As we approach cold and flu season, supporting our immune systems should be one of our top priorities! There are many natural ways to improve your immunity and your resiliency so that these nasty bugs don’t slow you down this fall. Try these top strategies to stay healthy during this cold and flu season.
Get Enough Sleep
Getting good sleep is one of the best things you can do to have strong immune defenses. Sleep has a significant impact on regulating the immune system. Research has shown that individuals who sleep for 6 or fewer hours each night are at a greater risk of developing a cold compared to those sleeping more than 7 hours per night. When we sleep too little or have an altered sleep-wake cycle, our bodies make fewer immune cells and their function can be impaired, increasing the susceptibility to the common cold. This is also seen in the context of vaccinations. Chronic sleep loss has been shown to make vaccines less effective. So don’t go skipping out on catching those zzz’s this cold and flu season.
Although stress-reducing strategies are important to incorporate all year round, this may be especially true during the cold and flu season. There is a strong association between our nervous system (which controls our stress response) and our immune system. When we are under stress, our nervous system releases stress hormones that can impair the function of many cells that are part of the immune system. Interestingly, short-term fight or flight stressors may actually enhance immune function, whereas long-term, chronic stress suppresses the immune response and is a risk factor for the common cold. Another reason to make a daily effort to bring calm into your life!
Eat Good Food
Food can be used daily to help prevent getting sick, so opt for foods that are nutrient-dense, high in protein, and low in sugar this season (and always!) to help keep your immune system healthy.
Here are a few tips:
Eating or drinking too much-refined sugar can interfere with your body’s ability to fight infection by blocking your immune cells from working properly. And this effect can last for hours after consumption! To keep from catching a cold, be mindful of added sugars and reduce or eliminate them where you can.
With the cooler weather coming in, it is also a great time of year to incorporate more soups and stews, which can be highly nutritious and can provide many nutrients that support overall immune function. In traditional Chinese medicine, it is important to eat with the seasons, and the fall is a great time to eat warm foods. There is even research that shows Chicken Soup has a mild anti-inflammatory effect and provides a number of nutrients that have beneficial medicinal activity. So make bone broths and chicken soups a staple this season!
Include garlic where you can since it has been shown to reduce the frequency of colds and flues due to its ability to fight viruses and bacteria.
And overall, be sure to eat lots of brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, high in vitamin C and other important antioxidants!
Use High-Quality Supplements
There are many supplements that may be helpful in supporting immune function. Since every one of us has different needs, it is always best to work with a naturopathic doctor who can help you decide what is best for you. However, here are some general supplements that have been shown to help prevent colds and flues:
Vitamin D is essential for a healthy immune system. Studies show that daily supplementation with vitamin D reduces the risk of colds and flu. It is important to have your vitamin D levels checked by your doctor or naturopath to ensure you are taking the right dose.
Research shows a reduced likelihood of fever, cough, and runny nose. Probiotics may also reduce the incidence of colds and flues. Using probiotics during the winter months has also been found to reduce antibiotic use and decrease the duration of symptoms when individuals are already sick.
Vitamin C plays a significant role in the function of the immune system. When taken daily, vitamin C reduces the risk of catching a cold. It may also decrease the number of days away from work or school if you’re already sick.
And if you do catch a cold or flu, elderberry can help provide relief! This is one of our favourite botanical medicines to use to help relieve a cough, sore throat, and mucus buildup in the upper respiratory tract. It may also help to gently reduce a fever.
Flora’s Elderberry Crystals have a natural elderberry flavor and are high in antioxidants to help fight the first signs of seasonal symptoms. It’s also great for any type of diet because it’s gluten-free, vegan-friendly, and free from chemicals and preservatives, unlike most food supplements.
For best results, dissolve four scoops of crystals (for adults) and one scoop (for kids) with water or mix with your favorite juice and drink daily.
What’s in elderberry that is good for you?
- It’s high in vitamin C (52 mg per cup of fruit), which stimulates the activity of white blood cells that help the body fight infection and other diseases
- Elderberries have 36% of the daily value of fibre per cup of fresh berries, which helps with immune health and digestion by encouraging regular bowel movements and providing “food” for the good bacteria in your gut
- It has a lot of phenolic acids, which are powerful antioxidants that can help protect the body from damage caused by oxidative stress
- Elderberries are full of anthocyanins, which give the fruit its dark, black-purple colour and are a strong antioxidant that can also reduce inflammation.
If you do end up coming down with something, these tips will have you back on your feet in no time:
Zinc can significantly reduce the duration of illness and the severity of a cold, but it is best to take it at the first sign of an infection.
Vitamin D can be used to reduce the duration of a cold since it decreases the amount of virus in the body and promotes recovery.
L-Glutamine should be used by anyone who falls sick and doesn’t want to lose any muscle mass! L-Glutamine is used by the immune cells in high amounts when we have an infection. When there is not enough available in the blood, the immune cells will break down muscle tissue to get access to glutamine. Consider supplementing if you don’t want to risk losing muscle mass during an acute infection.
Hopefully, with the tips above, you make it through this season free of a cold or flu! It’s not a bad idea to stock up your medicine cabinet now, in case you do get sick, so you can beat that nasty virus faster and with fewer symptoms!