Prepare for winter – Boost you Immunity
Colds and flu become more common through the winter months and this can be made worse by physical and emotional stress, that are known to reduce your immunity and increase risk of infection.
There are a few key nutrients that can support the immune system:
Vitamin D deficiency becomes very common throughout winter due to lack of sunlight, which we need to make vitamin D. Although diet can provide small amounts of vitamin D this is not enough to ensure adequate vitamin D levels and that is why vitamin D supplements are very important.
Vitamin D from cod liver oil was unknowingly used to treat infections long before the arrival of antibiotics and it is now known that your immune system’s ability to fight infection is dependent on adequate vitamin D. Studies have shown vitamin D has a protective effect against respiratory tract infections.
Current recommendations for vitamin D intake from supplements are a minimum of 400 IU daily for children and at least 600 IU daily for adults.
If you are pregnant, older age, have darker skin, are overweight or work indoors your risk of vitamin D deficiency is particularly high. Vitamin D is extremely safe and no cases of harm have ever been reported at commonly recommended doses.
Vitamin C is known to be a potent immune stimulating nutrient. It has been shown to inhibit viral replication and can reduce the severity of the common cold.
The human body cannot produce or store vitamin C. Therefore, it’s essential to consume it regularly in sufficient amounts.
Vitamin C supplementation may prevent the common cold and shorten the duration of symptoms. Clinical assessment has demonstrated that 2000mg of vitamin C per day for two weeks reduced blood histamine concentrations by 30-40% in adult subjects.
Vitamin C can be consumed through diet or a good quality liposphereic vitamin supplement.
Zinc is essential for cells of the immune system, and zinc deficiency affects the ability of immune cells to function as they should. Zinc deficiency impacts on the immune system and lack of zinc also directly influences the production, maturation and function of the immune cells.
Natural remedies for your home this winter
The blackberries of the elder tree have been used as medicine for centuries and have direct anti-viral effects. Two clinical studies have found extract of elderberry to reduce the symptoms of flu when taken in the first few days of infection then continued for at least 5 days.
The well-known herb Echinacea has been shown to reduce cold symptoms by 58% and duration by 1.4 days across a number of studies. Echinacea may also improve overall health wellbeing if you get sick.
A natural anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory, honey has been shown to help with night time coughs. It is thought the sweet taste stimulates saliva in your respiratory system and helps calm down irritation. Honey may also have a direct calming effect on the nerves that cause coughing.
Horseradish and garlic
Both were used as natural remedies for infections centuries before it was discovered that they are a rich in compounds with immune boosting, antibacterial and antiviral activity.
Historically, horseradish was used during medieval times for coughs and colds. And during the 19th century the famous microbiologist Louis Pasteur recognized the antibiotic properties of garlic and used it to treat infections.
A number of studies have found that natural products containing garlic and horseradish can help with infections like the common cold by relieving symptoms and reducing the time you are sick. Horseradish may also have a decongestant effect, making it ideal for the nasal congestion and discharge, sneezing, cough, sore throat that often accompany a cold.
Self-care and lifestyle changes
Traditionally people have prepared for the dark winter months by changing their diet and lifestyle to be in harmony with the season. The cold and darkness of winter urges us to slow down. This is the time of year to reflect on our health, replenish and conserve energy by eating the right foods.
Traditional winter foods:
- Soups and stews, especially with rich stocks and broths.
- Root vegetables, squashes, winter greens, mushrooms
- Cooked apples, pears, citrus fruit.
- Beans, legumes, whole grains.
- Miso and seaweed.
- Garlic, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamon.
- Roasted nuts especially walnuts and chestnuts.
There are also a number of preventative measures and lifestyle changes you should consider if you do fall ill.
- Drink fluids to maintain hydration
- Regularly wash your hands to prevent infecting others
- Take time out to relax, rest and recover
- Maintain healthy eating
To stay well and keep you immune system healthy make sure you maintain regular exercise though the winter (at least 30 minutes daily), avoid excessive alcohol consumption and consider some stress management practices such as yoga, meditation or just spending more quality time with family and friends.
For more information on boosting your immunity this winter, contact Kathie at Red Naturopathy.