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10 Tips to Boost Your Immune System During Winter Season

Late fall and winter are known to be the seasons when people get sick the most. Why? Because during these seasons, people suffer big activity and dietary changes. Good fruits and non-starchy veggies are harder to find in stores. Summer hikes are replaced by hot chocolate and a movie while sitting on the couch. People become more sedentary as sweat pants become their new best friends, and there’s certainly nothing wrong with comfort. The problem is, when people spend more time curled up indoors during fall and winter, they don’t notice how all that extra comfy-cozy time affects their bodies.

More indoor times increases your risk of exposure to germs. Viruses transmit faster because they become tougher and more resilient from cold weather, and your immune system slows down. As a result, you may spend more time each winter nursing a sore throat and runny nose than enjoying the holidays to the max. However, this year you can take back that lost time. By incorporating some simple steps into your daily routine, you can boost the strength of your immune system while the temperature keeps going down.

Eat “Enough”

eat

Eating enough doesn’t mean overeating. “Enough” simply means listening to your body and eating until you feel satisfied but not stuffed. In the opposite manner, don’t go on crazy diets if you want to lose weight. Extreme dieting will stress your body and weaken your immune system. Listen to your body!

Watch the Sugars

sugars

Simple and complex sugars are present every day in our lives but especially so during the winter holidays in cakes, cookies and all the other goodies people love to make. Combine that with lots of gatherings with friends, family and coworkers and all those social events make it hard to avoid eating all those treats sitting right in front of you. Yet simple and refined sugars are your immune system’s worst enemy because they promote inflammation that weakens immunity. So be careful and don’t overindulge when the holiday treats roll out.

Go for Antioxidants

antioxidants

Include antioxidant-rich foods with your diet. Antioxidants such as Vitamin C help boost immune-system strength while offering other benefits such as preventing cellular aging that causes the visible signs of aging. By eating more antioxidant-rich foods, you’ll stay one step ahead of viruses and bacteria. And if you can’t find natural antioxidant food sources because of season and availability, a good multivitamin is an easy way to get the recommended daily vitamins and minerals you need.

Good antioxidant food sources include:

  • Berries (especially blueberries and blackberries)
  • Pomegranates
  • Oranges
  • Lemons
  • Cranberries
  • Dark green veggies (especially kale and spinach)
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Beets
  • Garlic
  • Onions

Special Holiday Cranberry Warning: Both fresh whole berry and canned cranberry sauce have antioxidant benefits. Yet canned sauce contains more calories, and often comes loaded with high fructose corn syrup and other forms of sugar that easily add up to unwanted extra pounds.

Don’t Forget Your B’s

bs

In addition to supporting cardiovascular and metabolic health, the B family of vitamins helps lower stress, which weakens your immune system through the effects of the stress hormone cortisol. By lowering stress, B vitamins help boost your immune-system strength and improve your protection against illness.

Found in dark leafy greens, grains and animal products, the B vitamins are widely distributed across all food groups. So if you’re eating a balanced diet containing the right foods, you’re likely getting some or all of the B vitamins you need to keep you healthy and ready to enjoy winter to its fullest. If you’re not sure whether you’re getting all the B vitamins you need, a good B-complex vitamin on top of food is a great addition to your supplement list.

Soak Up the Sunshine Vitamin

sunshine

Synthesized in your body when UVB rays from the sun shine on your skin, Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that’s important to maintain a healthy immune system and strong bones. Unfortunately, shorter days and longer nights in winter mean most people tend to be low in Vitamin D during the cold months.

While you can find Vitamin D naturally in some foods like fish and eggs, you generally can’t get enough from food to cover your needs. That’s why it’s important to take a Vitamin D supplement from late fall until the following spring.

Add the Probiotics

probiotics

Probiotic foods support a healthy microflora (or gut health) to improve digestion, increase energy, maintain a strong immune system and boost overall health. So they’re especially important if you’ve taken antibiotics in the past. (Antibiotics are non-selective bacteria killers, meaning they kill the good and bad bacteria that live in your digestive tract.) Easy daily sources of probiotics include kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha. If fermented drinks and finely shredded cabbage aren’t your thing, you can also choose pickles. Just make sure to choose pickles that haven’t been made using vinegar, which kills the probiotic effects.

Dry-Brush Your Skin

brush-skin

Dry skin brushing helps activate your lymphatic system, which rids your body of toxins as your immune system’s first line of defense against illness. So why not give your immune system a hand? Dry skin brushing works exactly as it sounds. By simply using a firm-bristled brush to lightly sweep along dry skin, the action helps activate your lymphatic system by stimulating blood circulation. Just a few minutes a day is all it takes.

Be Active

active

People who engage in even moderate physical activity like yoga or brisk walking three to four times per week have less chance of getting sick than sedentary people. In addition to building muscular and cardiovascular fitness, mild exercise helps lower stress, which promotes a stronger and more efficient immune system.

Sleep

sleep

Getting an average of 8-9 hours of sleep per night has been shown to improve overall immunity and wellbeing. Studies suggest that lack of adequate sleep can make people more prone to catching colds and flu by decreasing production of T cells, a subtype of white blood cells that plays a central role in immunity.

Wash Your Hands (But NOT With Antibacterial Soap)

wash-hands

Washing your hands after being in a public place will reduce your risk of getting sick from germs left by other people on things like tables and door handles. However, avoid antibacterial soaps.

Since the 1990s, many (or most) antibacterial soap makers have used the “germ-killing” chemical triclosan in their products. However, on Sept. 6, 2017, the FDA ruled that triclosan was not GRAS (or generally recognized as safe for humans) based on stacks of evidence linking triclosan to a whole range of health issues, including:

  • Weight gain
  • Thyroid dysfunction
  • Endocrine disruption
  • Allergies (including higher risk of peanut allergies in children)
  • Inflammation

Triclosan is also lipophilic, meaning it accumulates in fat and shows up in breast milk, and has been connected to low-birthweight babies. And here’s the kicker.

The American Medical Association (and other independent studies) found that antibacterial soaps containing triclosan are no more effective at killing germs than plain old soap and water.

The FDA has ruled that all antibacterial soaps containing triclosan must be reformulated or removed from shelves immediately. But don’t gamble your health against overly elaborate or even dodgy cleaning products when it’s unnecessary. Choose any soap from the health food section in your grocery store and you have the germ-killing protection you need to help stay healthy all winter.

Wishing you good health through wise nutrition.
matt

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