The cold winter months are not only dreary, but they can be a bit annoying. Your immune system is continuously fighting to fend off pathogens, viruses, and bacteria. It gets especially hard during the winter months when the cold and flu season hits.
As of Feb. 2, flu is widespread in 47 states, and 24 states are experiencing high levels of the disease. According to Lynnette Brammer, the lead of CDC’s domestic influenza surveillance team, the flu season is expected to last until the end of March1.
The good news is that when you nurture your immune system, it automatically takes care of your body in two ways:
1) Provides your body with optimal nutrition (critical nutrients)
2) Removes stressors (destructive habits)
How you can boost your immune system
Nourish your immune system
Probiotics: Probiotics are live organisms that promote the growth of healthy gut bacteria. These live organisms can be found in fermented foods (sauerkraut, kimchi), fermented pickles, kefir, yogurt, buttermilk, tempeh, and kombucha. Research shows that probiotics enhance the body’s innate immunity and modulate pathogen-induced inflammation using specific pathways2.
Vitamin D: Whenever possible, try to go outside and get some sun exposure. Make sure to mindful of how long you are in the sun depending on your skin type to reduce the risk of sunburn and related skin problems. Studies reveal that vitamin D plays a vital role in improving the body’s immune response to pathogens3.
Vitamin C: Vitamin C is an essential vitamin, meaning it can’t be produced by the body. Nevertheless, it has many roles in your body and has been linked to impressive health benefits4. It is water-soluble and found in many fruits and vegetables, including oranges, strawberries, kiwi fruit, bell peppers, broccoli, kale, and spinach.
Sleep: Unhealthy daytime habits and lifestyle choices can leave you awake at night and adversely affect your mood, brain and heart health, immune system, creativity, vitality, and weight. Yet many of us regularly toss and turn at night, struggling to get the sleep we need. Try going to sleep at the same time each night, turning off your smartphone and reading a book, or taking a natural supplement.
Exercise: Besides improving heart health, mood, and body weight, exercise is a sure way to boost your immune system. Exercise regularly improves the efficiency of your immune system to fight off infections.
Over-the-counter medications: Reach for NSAID’s and other painkillers only when it’s necessary and never make it a habit to take them every day. These painkillers can damage the delicate gut lining and affect your immune system.
Stress: Chronic stress damages your immune response and suppresses the immune system. Regular exercise, simple breathing techniques, brisk walks, and meditation are some of the ways you can lower stress. Choose an activity you’ll enjoy the most and stick to it. Try including adaptogenic herbs like Ashwagandha as it helps lower stress and anxiety.
1. Flu Season Far From Over, CDC Says, Feb. 8, 2019
2. Mechanisms of probiotic action: Implications for therapeutic applications in inflammatory bowel diseases, 2008 Nov;14(11):1585-96. doi: 10.1002/ibd.20525
3. Vitamin D and the Immune System, 2012 Aug 1
4. Vitamin C and Immune Function, 2017 Nov 3;9(11). pii: E1211. doi: 10.3390/nu9111211