Our first line of defense against colds and the flu is a group of white blood cells that make up our “innate” immune system. Simple actions can help or hinder their work. Here’s a list of tips that will reduce your exposure to winter bugs and encourage those cells to do their job better.
- Hand washing. The hand is quicker than the sneeze in the spread of seasonal illness. Frequent hand washing will reduce your exposure to viruses.
- Break up with sugar. The relationship wasn’t working for you anyway. Refined sugar impedes your white blood cells’ ability to protect you from invading microbes.
- Be in by 11:00 pm – or earlier. The activity of our immune system varies according to a daily rhythm: it rests at night, and so should you. Your natural killer cells (their name says it all) won’t keep you company while you burn the midnight oil, making you more susceptible to getting sick if you stay up late.
- Drink up. It’s easy to become slightly dehydrated in the dry winter months. Inhaled viruses cling to the back of the nose and throat – if those areas are moist they do a better job of keeping the bugs out. Parched mucous membranes are less effective at warding off pathogens. Enjoy plenty of herbal tea, soup, and other nourishing winter beverages throughout the day.
- Get moving. Regular, moderate intensity aerobic exercise boosts immune activity, reducing frequency of the common cold.
- Slash stress. Excess cortisol will depress immunity faster than you can say “influenza”.
- Do the D. It’s no coincidence that cold and flu season peaks in the dark winter months when our sunshine vitamin level bottoms out. Supplementing with vitamin D has been shown to reduce the number of days lost to winter illness.
- Take probiotics. Studies show that people who supplement with probiotics have fewer, shorter and less severe colds and flu. A recent trial showed that preschoolers who supplemented with probiotics missed less school, had fewer visits to the doctor and took less medication for upper respiratory tract infections than those who took a placebo.
- Reach for zinc. Got a tickle in your throat? It’s a good time for zinc lozenges. People who take zinc supplements recover from cold symptoms days faster compared to placebo. Our intestines limit the amount of zinc we absorb, but you can by pass that mechanism and achieve a short-tem zinc load with sublingual lozenges.
- Try tongue-tingling Echinacea. This healing herb was unfairly labeled a dud in the popular media based on studies using dried Echinacea products. When Echincaea is dried it loses up to 80% of its active ingredients. Echinacea must be fresh-extracted, although few companies have ability to do this. Echinamide is a patented extract of Echinacea, grown in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia, extracted fresh and standardized to three active ingredients. The actives are blended in a specific ratio that has been clinically proven to help combat winter illness. It is available in a wide range of products, including Natural Factors Anti-Viral Formula, a natural medicine cabinet must-have.