in my free resource library to start reducing cravings now.

#5 Eat more foods rich in vitamin C and zinc

Vitamin C and zinc are two nutrients that act as antioxidants. This means that they scavenge the body to deactivate toxins called free radicals and prevent them from damaging our cells (including our immune cells). As a result, vitamin c and zinc also provide anti-inflammatory benefits and amp up the activity of our immune system to help prevent us from getting sick (9, 10).

Amp up your intake of rich vitamin c and zinc containing foods in order to strengthen your immune response against any bad winter bugs.

How to Prevent Getting Sick | Vitamin C Foods | Zinc

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#6 Give yourself a dose of Elderberry syrup

Elderberry is a medicinal plant which dates back thousands of years and may be a beneficial way to prevent getting sick. These berries are rich in antioxidants, vitamin c, and protective phytochemicals.

While there isn’t a huge amount of research about elderberry syrup yet, some studies show reduction in cold & flu like symptoms, severity, and duration (11). Researchers think that this is due to a protein in elderberries that prevents virus replication. So, if you DO get sick, elderberry syrup may help make it less miserable! There isn’t any standard dose of elderberry syrup, but many commercial products use a serving size of 1 teaspoon daily for adults.

How to prevent getting sick this winter: there’s more to the equation.

Reducing your stress (Ziva Meditation works great), washing your hands, and knowing when to rest are also huge factors in reducing your sick days this season.  Life is much more enjoyable when we are free of stuffy noses and sore throats, don’t you think?!