Key Strategies for Staying Healthy This Winter
Why is it that science is still no closer to a cure for colds and flu? It’s because we’re dealing with smart viruses. Any one of hundreds of viruses could launch a cold or flu attack, and chances are that this year’s flu virus won’t be the same as last year’s making it nearly impossible to develop a simple cure. But there’s still much you can do to stay strong and healthy all winter.
Our Best Prevention Strategies:
- Take Good Care of Yourself: As always, the best place to start to maintain a good immune system is with the basics. Make sure to keep exercising, sleep well, reduce stress, drink alcohol in moderation, and eat a low-fat, low-sugar diet.
- Wash Your Hands: Washing hands remains the most effective way to protect yourself and your family from colds and flu. Lather, rinse, repeat throughout the day. Do it long enough to sing “Happy Birthday” twice.
- Boost the Beneficial Bacteria: 80 percent of your immune system surrounds your digestive system. Research supports a healthy gut flora and overall immunity. 1
- Add Foods that Support Immune Health: There are many foods with medicinal properties, make sure you include as many as possible. Think about combining a lot of the ingredients below in chicken soup:
- Oranges, strawberries, bell peppers, potatoes and other vitamin C and E rich fruits and vegetables are all good for your immune system.
- Shiitake, Maitake, and other mushrooms have been used, especially in Traditional Chinese Medicine, for boosting the immune system. 2
- Garlic and Onions not only taste great but have also been researched for their ability to modulate immune function. 3
- Helpful Herbs: Research supports the immune modulating activity of tumeric,4 oregano, ginger,5 Echinacea6, Larch7, and elderberry.8 A unique combination of plant extracts discovered in Japan, using pumpkinseed, safflower flower, Asian plantain, and Japanese honeysuckle were shown in a study to stimulate the immune system response.
- Make Sure You are Getting the Right Nutrients: Your immune system needs to be well nourished to function at its best. Stock up on the following nutrients:
- Macro-Nutrients: the macro-nutrients are proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Focus on good proteins; it is essential for a healthy immune system.9 Supplement with EPA and DHA, or eat fish twice a week for those healthy fats.10
- Vitamins and Minerals: Vitamins such as vitamin A, B6, B12, E C, folate, and the minerals zinc, copper and iron all support an effective immune response. 11
- Vitamin D: vitamin D, in particular, has been the focus research on optimal immune system functioning. Vitamin D plays a role in the improving mucus membrane barrier functioning, the production of anti-microbial peptides (small proteins), and in general overall immune support. 12
Take care of your immune system by starting early, taking good care of yourself, and feeding your body the nutrients it needs to stay strong.
1 Purchiaroni F, Tortora A, Gabrielli M, et al. The role of intestinal microbiota and the immune system. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci. 2013 Feb;17(3):323-33. PMID: 23426535.
2 Vannucci L, Krizan J, Sima P, et al. Immunostimulatory properties and antitumor activities of glucans (Review). Int J Oncol. 2013 Aug;43(2):357-64. PMID: 2373980.
3 Ali M, Thomson M, Afzal M. Garlic and onions: their effect on eicosanoid metabolism and its clinical relevance. Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2000 Feb;62(2):55-73. PMID: 10780871.
4 Gautam SC, Gao X, Dulchavsky S. Immunomodulation by curcumin. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2007;595:321-41.PMID: 17569218.
5 Butt MS, Sultan MT. Ginger and its health claims: molecular aspects. Crit Rev Food Sci Nutr. 2011 May;51(5):383 93. PMID: 21491265.
6 Hudson JB. Applications of the phytomedicine Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower) in infectious diseases. J Biomed Biotechnol. 2012;2012:769896. PMID: 22131823.
7 Kelly GS. Larch arabinogalactan: clinical relevance of a novel immune-enhancing polysaccharide. Altern Med Rev. 1999 Apr;4(2):96-103. PMID: 10231609.
8 Roxas M, Jurenka J. Colds and influenza: a review of diagnosis and conventional, botanical, and nutritional considerations. Altern Med Rev. 2007 Mar;12(1):25-48. PMID: 17397266.
9 Li P, Yin YL, Li D, Kim SW, Wu G. Amino acids and immune function. Br J Nutr. 2007 Aug;98(2):237-52. Epub 2007 Apr 3. PMID: 17403271.
10 Das UN. Essential fatty acids in health and disease. J Assoc Physicians India.1999 Sep;47(9):906-11. PMID: 10778663.
11 Wintergerst ES, Maggini S, Hornig DH. Contribution of selected vitamins and trace elements to immune function. Ann Nutr Metab. 2007;51(4):301-23. Epub 2007Aug 28. PMID: 17726308.
12 Schwalfenberg GK. A review of the critical role of vitamin D in the functioning of the immune system and the clinical implications of vitamin D deficiency. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2011 Jan;55(1):96-108. PMID: 20824663.