It’s official: Cold and flu season is here. And with global health at an all-time sensitive high, it’s more important than ever to take precautions to stay healthy. The good news? Beyond social distancing and wearing a mask, you and your health-coaching clients can implement a few daily habits that help your bodies ward off illnesses and build up a strong defence this winter. 

Here’s a quick breakdown of what the immune system actually does, and how you can coach your clients to stay healthy when germs run rampant. 

The Immune System 101 (How the Immune System Works) 

First, educate your clients on how the immune system works. You can explain it like this: the immune response is essentially the body’s way of unleashing an army of white blood cells (a.k.a. T-cells and B-cells) as well as proteins, to defend against invasive bacteria, viruses, and antigens. Without a supportive diet and lifestyle chock-full of healthy habits to support it, you run the risk of becoming sick or rundown, and may be more susceptible to germs. 

Healthy Habits to Naturally Boost the Immune System

Here are a few simple, but effective ways you can coach your clients to tweak their daily self-care routine and support their immune system all winter long. 

1. Get Enough High-Quality Sleep

One of the most effective ways to boost the immune system is to sleep, and sleep well. Getting between 7-9 hours of sleep every night can make a huge difference in the body’s ability to fend off invasive germs. One study published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine found that getting enough sleep can help boost white blood cell count, which in turn helps the immune system function more effectively overall. 

(Hint: If your clients are struggling to sleep well, check out our 20 tips to improve sleep.)

2. Eat More Fiber and Probiotics

It’s common knowledge that fiber and probiotics are good for us. But, your clients may want to know what they have to do with the immune system. As it turns out, fiber helps feed the good bacteria in the gut, which in turn supports the immune system’s functionality. According to a study published in the journal Gut Microbes, Soluble fiber (found in foods like beans, avocados, apples, and oats) converts the T-cell response from inflammatory to anti-inflammatory, which helps the immune system do its job more effectively. (Think: healthy G.I. tract = healthy immune response.) 

Probiotic foods like kombucha and yogurt have a similar effect, turning “bad” bacteria into T-cell boosting immunity fuel. 

3. Don’t Skimp On Workouts

Partaking in moderate exercise on the regular is an easy and effective way to boost the immune system, according to a study published in the journal Progress in Molecular Biology and Translational Science. Working up a sweat activates and excites white blood cells, helping them circulate throughout your body and detect invaders more quickly. The best part? Your clients don’t have to run a marathon to reap the benefits. A short 20-minute walk, going for a bike ride, or practicing yoga every day can be enough to give the immune system some love. 

4. Limit Your Stress

Have you ever fallen ill right after a stressful period of time? Well, that’s no coincidence. Stress can overwhelm and weaken the immune system. And unfortunately, a weakened immune system makes it easier for illness and disease to take over. One study, published in the journal Immunologic Research, found that stress can play a key role in increasing inflammation in the body, which in turn lowers immune function. But reducing stress levels through daily wind-down practices can help ensure the immune system doesn’t become compromised.

Help your clients reduce their stress levels by: 

  • Meditating
  • Turning to a hobby
  • Getting a massage
  • Journaling 

5. Avoid Cigarettes and Alcohol

Hopefully your clients know by now that smoking cigarettes or consuming alcohol in excess can be drastically counterproductive to achieving their health goals. But, they may not know that both vices can be harmful to their immune systems, too. One study published in the journal Oncotarget claims the chemicals in cigarettes can prevent immune cells from doing their job thus making the body more vulnerable to invaders. Same goes for booze. A similar study published in the journal Alcohol Research found that excessive amounts of alcohol can disrupt immune pathways, preventing the body from fighting off infections as it normally would. So in other words, advise your clients to steer clear of both if they want to stay healthy. 

6. Take Immune Boosters like Vitamin C and Zinc

Vitamin C and zinc are doctor favorites when it comes to supporting the immune system. According to a study published in the journal Nutrients, Vitamin C is known as a powerful antioxidant that stimulates the formation of antibodies, as well as the production, function, and movement of white blood cells. Furthermore, a study published in the Journal of Molecular Science found that Zinc helps your body fight infection by keeping inflammation in control so you can heal faster.  

For delicious whole foods that include vitamin C and zinc, encourage your clients to add some of the below options into their daily diet. For additional resources, check out our list of 22 other immune-boosting foods that can help your health-coaching clients stay well this season.

Foods That Boost the Immune System

Vitamin-C Rich Foods
  • Oranges
  • Lemons
  • Bell peppers (particularly red, orange, and yellow)
  • Kiwis
  • Broccoli 
  • Strawberries
Zinc-Rich Foods
  • Shrimp
  • Chickpeas
  • Almonds
  • Cheese
  • Eggs
  • Whole grains

7. Snag Some Sunshine Every Day

Sunlight and sun exposure is essential to a healthy immune system. Sun exposure not only stimulates vitamin D production in the skin but also modulates your body’s innate immune response, according to a study published in the Journal of Investigative Medicine. Depending on your clients’ tolerance for sun, you can recommend anywhere between 15 minutes to an hour of daily sun exposure to stimulate the immune-boosting benefits of vitamin D. (Just be sure to encourage them to use SPF, too!) 

As you can see, keeping the immune nice and strong is possible all winter long. 

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