Woman drinking tea to support her immune system

Naturally, beat a cold and flu with these simple tips from an ND

Here are natural ways to support your immune system during cold and flu season.

Without fail, as the days get darker and the weather gets colder, incomes cold and flu season. The exact timing of cold and flu season varies from year to year. Still, typically we see an increase in cases starting October, peaking from December to February, and lasting as late as May. There are natural ways to support your immune system.

But, it’s not the cold weather that will make you sick. The common cold and the flu are causing by viruses spread from person to person through “respiratory droplets” when people cough, sneeze or talk. A person may also become infected by touching a surface or object with the virus and then touching their mouth or nose. We see such a sharp rise in colds and flues during the colder months for a few reasons:

  • These viruses may survive better in colder, drier climates, so they thrive during these months. 
  • We spend most of our time indoors, especially children at school, making a virus more likely to spread between people.
  • We get less sun exposure and, thus, lower vitamin D levels, protective against viral infections. 

How to Stay Healthy During Cold & Flu Season

Sleep – get enough and stay on schedule Sleep has a significant impact on regulating the immune system. Having a normal sleep-wake cycle and, thus, a regular circadian rhythm influences immune cell production and function. If you don’t sleep enough, your body makes fewer cytokines (an immune mediator that helps fight infection). Chronic sleep loss has showing to make the flu shot less effective! 

  1. Reduce stress 

Chronic, high stress is a risk factor for the common cold. Stress is associated with changes in immune function and lessens the body’s ability to fight infection. If you don’t want to get sick this year, make daily habits to bring relaxation into your life.

3. Take your supplements

  • Vitamin D is essential for a healthy immune system. Studies show that daily supplementation with vitamin D reduces the risk of colds and flues. 
  •  Probiotics may reduce the incidence of colds and flues, specifically fever, cough, and runny nose. Using probiotics during the winter months has also been found to reduce antibiotics and decrease the duration of symptoms when individuals are already sick. 
  • Vitamin C plays a significant role in the immune system. When taken daily, vitamin C reduces the risk of catching a cold. It may also decrease the days away from work or school if you’re already sick.  
  1. Consume a low sugar diet

Eating or drinking too much-refined sugar can interfere with your body’s ability to fight an infection – it paralyzes the immune system and can last hours after consumption! Be sure to eat lots of brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, high in vitamin C and antioxidants. Also, include garlic where you can, as it has showing to reduce the frequency of colds and flues due to its ability to fight viruses and bacteria. 

What to Do When You’re Sick?

First, there is no cure for a cold, and symptoms usually resolve within 7-10 days. Antibiotics do not work against viruses, and they can make it harder for your body to fight future bacterial infections if you take them when they aren’t needed. So, instead of making your way to your doctor’s office, here are some things you can do to get your health back quickly: 

  1. Stay home & REST

Your body is tired for a reason. It is busy fighting an infection. Listen to it, and take it easy!

  1. Stock up on supplements
  • Andrographis is a botanical medicine that has showing to reduce the symptoms of upper respiratory tract infections (like the common cold)
  • Zinc significantly reduces both the duration and severity of symptoms but is best if taken within 24 hours of the first signs of an infection.
  • Vitamin D supplementation can be used for rapid relief of symptoms because it decreases the amount of virus in the body and promotes recovery.
  • L-Glutamine is using to immune cells in high amounts during an infection. If there is not enough available in the blood, the immune cells will break down muscle tissue to liberate glutamine. If you are active and don’t want to risk losing muscle mass during acute infection, consider supplementing L-glutamine.  
  • Buckwheat Honey is better than cough medicines at reducing the severity and duration of a cough associated with the common cold. Honey has an antimicrobial activity to fight infection and can help soothe a sore throat.

I know you don’t want anything slowing you down, so do your best to stay healthy during these upcoming months. But remember, a healthy and robust body is also a responsive body. Read more about the top 5 recommended supplements for women for a healthy body all year round. Having a cold is not a sign of weakness but a sign that your immune system can fight off an infection adequately. Each time you get sick and support your body through healing, you strengthen your immune system and train it for the next pathogen. It is estimating that adults have an average of 2-3 colds every year, so remember these tips to help your body heal quickly if a cold or flu gets you!

In health through cold & flu season,

Dr. Bronwyn

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WRITTEN BY:

Dr. Bronwyn is a naturopathic doctor in Toronto, Ontario with a clinical focus in Women's Health. She works with women transitioning off the oral contraceptive pill and those with specific fertility concerns, to reach a state of hormonal balance or in preparation for a healthy pregnancy. Dr. Bronwyn is passionate about empowering women to reclaim their hormonal health, to enable a full and vibrant life.

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