Fall is now officially here and, with that, an increasing awareness of flu season and the heavy promotional campaigns to get your flu shot. The enormous amount of advertising and push from most healthcare professionals for the flu shot may lead you to believe that the flu shot is the only way to get through cold and flu season successfully. The numbers prove otherwise. Last year’s (2014-2015) flu shot was a complete failure. The CDC reported in February, 2015 that the shot only provided 18 percent effectiveness in adults and only 15 percent in children aged 2-8 years old.1 Only until flu season is well under way will a flu shot prove itself worthy of any significant level of protection. I am not here to tell you whether or not you should get the flu vaccine, but to help you understand that it does not always provide an effective level of protection as health officials would like you to believe. Whether you decide to get the flu shot or not, I recommend you research the benefits and risks involved with this procedure. Know too, that colds and flu are looking for a match with your immune system. Prime your immune system to function at its best- implement strategies that bolster your immune system and avoid those pitfalls that weaken your immune system.

When it comes to building your immune system up, there are some simple strategies that you can start implementing today to reduce the likelihood of becoming a victim to the flu virus. Here they are:

  • Get Regular Exercise One of the most researched and well-documented ways to boost your immune system is through regular exercise.

  • Get Adequate, Quality Sleep Not getting enough quality sleep is a quick and fast way to bring your immune system down, opening the door to colds and flu. Most experts agree you should be getting 7-9 hours of zzz’s each night.

  • Get Your Vitamin D Levels Tested Vitamin D is actually a hormone that plays a crucial role in keeping your immune system strong. Ask your doctor to include a Vitamin D test on your routine blood work. You should not be satisfied with a normal reading but be sure to get your blood levels between 50 and 70 ng/ml.

  • Consume Fermented Foods Regularly Unprocessed fermented foods are an excellent source of beneficial yeast and bacteria typically much more potent than probiotic supplements. Unfortunately, most fermented foods you buy in the store have been processed and pasteurized leaving few, if any active cultures behind. Recent research clearly demonstrates how many of these health foods have been turned into junk foods.2 I prefer to make these foods at home including fermented vegetables like sauerkraut, and fermented dairy products including yogurt and kefir.

  • Eat an Antioxidant-Rich Diet A diet rich in antioxidants typically involves a broad spectrum of fresh fruits and vegetables. Go for as many colors in the rainbow as possible.

  • Regularly Consume High-Quality Whey Protein Consumption of whey protein has been proven to have many health benefits including boosting glutathione levels in the body which is the keystone for the body’s antioxidant system as well as the primary fuel of the immune system.

  • Spice It Up Fresh herbs and spices like garlic, oregano, thyme, and turmeric are rich in antioxidants and also bring with them a variety of antibacterial and antiviral properties.

  • Drink Fresh-Brewed Green Tea Freshly brewed green tea is stocked full of antioxidants to help strengthen your immune system. The majority of research shows these benefits are at their peak with people who regularly consume 4 to 6 cups a day.

  • Get Regular Chiropractic Check Ups Regular chiropractic check ups help to ensure your nervous system is functioning at its peak performance. Science has strongly shown the connection between a healthy nervous system and a healthy immune system.3

Now that you know what to do to boost your immune system, here are a few things to avoid to help from busting your immune system:

  • Address The Stress Chronic stress creates a cascade of hormonal changes that in turn weaken your immune system. If chronic stress is an issue for you, be sure to incorporate a variety of stress-coping techniques including taking a walk in nature, spending time in prayer and meditation, and practicing deep-breathing exercises.

  • Avoid Processed Foods Processed foods make up the majority of foods purchased in U.S. grocery stores.4 Processed foods are stripped of the many minerals and nutrients that help nourish your immune system.

  • Avoid Sugar Sugar in all of its various forms has become rampant in our society. Keep a journal of how many grams of sugar you consume in everything you eat and drink for several days. You should target to keep this level between 25 and 50 grams. Side effect? You may lose some fat.

1. CDC Presents Updated Estimates of Flu Vaccine Effectiveness for the 2014-2015 Season

2. New Report Criticized the Yogurt Industry. The Cornucopia Institute.

3. The Effects of Chiropractic on the Immune System: A Review of the Literature

4. Processed Foods the Biggest Chunk of Calories in U.S. Groceries