Winter is almost upon us, which also means cold/flu season is here. This time of year, it seems like we all know someone who is fighting a cold. No need to panic though, there are plenty of easy ways to boost your immune system to fight off those germs!

Here are 5 strategies you can implement to keep you healthy.

1) Sleep – Trust me, I know that this is easier said than done. Between work, kids, and the newest season of Orange is the New Black, it’s hard to find the time. Not only is sleep good for your overall health, but lack of it can decrease the function of your immune system. Leaving you more vulnerable to attack by bacteria and viruses. If you find yourself having trouble sleeping at night try powering down all electronics an hour before bedtime, including the TV. The TV can seem comforting as you fall asleep but it can actually prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep. Melatonin is needed to regulate sleep and even a dim light such as from the TV can interfere with the release of melatonin from your brain.

2) Vitamin D – Vitamin D has many functions, including increasing immune cell activity. Since one of the main sources of Vitamin D is from sunlight, it is important to add Vitamin D rich foods to your diet; cod liver oil, fatty fish (salmon, trout), egg yolks (don’t skip the yolks, folks!). You can also speak to your Naturopathic Doctor about appropriate Vitamin D supplementation.

3) Garlic – Not just for warding off vampires, garlic is antibacterial, antifungal, antiparasitic and antiviral. It is also a good source of vitamin B6. Insufficient B6 levels can lead to decreased white blood cell count. Unfortunately, to fully experience garlic’s health benefits it’s better to eat it raw. If you can’t handle raw garlic try a garlic supplement instead.

4) Oil of oregano – Like garlic, oil of oregano is antibacterial, antifungal and contains phytonutrients. It also contains many nutrients that are crucial to the immune system; vitamins A, C, E, B6, iron, and magnesium. Not to be used in pregnancy or breastfeeding.

5) Avoid sugar – Too much simple sugar will significantly lower your body’s immune response. The problem is that sugar is sneaky. Even if you skip dessert it’s in your yogurt, sodas, and fancy lattes. Sweets and treats should be just that, a treat. However, if you feel a sugar craving, try eating fresh fruit, or making my delicious Chocoholic Smoothie instead!