Winter has arrived, and with it comes the beginning of the cold and flu season. With the CDC’s recent comments about flu vaccination efficacy being reduced (among other reasons to consider opting out), it’s even more important to take preventative steps to boost the immune system.
Fortunately, there are a variety of safe ways to do this to keep the immune system in top condition through the cold and flu season.
Aside from the obvious preventive tips including washing your hands and avoiding sick people, here are 6 ways to keep viruses out of the body and your immune system safe and high in the winter!
1. Vitamin D:
Vitamin D is a vital part of general health, and it’s the number one supplement for boosting immune function during flu season. Vitamin D3 supplementation has been shown in studies to decrease flu occurrence in both children and adults. Over the winter, we are not exposed to enough sunshine, which is how the body obtains Vitamin D naturally. Over the winter months, whether you have limited or average Vitamin D stores, you’re more likely to catch a virus.
The RDA for Vitamin D is 400 IU, so based on your existing vitamin D levels, you can take between 1,000 and 5,000 IU everyday for disease prevention. These levels should be tested to decide how much Vitamin D the body requires to maintain a balanced immune system. In the end, get your vitamin D levels tested this winter and work out a prescription with your doctor.
Is your vitamin D recommendation in milligrams based on the results of your blood test? Read more about the latest updates to certain vitamin label by clicking here.
Check out our blog, Blood Test Results: The Definitive Guide to Understanding Your Numbers, if you need help decoding your blood test results.
2. Medicinal Mushrooms:
Some mushroom varieties, such as shiitake, cordyceps, reishi, and maitake, are known to contain some of nature’s most powerful immune molecules. They’re one of the best and most powerful ways to improve your immune system during the winter and during stressful periods. Polysaccharides and triterpenes, which strengthen the immune system while reducing the adverse effects of stress on the body, are largely responsible for mushrooms’ incredible health benefits.
The tiny proteins found in medicinal mushrooms are similar in appearance to the proteins that coat viruses and bacteria. As a result, they activate our body’s immune response cells without infecting or harming us. Increased activation of these protective cells (natural killer cells) results in improved immune surveillance and a lower chance of a virus or bacteria establishing itself in the body and causing sickness. Extensive human clinical trials have demonstrated that medicinal mushrooms such as shiitake, maitake, and coriolus have strong and effective immune-stimulating effects, and many people experience much lower rates of disease when they use them on a daily basis.
Another advantage of these powerful mushrooms for immune support is that they have no known side effects or toxicity (which is not the case for all mushrooms) and can be eaten on a regular basis. Because of their ability to increase immune function and help the body target and suppress cancer cells, they are widely used in cancer treatment protocols around the world.
The cold virus is assumed to be unable to replicate in the presence of zinc, which is why many people opt for zinc lozenges if they develop a cold early enough. But can having enough zinc in your diet help your immune system right before it meets a virus?
Zinc is a trace factor that is needed by all immune system cells and serves as an immune system booster. Immune cells can’t work properly without enough zinc, so they can’t combat cold and flu viruses. Taking 15-30mg regular will help keep the immune cells healthy and avoid disease. Zinc should be taken with food because it will make you feel nauseous if taken on an empty stomach.
Since the GI tract holds the entirety of the immune system, maintaining a stable gastrointestinal system is critical during cold and flu season. The easiest way to keep your GI tract in great condition is to keep the usual stable flora in place. Taking a daily probiotic will help to ensure that the beneficial bacteria are present in the proper amounts and are working to keep you safe. 10-15 billion CFUs (colony forming units) a day is a sufficient maintenance dosage. Speak to the doctor for the right dose for you whether you have a GI deficiency or other GI signs.
5. Larch Arbinogalactans:
Larch arabinogalactans are a type of polysaccharide (a type of carbohydrate derived from the Western larch tree’s wood). These polysaccharides improve the immune system’s ability to fight infections. Larch arabinogalactans are also a natural fiber that feeds the good bacteria in your GI tract, so they’ve been proven to be a great way to stay healthy and improve your immune system.
Immune function is regulated by hormones released during the day to hold our energy levels up to maintain action. A different series of hormones are released when we sleep — and only when we sleep — that stimulate immune function and repair the damage caused by our busy and active lifestyles. Make no mistake: if you don’t get enough sleep, the immune system will suffer as well.
Chronic sleep loss can increase an individual’s susceptibility to infectious diseases, as sleep deprivation has a detrimental effect on immune function. If you don’t have at least 6 hours of sleep a night, you’re more likely to catch the flu. Aim for 8-10 hours of sleep a night to help the immune system protect you from the flu. The hours before midnight are more productive, because going to bed at 10 p.m. and waking up at 6 a.m. is preferable to going to bed at 12 a.m. and waking up at 8 a.m. If you don’t have time for this, consider taking power naps; even 20-30 minutes a day will help your immune system.
7. Cut out the sugar:
Food can play a big role in either promoting or suppressing immune function, and sugar can be especially harmful to the immune system. Sugar induces systemic inflammation, which is the opposite of what you want during flu season. Sugar-induced inflammation provides an ideal condition for viruses like the flu virus to survive. Sugar may also upset the equilibrium of your gut flora, which is a vital part of a stable immune system, as previously mentioned. So, if you avoid desserts, the immune system will flourish! Here are a few all-natural sugar substitutes to explore, so if you find yourself in the midst of a sugar binge, do everything you can to counteract the sugar you consumed and save your liver the additional inflammatory burden.
Garlic’s immune advantages do not get much attention, but they are not to be overlooked. Allicin, an organic sulfur compound of antibacterial, antifungal, and antioxidant effects, is included in garlic. It operates from the inside out, boosting the body’s capacity to combat bacteria and preventing them from infiltrating the immune system and causing illness.
Garlic’s ability to activate immune cells provides a stronger line of protection for the whole system in the event of an infection or illness. It has been shown to be effective in the battle against candida pathogens, viruses, and bacteria. Garlic is believed to enhance and improve immune cells by stimulating phagocytosis and encouraging macrophage involvement, which activates white blood cells to resist bacteria and foreign species in the body.