Sneezing, coughing, fever, aches and pains…
Worried about flu symptoms like these? As winter approaches, most of us are.
In today’s blog, I provide you with a comprehensive seven-step plan for preventing colds and flu and staying healthy this winter.
I also include eight supplements to boost your immune system and help you fight off sickness.
7 steps to stay healthy all winter long
This list of natural remedies was put together by all the doctors and nutritionists at the UltraWellness Center to help keep you healthy through the flu season.
1. Drink plenty of fluids, especially warmer fluids. With dry air inside and out, winter can be a particularly challenging time to stay hydrated. Consuming adequate fluids supports all your body’s functions, including the immune system. Make soups and broths (from scratch with fresh vegetables, if possible) and drink them throughout the week. Drink herbal teas like ginger and echinacea daily. Keep a bottle of filtered water with you at all times. Avoid concentrated fruit juices and sweetened beverages, as the sugar content is harmful for the immune system. If you do drink juice, dilute it with two-thirds water.
2. Try a daily saline flush. Along with staying hydrated, flushing your sinuses with mild salt water helps to keep mucous membranes moist, which protects you from microbes. You can use a neti pot or easy-to-carry plastic bottles that come with saline packets to take with you to the office or when traveling.
3. Avoid simple sugars as much as possible. This includes sweet treats and desserts but also white flour and refined grain products, which turn into sugar quickly. Studies have shown that refined sugars can suppress your immune system for hours after ingested.
4. Have protein with each meal. Proteins are the building blocks of the body, including your immune and detoxification systems. It’s important to eat organic, clean and lean animal protein, as well as plant-based proteins (legumes, nuts/seeds), with each meal and snack.
5. Add garlic, onions, ginger and lots of spices (oregano, turmeric) to your meals. Add these to your soups and vegetable dishes, as well as to bean dips and sauces. Garlic and onions offer a wide spectrum of antimicrobial properties.
6. Eat multiple servings of colorful fruits and vegetables high in vitamins C and A and phytonutrients, which support the immune system. Choose more leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower), peppers, sweet potatoes and squash. Aim for three to four servings of fruits and five or more servings of vegetables a day.
7. Get sufficient sleep. We all know sleep restores and heals the body. Without adequate sleep, optimal immune function is next to impossible. Get in a better rhythm and head to bed earlier on dark winter nights; aim for seven to eight hours a night. Incorporating various relaxation and breathing techniques throughout the day to help with stress and allow the mind to rest is also very helpful.
8 supplements for immunity support
In addition to the steps above, I also strongly encourage you to take the following supplements to support your immune system.
1. Vitamin D3: Adequate vitamin D status is critical for optimal immune function, which cannot be achieved without supplementation during the winter months. For accurate dosing, get your levels of 25 OH vitamin D checked. The ideal blood level is 50-75 ng/dl. Many of us need 5,000 IU or more of vitamin D3 a day in the winter. Start with 2,000 IU a day for adults, 1,000 IU for children.
2. Buffered vitamin C: We’ve long known the role of vitamin C in supporting the immune system. Take 500 to 1,000 mg through out the day with meals and snacks.
3. Zinc citrate: You can take an additional supplement or consume more foods high in this powerful immune supporting nutrient. Oysters and pumpkin seeds are the best food sources.
5. Fish oil (artic cod liver oil): This old-time remedy for good health and robust immunity still stands true. Arctic cod liver oil contains additional vitamin A and D for added immune protection.
6. 1-3, 1-6 Beta glucans: Much research has shown that these compounds up-regulate the function of our innate immune system. This part of your immune system is the first line of defense against viruses and bacteria. It helps your white blood cells bind to and kill viruses and bacteria.
7. Antiviral/anti-bacterial herbs: Many herbs have broad-spectrum antimicrobial effects or immune-enhancing effects. Formulas contain different immune boosters such as astragalus, echinacea, green tea extract, elderberry, andrographis, goldenseal, monolaurin, various immune enhancing mushrooms and beta 1, 3 glucan.
8. Cordyceps and other mushroom extracts: These possess immune-supporting properties. Look for supplements that contain these, as well as zinc and vitamin C, for a three-pronged approach to immune support.
By following this plan, you should enjoy vibrant health all winter long.
To your good health,
Mark Hyman, M.D.