As winter drags on, seasonal sickness is in full swing. This time of the year can be a difficult time for our health with many illnesses occurring more often during the winter months. From cold and flu viruses to Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), wintertime can have our minds and bodies feeling bogged down. Although a direct cause is not known for why we get sick more often in the winter, many experts believe decreased sunlight, proximity to one another and dry air all play large roles. Besides good, old-fashioned handwashing, one of best ways to keep yourself healthy this time of year is through immune protection. Eating healthy foods, getting enough sleep and taking a variety of vitamins and supplements will keep your immune system strong. Nourish and protect your body this winter with these beneficial vitamins and supplements.
Vitamin D, known as the “sunshine vitamin,” is essential for maintaining good health. It has been shown to reduce the risk of flu and respiratory infections, including pneumonia. Due to decreased sunlight during winter, our vitamin D levels begin to fall and our bodies struggle to absorb and maintain adequate amounts. Our bodies can store vitamin D, but only for a short period of time. Vitamin D deficiency can cause a wide range of problems from depression to weight gain. Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for vitamin D vary from person to person based on age and diet, so talk to your doctor before adding it as a daily supplement.
The golden child of the vitamin family, vitamin C is well known for its ability to boost immune systems. Experts say it is one of the safest and most effective nutrients available. Even though vitamin C is not an effective cure for the common cold, it can strengthen your immune system which helps protect you against future viruses that often spread throughout the winter months. Besides boosting the immune system, vitamin C has been shown to protect against immune deficiencies, cardiovascular disease, stroke and cancer. Before starting a regime, carefully consider the type and amount of vitamin C you plan to take. High doses and acidic forms of vitamin C can upset the stomach.
Zinc is another friend of the immune system. It has been shown to help prevent the common cold, as well as decrease the severity of symptoms. According to various studies, the most effective way to use zinc to reduce symptoms is in lozenge or syrup form and within 24 hours of the first sign of a cold. Zinc is also effective as a preventive measure. In recent studies, zinc appeared to prevent colds in people who used it over a course of five or more months. It is, however, important to note that zinc taken in large amounts can be toxic and can cause copper deficiency. Before starting a zinc regime, talk to your doctor for recommended amounts and durations.
In recent years, probiotics have gained tremendous popularity, and rightfully so. These live microorganisms have been shown to benefit both intestinal health and overall immune health. Researchers have discovered that certain strains of probiotics can protect against a variety of viruses including H1N1 influenza virus and rotavirus. They’ve also been shown to be helpful against common cold viruses. Probiotics or “good bacteria” can be found in foods like yogurt, fermented vegetables, kefir and kombucha. Even though the bacteria can be found in the foods we eat, many of us don’t get adequate amounts due to poor diet or other factors like taking antibiotics. Adding a probiotic to your daily routine is an easy, immune-boosting way to stay healthier this winter. With a wide variety of brands and types on the market today, it is important to take a high-quality, multi-strain supplement. Consult your doctor for recommended amounts and strengths.
*Remember to talk to your doctor before taking any herb, supplement or vitamin. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.