Stay Well This Winter: 4 Steps to Boost Immunity Naturally

Stay Well This Winter: 4 Steps to Boost Immunity Naturally

Posted on 21. Sep, 2016 by in Articles, Nutrition

By Margaret Jones

By this time of year, many of us are so over winter — the cold weather, the sniffling, the sneezing . . . it seems like everyone has had their turn fighting the latest ‘bug’ going around. And if you have kids, forget about it — a wintertime cold or the flu is a given. But winter isn’t over yet, and influenza actually peaks most years in January or February and can drag on well into the spring, so it’s important to keep your immune system in fighting form.

Cold or Flu?

We’ve all been there: it starts with a stuffy nose, maybe some coughing and sneezing, and you think you’ve caught a cold. Then you start to feel achy, followed by the chills and a fever. And then the dread sets in when you realize it’s the flu.

A cold is an upper respiratory tract infection that’s caused by a virus. Although more than 200 viruses can cause a cold, most are caused by rhinoviruses. Most of us catch about two colds a year; kids generally get more colds because their immune systems are immature and they haven’t developed immunity to many of the viruses that cause colds. Cold weather does not cause colds, but most colds are caught in the winter, since most cold viruses thrive better in colder temperatures when there is less humidity. Symptoms of a cold can include any or all of the following: head and nasal congestion, sore throat, coughing, sneezing, headache, and watery eyes.

Influenza, or the flu, on the other hand, is far more serious than a cold. It’s also an infection of the upper respiratory tract, but it’s caused by either type A or type B influenza virus. The flu is highly contagious and can be spread easily by coughing and sneezing, since the virus enters the body’s airways through mucous membranes in the nose, eyes, or mouth. Symptoms of the flu start like those of the common cold, but in many cases a fever develops along with hot flashes, cold sweats, and chilled, uncontrollable shaking. Nausea and vomiting may occur as well. The flu often leaves a person feeling weak and uncomfortable. It can last for 12 days or longer, followed by residual coughing and lingering fatigue.

The flu is rarely dangerous in healthy adults, but it does make you more susceptible to pneumonia, ear infections, and sinus infections. Influenza is far more serious for people 65 or older or individuals of any age with weakened immune systems or chronic conditions like heart or lung disease.

Step 1: Eat a Healthy Diet

A nutrient-packed diet provides the foundation for a healthy immune system. Colorful fruits and vegetables provide immune-boosting antioxidants as well as all the vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals needed to maintain a healthy immune defense. Choose vitamin C-rich foods like berries, citrus, spinach, cantaloupe, broccoli, and peppers. Also enjoy whole grains, nuts, and seeds to supply the immune system with the nutrition it needs.

Step 2: Strengthen Immunity with Supplements

Research continues to grow supporting vitamin D’s critical role in immunity. It enables the body to produce more than 200 antimicrobial peptides, which are essential for fighting off a wide range of infections. In one study, school children taking vitamin D3 were about 40 percent less likely to catch influenza A. Other research shows that older individuals who are deficient in vitamin D tend to have compromised immune system function.

Vitamin C is perhaps the most well-known immune-boosting nutrient. Research shows it can help decrease the duration and severity of cold symptoms. Vitamin C helps support the immune system by increasing the number of white blood cells, which the body uses to fight off viruses.

Vitamin A is crucial for a healthy immune defense. This powerful antioxidant also enhances white blood cell function, increases resistance to infections, and helps maintain the skin and mucous membrane defenses to infection.

The B vitamins help boost the immune response and support the body’s ability to fight infections, as does vitamin E, which protects the immune cells from damage and stimulates the activity of natural killer cells, which destroy viruses.

Zinc has anti-viral properties and is a key immunity booster. Zinc lozenges are essential to have on hand as soon as symptoms develop. In addition to lozenges, look for zinc in a multivitamin or immune-support formula.

Step 3: Get Some Exercise

Exercise helps the body fight infections and reduces the risk of getting diseases. Regular exercise also reduces stress, which is an enemy of the immune system. Researchers find that the more physically active you are, the less likely you are to suffer colds in the winter months. Even moderate exercise is helpful—take a 20- to 30-minute walk during lunchtime.

Step 4: Practice HealtHy Habits

Since cold and flu viruses are spread through contact with mucous mem- branes, it’s important to follow some basic tips to avoid catching — or spreading — illnesses. Always cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Wash your hands frequently with soap and hot water, especially after coughing or sneezing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends washing them for at least 20 seconds, or about how long it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice.

Don’t share glasses or utensils with anyone, and teach children not to touch their eyes or noses or put things in their mouth. Pick up some disinfecting wipes or spray at your local natural products store, and disinfect your desk, keyboard, and phone at least once a week. Finally, keep your distance! Try
to stay away from others who are sick, and if you’re sick, stay home from work. Your body — and your coworkers — will thank you.

About the author:


- who has written 14 articles on Health e Times.

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