As the days get colder and the nights get longer, it can feel like a wintertime cold or flu is inevitable. According to the CDC, flu and cold season usually starts around October, peaks in December and January, and can last as late as May.
Wintertime is the peak of both the cold and flu season for several reasons. There is some evidence that cold weather directly impairs our immune system’s antiviral response. A much larger part of the equation though is wintertime habits and activities.
With the colder weather, we find ourselves indoors and near others much more often. Winter is also a season traditionally filled with family events and get-togethers. Those cozy winter nights, gathered inside with extended family are the perfect environment for the spread of illness.
This year it is not only the common cold or flu virus we have to worry about though. With coronavirus cases once again peaking across the country, this winter could be particularly deadly, especially for those with weakened immune systems or the elderly.
Our immune systems are very complex and no one supplement or pill will help prevent a cold or flu. That being said, if you are looking to naturally boost and support your immune system this winter, there are thankfully several easy habits and steps you can take.
Here is the top advice you’ll hear from doctors and health professionals across the board.
Don’t Make Your Immune System Work So Hard
Before anything else, give your immune system a bit of help by avoiding bad hygiene habits.
Our immune system has been built to give our bodies a fighting chance when we are exposed to a virus or bacterial infection. While it can and will do its job to the best of its ability, by avoiding the exposure in the first place, we can give our immune system a break.
Common habits like washing your hands can help you kill off a virus before it enters your body. Covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze helps you avoid spreading a virus you might have already picked up. This year, with coronavirus, we can help stop the spread of not only COVID but the common cold and flu as well just by wearing a mask.
Get Good Sleep
While it can feel like our bodies just turn off when we sleep, sleep is a vital part of fighting off infections and illness. When we sleep, our immune system, as well as other important bodily systems, go into repair mode.
Without proper and adequate sleep, the body’s immune system can be kicked into overdrive. This is the last thing we want. Stressing out and wearing down the immune response with poor sleep just means it won’t be up to the task of fighting off a virus when one does hit our body.
How much sleep you need to keep your immune system functioning at optimal levels will depend on your unique internal clock. If you do find yourself struggling with sleep, try the classic advice of avoiding electronics before bed, sleeping in a dark room, and going to bed at the same time each night. If you are still struggling, you might want to look into natural sleep aids. At Eric’s Health Food Shoppe we have many options that might help.
While it’s easier said than done, avoiding stress is also a vital part of supporting a healthy immune system.
Stress can cause issues throughout the body and wear down much more than our immune systems. When it comes to fighting off infections or viruses though, stress can cause a decrease of lymphocytes. These are the white blood cells that make up a vital part of our immune system and directly help fight off infection.
While stress can’t always be avoided, there are a number of habits and techniques that can help. Consider meditation, therapy, or even just a self-care day. Your immune system will thank you.
Eat a Balanced and Healthy Diet
One of the best ways to boost your immune system is through what you eat. When we fuel our bodies well, they function well. Fighting off a cold, the flu, or even coronavirus is much more likely when our bodies have the nutrients and vitamins they need.
A healthy and balanced diet should always include lots of fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately, along with cold and flu season comes a drop in fresh fruit and veggies. While winter might not be known for an abundance of fresh ingredients, it is important to still include as much fruit and vegetables as you can.
Fruit that is high in Vitamin C is particularly important. Vitamin C is one of the most helpful elements for the immune system. You can get vitamin C from most tropical fruits and it is particularly high in guava, kiwi, strawberries, and of course oranges.
Supplements Can Help
While in an ideal world we would get all the nutrients and vitamins we need from our diets, the truth is that doesn’t always happen. Taking supplements – especially with vitamin C – can be a good second line of defense and boost for the immune system. At Eric’s, we have many supplements specially designed to help naturally boost the immune system that is perfect for winter’s cold and flu season.