As we head into winter, we should pay attention to keeping our immune systems working efficiently.
Winter is naturally a time when we are more susceptible to flu and other viruses. It is mostly because we are staying inside, and kids are in school where germs flourish. Your immune system protects against disease by recognizing and attacking infections. It works in two ways.
We all have “innate” immunity that acts as a general defense against disease. Then we have what is referred to as “acquired” immunity that forms from an infection we have encountered. Vaccines work this way.
Boosting your immune system is not a completely accurate statement. Immune systems are either healthy or not. The most common sign that your system is low is frequent (more than one per year) and/or long colds usually lasting more than two weeks. Of course, things are different now with Covid-19 but more than two infections a year is a bad sign. There are several reasons our immune systems are low. Vitamin and mineral deficiencies are a main reason especially in people over 55. Stress can also be a factor. Studies have concluded that long term stress reduces the functionality of your immune system. Colder weather lets viruses survive longer outside the body and reduced sunlight (Vitamin D) impairs immunity.
The best support for our immune system is good nutrition. The touted Mediterranean diet is best focusing on vegetables, fruits, onions, garlic, olive oil, oily fish, and whole grains, giving all our systems the nutrients they need to function. Vitamin D has been shown to reduce your risk of respiratory infection by one third. Vitamin C suppresses the activation of viral genes so they cannot reproduce in cells. Supplements of both these vitamins are recommended, especially in winter.
Other things good for your immune system are regular exercise and sufficient sleep. Non-competitive exercise can neutralize stress hormones. During sleep your body secretes hormones that fight disease. 7-8 hours of sleep helps your immunity and your overall health. Natural supplements can help too. Echinacea and Pelargonium extracts have been shown to reduce the chance of and shortening colds and other viruses. Of course, keep washing your hands, wiping down frequently touched surfaces, and keeping your hands out of your mouth! Watch out for fever and any other symptoms that could be Covid-19 and get tested if necessary. A flu shot every year is a good idea too!
Kathleen Weaver-Zech and Dean’s Team