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Winter is afoot. The snow is falling and cold and flu season is in full swing. Instead of waiting for the symptoms to appear, take a proactive stance to stay healthy this season. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends a flu shot for anyone over the age of six months; however, there are plenty of other precautions you can take to maintain your health.

Boosting your immune system will increase your resistance to colds, the flu, and other diseases. If you want to stay healthy this season, follow these immune strengthening tips.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle. There are four basic things we can all do to build and maintain a strong foundation of health.

  • Get plenty of sleep. Sleep is critical to our overall health. The body regenerates and repairs itself during sleep. When we deprive ourselves of sleep, we compromise our immune system.
  • Eat a healthy diet. Feed your body the nutrients it needs to function optimally. Choose whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean protein. Avoid refined foods that are loaded with sugar, which will only serve to tax your immune system.
  • Exercise. Exercise promotes circulation and health and strengthens the immune system. Be sure to get plenty of aerobic exercise.
  • Drink plenty of water. Despite the cold, it’s important to stay hydrated. Dehydration inhibits the immune system, so avoid excess alcohol, caffeine, and sugar.

Reduce stress. The research is definitive—stress compromises our immune system. Find a way to alleviate stress in your life. Meditate, sing, laugh, dance, paint, exercise, practice breathing exercises, or guided imagery. Find a relaxation technique that works for you and make a commitment to keep stress to a minimum.

Wash hands. We spread germs through our hands. Wash your hands frequently and thoroughly with a basic, mild soap.

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Avoid touching your face. Most germs enter the body through the eyes, nose, or mouth. Even if you remember to wash your hands frequently, try to break the habit of touching your face.

Clean house. Raise your standards for cleanliness. Clean surfaces frequently, especially those that can be culprits for the hand-to-hand spread of bacteria and viruses—doorknobs, countertops, telephones, keyboards, and stair rails.

Air out. Stagnant air is breeding ground for germs. Whenever possible, open windows and doors to allow fresh air to circulate.

Go for garlic. Garlic has proven antibacterial properties and has been shown to detoxify the body. Cook with it and consider juicing with it as well.

Supplement. Even with a nutritious diet, we sometimes need supplements. Zinc, selenium, and vitamins B, C, and E are especially important for bolstering the immune system. Furthermore, vitamin D has been shown to reduce the risk of developing the flu by more than 30 percent.

Consider an immune-enhancing product. There are plenty of immune boosters on the market, some more valuable than others. Consider incorporating an immune-booster into your daily supplementation regimen, especially during periods of stress or exposure to illness. Do your homework before you buy.

An ounce of prevention truly is worth a pound of cure. Make it a priority to maintain your health and you’ll be more likely to avoid being sidelined by a cold or the flu.