You know that winter has arrived and in many places, people are coming down with viruses like colds and flu in record numbers. The flu has hit so hard this year, many pharmacies are running low on Tamiflu, the pharmaceutical drug many doctors prescribe to treat the virus. (1)
Rather than hoping some prescription medication will be on the shelf when you need it, why not implement natural strategies that may prevent you from getting sick in the first place? Keep reading to learn how to support your immune system naturally and ways to treat illnesses when they happen.
You may associate getting the flu or bad colds during winter months, especially. Why is that? There could be a few reasons this happens. When you understand the root cause of getting these viruses, you can do more to protect yourself.
During the colder months, we also have some of the most popular holidays, like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s. When these holidays roll around, we tend to forget our healthy diets and eat foods we might not normally eat. We go for all the cookies, cakes, and pies. There are parties to attend, and it’s hard to pass up all the baked goodies. Since sugar is known to drive inflammation, it’s no wonder you’re more prone to nasty viruses when you eat more of it. When your body is inflamed, your immune system doesn’t function as well. (2)
If you’re a parent, this is probably especially true. The holidays are fun, but they can also be busy. You may get so busy that you neglect your sleep. Your body heals when you get proper rest. If you’re not sleeping enough, your body won’t produce the cytokines that target inflammation and infections. The body also produces T-cells when you sleep, which are the white blood cells that play a crucial role in your immune function. (3)
During winter months, we often have a lot going on. There are activities to participate in, shopping to do, food to prepare, and the list goes on and on. Although many of these things are enjoyable, they can also be stressful. Some people get the winter blues or seasonal affective disorder and struggle with more anxiety this time of year. (4)
When it's cold, we often see gray skies and no sun in sight. That makes it easy to become deficient in vitamin D. Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin because when your body is exposed to sunlight, your skin absorbs the vitamin D from it. When it’s too cold to spend time outdoors, many people become deficient in this crucial vitamin.
You may experience other vitamin deficiencies like not enough vitamin B12 or vitamin C. There are also around five million people in the U.S. who are iron deficient. Iron helps your hemoglobin carry oxygen to your tissues, so it’s a vital mineral for your health. If you’re feeling run down and fatigued during the colder months, you may want to get your iron levels checked. (5)
You don’t have to run to the pharmacy and stock up on tons of cold and flu medicines. There are natural strategies that will help you support your immune system and avoid getting sick this season. Be careful with the sugar We know, during these holiday months, you want all the sweets! There are so many temptations to eat unhealthy foods during colder months. Try to decrease the amount of sugar in your diet as much as possible because sugar is terrible for your immune system. When you overindulge in sugary snacks, it can open up the gateways for you to get sick. (6)
You can still enjoy your sweet treats, but use sugar alternatives that won’t cause inflammation. Products like stevia, erythritol, and xylitol are great choices that will add sweetness to your snacks without the negative side effects you’d get from sugar.
Exercise is scientifically proven to boost your immune system. It also creates the t-cell activity we discussed earlier. When you move your body, it increases the movement of the lymphatic system. That means you get more immune cells into your bloodstream. If you don’t feel like getting outside when it’s cold, do something indoors. You can walk on a treadmill or follow along with an exercise video.
Vitamin D -Studies show that getting enough vitamin D during winter months can reduce the risk of getting the flu. (7) Since we’ve mentioned how it can be hard to get enough vitamin D during colder months, you want to be sure you’re taking a quality vitamin D supplement. When you take vitamin D, you want to take it with vitamin K2, which helps transport vitamin D to the proper areas inside the body. Vitamin K2 also reduces arterial calcium deposits.
Zinc - Zinc is the second most crucial mineral in the body, after iron. Studies have shown that zinc is effective in reducing infection, which is why many people take it when they’re sick. While it may not cure your virus, taking zinc can shorten the length of your illness by 33%, so it’s worth keeping in your medicine cabinet. (8)
Vitamin C - This one gets overplayed by some as a miracle vitamin. While it may not be as powerful as some claim, it does help protect your cells against free radicals, the molecules that play a role in illnesses. It can also shorten the duration of viruses. You don’t need to take massive doses of it. Keep some on hand and take 500-1000 mg per day to get the immune- boosting benefits.
NAC - N-Acetyl Cysteine is the precursor to glutathione, which is a crucial antioxidant for your body. NAC has been around for many years, and studies show it combats oxidative stress in the body. It’s also powerful for treating cough and lung issues. It can break up mucus and clean out the lining of the lungs. It’s an inexpensive supplement that you want to have on hand in case you get sick or want to take it simply for health benefits.
This is crucial for health. Aim for at least eight hours of sleep per night. Many people are sleep deprived, and it can carry over into your immune system. Your body can’t fight off infection as well when you don’t get proper rest. Make your rest a priority and focus on quality sleep.
If you want to stay well, you shouldn’t depend on synthetic drugs and vaccines to make it happen. This year, the CDC released data showing the flu shot hasn’t been exceptional for preventing the flu. (9) Many functional medicine doctors don’t suggest getting the flu vaccine because it hasn’t proven to work and it could contain ingredients that aren’t good for your health.
When you want to stay well, you need to support your immune system naturally. Staying healthy during the winter season is possible when you have the right information and tools. You can read more on the top vitamins and supplements to boost your immune health so you have all the natural means to be healthy and enjoy this holiday season. Remember, nothing is more important than your health!