Many people experience cold and flu symptoms during winter, making holiday festivities more of a headache than a joy. Now is the time to boost your body’s defenses and strengthen your immune system. Here are some recommendations for optimal wellness during the winter season:
• Boost Vitamin D. Vitamin D helps regulate our immune systems, and in the Northwest we get less during winter because there is less sunlight. Vitamin D is known as the “sunshine vitamin” because our bodies produce it after sun exposure. This is the most effective way to get the Vitamin D, but during the winter our levels can plummet.
We can add foods that are naturally high in Vitamin D like fatty fish (such as salmon), grass-fed meats, organic egg yolks and raw mushrooms. I also recommend to my patients that they boost their overall vitamin intake this time of year with vitamin shots. Vitamins delivered into the muscle are absorbed more efficiently than oral supplements. There is no downtime and they take less than 5 minutes to administer in my office.
• Get more sleep. Many studies show that getting consistent, high-quality sleep benefits our brain and cardiovascular health, improves our moods, regulates weight and helps us fight off illness.
• Reduce sugar. Sugar interferes with immune function, and feeds bacteria, viruses and fungus. It also increases mucus production. If you start to feel run-down or others around you are sick, try eliminating simple carbs like bread and processed sweets. Stick to lower-glycemic fruits such as citrus, berries, etc. A bonus – these colorful foods are also high in anti-oxidants.
• Natural immune boosters: Raw garlic is a natural anti-microbial, and can help fight viruses, bacteria, etc. Ginger is anti-inflammatory and helps with digestion. Try adding these herbs raw into soups, or make tea with fresh ginger root with lemon and raw honey (also anti-bacterial).
• Reduce stress. Feeling stressed has a debilitating effect on our immune function, so be sure to nurture yourself: fresh air, exercise, laughter, meditation and supportive relationships can all help lower stress. Self-care also includes reaching out for additional help if you need it.