No matter where you go these days, somebody's coughing and sneezing, and possibly spreading colds, the flu, or other infections. So how do you protect yourself?
According to Frances Largeman-Roth, senior editor of Health magazine, the best way to fight back depends a lot on your age. On "The Early Show," she shared the best ways to combat these illnesses with age-specific protection plans.
Boosting your immunity is important since your immune system naturally weakens as you age so charging it up as key during cold and flu season.
People in different age groups (30s, 40s and 50s) should incorporate different foods in their diets and practice different techniques to fight stress and strengthen the immune system.
Fight Colds in Your 30s
Life in your 30's often means fast-tracking a career, starting a family, and keeping up with an active social life -- all at the same time. This can lead to meals on the fly, eating sugary snacks for energy, and some social drinking.
Limit Sugar and Alcohol
• Sugar (white sugar and sweets in general) and alcohol (beer/wine/mixed drinks) both compromise your immune system.
• In addition to limiting your alcohol consumption, replace sweets with high-fiber snacks like oatmeal, whole-wheat muffins, granola bars, or apples. Fiber is a prebiotic, a source that aids probiotics in helping your stomach fend off bacteria and viruses.
• Also, try starting your day with cereals containing buckwheat or wheat germ; both are high in polyphenols, natural compounds linked to longer life and increased immunity.
Work-Out Smarter, Not Harder
• While some hardcore workouts can get you a hard body in a few short weeks and ultimately boost your physical confidence, they may actually slow down the immune system.
• Stick to moderate exercise, which helps immune cells circulate through the bloodstream at a more rapid pace, preventing bacteria or viruses from slipping through.
• Aim for 20 minutes of cardio and 15 to 20 minutes of strength training a few days a week. Indoor activities like running, working out on the elliptical, or spinning are great, but if you can get outside on a cool and sunny day to exercise, it's much better. You'll pack in aerobic activity with the benefits of Vitamin D. Plus you'll avoid all of the germs that thrive in moist environments like the gym.
• Keep in mind that this exercise regimen is recommended during cold and flu season. Intense workouts may cause you to get sicker, and it's better to stick to short bursts of cardio activity to decrease your risk of contracting the flu or other serious illnesses.
Fight Colds in Your 40s
If you're in your 40s, you probably have school-aged kids who need help with homework and are staying up late. You're often juggling a career with a busy family schedule. In the midst of all this, it's important to get a good night's sleep and stay relaxed.
Go To Bed Earlier
• Because sleep is a restorative process, it's crucial to listen to your body when it's tired. Otherwise, your immune system won't function properly and you will be more susceptible to colds.
• As little as 30 to 60 minutes of additional sack time per night is enough to boost your immunity.
• Health recommends using lavender products to help nod off.
New Ways to Relax
• Chronic stress slows down your immune system, making it react less efficiently to flu viruses. Try new forms of relaxation, like yoga, meditation or simple breathing exercises.
• The next time you find yourself lying awake at night, grab your yoga mat. Research suggests that this ancient form of exercise can help combat insomnia. Here are two yoga moves that will help you relax and fall asleep from Health magazine:
Supported Standing Wide Leg Forward Bend: Stand with your legs spread out very wide. Then bend forward, placing your hands flat against the mat so that your hands are parallel with your feet. Your arms should be bent back towards your legs at a 90 degree angle. Be sure to keep your head vertical. If your head does not reach the mat, you may want to rest the crown of your head on a rubber block. This inverted pose sends blood to the head and is particularly effective in helping to still your thoughts.
Child's Pose: Sit back on your heels with the insides of legs and feet touching. Then lean forward, bowing your torso over your thighs and lowering your forehead towards the mat. Extend your arms forward with your palms facing down. While holding this pose, focus on your breathing to help you relax.
Fight Colds in Your 50s
As we age we are more prone to illness, and in your 50s, your risk of disease rises fast. Integrating antioxidants into your diet and increasing your LG antibodies can help you fight back.
Amp Up Antioxidants
• Pump up your immunity with antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, like broccoli, cabbage and kale.
• Tea is also a great germ-fighter. Try Matcha tea, a powdered form of ground-up green tea leaves. Matcha will net you the antioxidant protection found in 10 cups of brewed green tea and up to 100 times the antioxidant power of vitamins C and E.
• Add a spoonful of honey for even more protection, as it has incredible antibacterial powers.
Get Your Groove Back
• Now that the kids may be out of the house for long periods, make more time for sex. A study from Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, PA found that men and women who had sex once or twice a week had a 30 percent increase in LG antibodies found in saliva and mucous membranes. These LG antibodies are considered the first line of defense against cold and flu viruses.