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We have officially entered the winter season and temperatures around the country are plummeting. This is the time of year that people with children and those with low immunity dread because of the increase in cold and flu germs. Luckily we know that we can use several lifestyle strategies to boost immunity and completely prevent or reduce the intensity of these winter viruses.

Increase your daily intake of vitamin C and zinc by eating more broccoli, oranges, peppers, kiwifruit, oysters, nuts and seeds, red meat and whole grains. Both of these nutrients are essential for proper immunity. You can also supplement with these nutrients throughout winter.

Try to cook with some immune boosting and microbe-killing herbs and spices like garlic, ginger, pepper, turmeric and cayenne pepper.

Fluid intake during winter often decreases, and this can negatively impact your immunity and make symptoms more severe. If you can’t manage to drink enough water, aim to drink more herbal teas.

Make sure you are getting 8 hours of sleep each night, and try to go to sleep by 10pm. Sleep regenerates our cells and helps to strengthen us. We are much more likely to resist infection if we are well rested.

Most of our immune system is located in the form of our resident gut bacteria. They form the first line of defense in our immune system and have many other functions. You should be nurturing your colony of healthy bacteria by avoiding junk food, sugar and smoking and eating more fruit and vegetables, yogurt and fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi and miso.

Vitamin D is one of the key nutrients in a strong immune system. Many people are low in this vitamin because it is produced when we are exposed to sunlight and most of us spend our days indoors. The sun is much weaker during winter so we need to take a vitamin D supplement and eat more vitamin D rich foods like eggs, fish, organ meats and full-fat dairy. You can also try to get outside on sunny days for 30 minutes without sunscreen on. If you want to know your vitamin D levels you can get your doctor to do a simple blood test.

Washing your hands properly is probably one of the best ways to avoid the spread of germs this winter. Make sure you are scrubbing your hands and nails with plain soap and water for at least 20 seconds before rinsing them, Do this after eating, using the bathroom and coming into contact with people who are sick.