With the winter season quickly approaching, keeping your immune system strong is important . There are several things you can do which will help minimize your risk of developing a cold or the flu over the next several months.
First, eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables will help optimize your immunity. Consuming plant based foods which vary in color, such as red tomatoes, purple grapes or orange carrots, can ensure a diverse intake of antioxidants. A healthy diet will give the body the tools necessary to fight off bacteria and viruses.
Sleeping at least 7 to 8 hours of each night is crucial for a healthy immune system. It is during the sleeping hours that the body repairs and heals itself from the damage done on a daily basis. Poor sleep contributes to poor health.
Keeping stress under control is also very important. When our body is mentally and physically stressed, cortisol, the primary stress hormone, is released in excess into the bloodstream. Cortisol, a natural steroid, suppresses the immune system making one more susceptible to infection.
Studies show vitamin C can reduce the duration of the common cold by up to 12% in adults and 21% in children. Supplementing with 500 mg to 1000 mg of vitamin C daily should be considered.
The Cochrane Collaboration, an independent research group, has shown that the mineral zinc reduces risk of contracting a cold when taken within 24 hours of exposure. Daily supplementation also appears to help prevent the need of developing an infection requiring antibiotic treatment.
Vitamin D supplementation also helps reduce the risk of developing influenza according to scientists. The lack of sunshine, and ultimately blood levels of vitamin D, likely accounts for the higher incidence of upper respiratory infections during the winter months. Ask your doctor to check your vitamin D levels before supplementing with doses higher than 2,000 IU per day.
Lastly, some people may also benefit from the influenza vaccine. Interestingly, the studies are not as overwhelmingly favorable as expected. However, the best evidence reports that between 33 to 100 people need to be vaccinated against the seasonal flu in order to prevent one extra infection with the virus. Even when vaccinated, one is never 100% protected from developing the flu.
As always, prevention is always the best medicine. Please talk with your healthcare provider before making and changes to your healthcare regimen.