Stay Healthy This Winter


During the winter months, your immune system works hard to protect you from the elements. But when life gets hectic and your body's normal reserves are depleted, colds and other weather-related illnesses can get the upper hand. Fortunately, there are things you can do to support your immune system in the face of life's challenges and stay healthy this winter.

The Best Defense Is A Good Offense

The strength of your immune system is influenced by many factors, chief of which is your lifestyle. Lack of restful sleep, a poor diet, and prolonged stress make your body more vulnerable to illness. With the holiday season fast approaching, it's important for you to build up your immune system now. Here are a few steps you can take to beat the cold and flu season:

  • Protect your head from the cold: Your mother knew what she was talking about when she reminded you to wear a hat and scarf. Exposure to cold temperatures decreases the ability of your nasal passages and sinuses to protect you from germs.

  • Stay Hydrated: The mucus membranes that line your nose and airways need moisture to function. Drinking plenty of fluids - especially warm beverages - helps keep this first line of defense intact. Herbal teas like elderberry tea can give your immune system the boost it needs when fighting cold-weather illnesses. If your sinuses are often affected when you get a cold, consider using a saline rinse of your nasal passages once a day to keep your mucous membranes moist and the germs out. Be sure to use water that is either distilled, bottled or boiled (especially if you use well water) and disinfect the saline rinse bottle or netti pot after each use.

  • Get a Humidifier: Breathing dry air reduces the effectiveness of the built-in immune defenses found in your nose and airways. Use a humidifier in your bedroom and the rooms you spend the most time in during the winter months.

  • Get Plenty of Sleep: Getting enough sleep is essential for a strong immune system. You can't expect to stay healthy during cold and flu season if you aren't allowing your body time to rest and regenerate.

  • Exercise regularly: Getting exercise on a regular basis increases your immune system's ability to fight off illness. If you feel you are coming down with a cold, then make sure you go easy and give your body the chance to rest.

  • Diet: Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and avoid sweets and carbohydrates that elevate your blood sugar. Sugar hinders your immune system from working optimally which is the last thing you want when you think you might be getting ill. You may also want to limit your intake of dairy products to reduce their inflammatory and mucous-building effects on your sinuses.

  • Probiotics: Your nose, mouth, throat, and airways are lined with certain strains of good bacteria that work to keep germs out. Choose a probiotic that is specifically formulated to support healthy nasal, sinus, and respiratory health. We like Metagenics UltraFlora Immune Booster - it contains high quality strains of friendly bacteria which have been clinically shown to support your airway passages. This formula is backed by Metagenics ID Guarantee for purity, clinical reliability, and predicted safety via scientific identification of strains with established health benefits. It's also gluten-free and non-GMO.

  • Nutritional Supplements: Targeted nutritional support during the winter months is a great way to nourish your immune system. Vitamin D is crucial for a strong immune system and has it's own germ-fighting properties. Zinc is a mineral that you should start taking as soon as you feel a cold coming on in order to get the most of its benefits. Zinc lozenges are an effective way to fight a cold. Vitamin C has also been shown to enhance your immune system's ability to fight off infection. ImmuCore combines all three of these supplements along with selenium and a blend of mushrooms that protect a stressed immune system. Essential Defense is an enhanced classic Chinese formula which provides immediate immune health support, especially after sudden temperature changes. Pure Defense with NAC promotes the first line immune defense and supports upper respiratory health. Ask your healthcare practitioner if a nutritional supplement is right for you.

  • Homeopathic Remedies: Various combinations of natural homeopathic remedies are available for adults and children to relieve cold symptoms, sore throat and hoarseness as well as cough and chest congestion.

Don't wait until you're worn down from the holiday rush to strengthen your immune system - start now. If you would like more information on how you can stay healthy this winter, contact us today.

References

Balch, PA. Prescription for Nutritional Healing. 5th Edition. Avery: New York. 2010.

Cruz, AA. Abstract: Epithelial shedding is associated with reactions to cold, dry air. J Allergy Clin Immun. 2006. 117: 1351-1358

Ho, GT, et al. RG-I regions form elderflower pectins substituted on GaiA are strong immunomodulators. Int. J Biol Macromol. 2016 Nov. 92:731-738.

Mäkinen, TM, et al. Cold Temperature and low Humidity are associated with increased occurrence of respiratory tract infections. Respiratory Medicine. 2009. 103(3): 456-462.

Metagenics. Immune Health. 2012.

Mouse HA. Abstract: Prevention and Treatment of Influenza, Influenza-Like Illness, and Common Cold by Herbal, Complementary, and Natural Therapies.. J Evid. Based Complementary Altern. Med. 2017 Jan;22(1):166-174. Epub 2016 Apr 6.

The contents of this blog are intended for educational purposes only. The information presented here is not a substitute for proper medical attention, diagnosis, or treatment by a qualified healthcare professional. Always seek the advice of your healthcare provider before starting or making any changes to an existing treatment plan, exercise program or dietary regimen, and before using nutritional supplements.

~ Dr. Sarah Williams ~ Concord & Nantucket, Massachusetts ~

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