Winter is officially here and unfortunately so is the codl and flu season. With the CDC’s statement about this year’s flu virus and the reduced efficacy of this year’s flu vaccine, it is that much more important to use preventative measures to support your immune system. Fortunately, there are many ways to do this naturally and help keep your immune system in tip top shape throughout cold and flu season. Besides the obvious prevention tips like washing your hands and staying away from people who are ill, here are 6 ways to prevent viruses from inhabiting your body and to keep your immune system healthy and strong all winter long!
Vitamin D is an important player in overall health, and during flu season it’s the number one go to supplement to boost immune function. Studies have shown that taking Vitamin D3 reduces incidence of the flu in both children and adults. During the winter we are not exposed to adequate sunlight which is how the body naturally derives its Vitamin D. If you normally have low or low normal Vitamin D stores you will be at an increased risk for coming down with a viral illness during the winter months. The RDA for Vitamin D is 400 IU, but for illness prevention you want to take between 1,000 and 5,000 IU daily depending on what your current vitamin D levels are. It is important to have these levels checked to determine how much Vitamin D your body needs to keep its immune system healthy. Bottom line: Have your vitamin D levels checked during the winter and come up with plan with your doctor
Zinc is a trace element essential for all cells of the immune system and is extremely important as an immune system booster. Without adequate zinc, immune cells cannot function properly and thus cannot fight off cold and flu viruses. Taking 15-30mg daily can help prevent illness and keep your immune cells strong. Make sure to take zinc with food as taking it on an empty stomach can make you nauseous.
Take a Daily Probiotic:
Since the majority of the immune system resides in the GI tract, it is imperative to maintain a healthy gastrointestinal system during cold and flu season. The best way to take care of your GI tract is to make sure the normal healthy flora are intact. Taking a daily probiotic can ensure that the good bacteria exist in the correct proportions and are doing their job to keep you healthy. A good maintenance dose is 10-30 billion CFUs (colony forming units) daily. If you have a GI disorder or any GI symptoms, talk to your doctor about the correct amount for you.
Larch arabinogalactans are a type of polysaccharide (a special type of carbohydrate) derived from the wood of the Western larch tree. These polysaccharides stimulate the immune system to fend off infections. They also are a natural fiber that provides food for the good bacteria in your GI tract, so taking larch arabinogalactans have been shown to be a wonderful way to keep you healthy and strengthen the immune system.
Get your ZZZs:
Sleep deprivation has an adverse effect on immune function, and chronic sleep loss can increase an individual’s vulnerability to infectious diseases. If you get less than 6 hours of sleep per night you are going to be more at risk for contracting the flu. Aim for 8-10 hours per night to give your immune system the help it needs to protect against the flu. The hours before midnight are more effective, so its better to go sleep at 10 pm and wake at 6 then it is to go to bed at 12 am and wake up at 8 am. If your schedule doesn’t allow for this, try taking power naps, even 20-30 minutes a day can improve immune function.
Cut out the sugar:
Sugar can be devastating to your immune system. Sugar causes inflammation which is exactly what you do NOT want during flu season. Inflammation triggered by sugar creates the perfect environment for pathogens like the flu virus to thrive in. Sugar can also disrupt the balance in your gut flora which as previously discussed is an important part of a healthy immune system! So skip the desserts and your immune system will thrive!