We’re lucky that the summer weather is still with us, but we’re approaching the indoor, shut-in time of the year. The kids are starting school and being exposed to more germs, so they are likely to get sick and pass it around at home, too. Healthcare providers are also  about all the non-COVID viruses circulating right now. Whether you are around kids or not, this is the time of year when bugs are more prevalent. If you want to minimize your odds of getting sick this season, we suggest doing these 5 things to help keep your immune system strong.

Remove (or drastically reduce) the added sugar you eat. Sugar suppresses your immune system for a couple of reasons. First, 60-70% of your immune system is in the lymph tissues in your intestinal tract. Since sugar is the number one inflammation-causing food, eating excess sugar inflames the digestive tract, along with the rest of your body (blood vessels, airways, joints, heart, brain, etc.) so your immune system will not perform as efficiently. How much added sugar should we consume? According to the World Health Organization, strive for no more than 24 grams/6 teaspoons daily for women and children, and 36 grams/9 teaspoons daily for men. Second, sugar increases the bad bacteria living in the gut/digestive tract. This causes the immune system to be further weakened. Thus, it will be less able to fight off viral and bacterial invaders.

Get more sleep. Studies show that people who get less than 7 hours of restful, deep sleep are more prone to getting sick. Chronic sleep deprivation inhibits the body’s ability to recover and rejuvenate, which includes the immune system’s ability to fight disease.

Eat fermented foods every day. Fermented foods contain healthy bacteria—probiotics—which help keep the digestive system working well. Fermented foods include real full-fat plain yogurt with active cultures, unpasteurized kimchi, unpasteurized sauerkraut, kombucha, and miso. If you’re not used to regularly including fermented foods in your diet, start with about one-fourth cup daily and gradually increase to a cup a day of any of the above-mentioned fermented foods. A cautionary note: most brands of yogurt have active cultures, but beware of flavored yogurts with too much added sugar (more than 10 grams/serving) and other unnecessary fillers and additives.

Cut back on sugar-sweetened beverages. More than 50% of the added sugar in most people’s diets comes from sugar-sweetened beverages, such as soda pop, fruit juice and sweetened coffee and tea drinks.

Use antibiotics only when necessary. Studies have shown that antibiotics kill good bacteria along with the bad, which disrupts normal digestive system function. Again, a suboptimal digestive system weakens the immune system because so much of the immune system is found in the gut. If you must take antibiotics, consume probiotic foods to help repopulate the good bacteria in your intestinal tract.

Follow these tips to keep your immune system strong and start taking charge of your nutritional life using our Smart Nutrition philosophy. You will love the way you feel!