8 Immune Boosting Tricks You May Not Know About
Winter is officially here, and unfortunately so is the cold and flu season. With the CDC’s statements about the reduced efficacy of flu vaccines in year’s past (in addition to the many other reasons to consider opting out), it is that much more important to use preventative measures to support your immune system.
Fortunately, there are many ways to do this naturally and help keep your immune system in tip top shape throughout cold and flu season.
Besides the obvious prevention tips like washing your hands and staying away from people who are ill, here are 6 ways to prevent viruses from inhabiting your body and to keep your immune system healthy and strong all winter long!
1. Vitamin D:
Vitamin D is an important player in overall health, and during flu season vitamin D is the number one go to supplement to boost immune function. Studies have shown that taking Vitamin D3 reduces incidence of the flu in both children and adults. During the winter we are not exposed to adequate sunlight which is how the body naturally derives its Vitamin D. If you normally have low or low normal Vitamin D stores you will be at an increased risk for coming down with a viral illness during the winter months. The RDA for Vitamin D is 400 IU, but for illness prevention you want to take between 1,000 and 5,000 IU daily depending on what your current vitamin D levels are. It is important to have these levels checked to determine how much Vitamin D your body needs to keep its immune system healthy. Bottom line: Have your vitamin D levels checked during the winter and come up with plan with your doctor.
If you need help decoding the results of your blood work, be sure to check out our article, Blood Test Results: The Definitive Guide to Understanding Your Numbers
2. Medicinal Mushrooms:
A few species of mushroom, such as shiitake, cordyceps, reishi and maitake, are renowned for possessing some of the most powerful immune boosting compounds in nature.They are among the safest and most effective ways to boost your immune system during winter months and times of stress. The amazing health benefits of mushrooms are primarily attributed to two classes of nutrients: polysaccharides and triterpenes, which help support the immune system while reducing the harmful effects of stress on the body.
The tiny proteins that naturally occur in medicinal mushrooms look similar to the proteins that coat viruses and bacteria. As a result, they stimulate the immune defense cells in our body without causing any infection or harm. Increased stimulation of these defense cells (natural killer cells) leads to better immune surveillance and a lower likelihood that a virus or bacteria can set up in your body and create an illness. Extensive human clinical trials have shown medicinal mushrooms like shiitake, maitake and coriolus to have potent and powerful immune stimulating properties and many people report much lower rates of illness when they are used regularly.
Another good thing about these mighty mushrooms for immune support is they have no know side effects or toxicity (not true for all mushrooms) and can consumed on a daily basis. They are used extensively around the world in cancer treatment protocols due to their ability to improve immune function and help the body target and destroy cancer cells.
It is theorized that the cold virus can’t multiply in the presence of zinc, which is why many people try zinc lozenges if they catch the cold early enough. But can getting adequate amounts of zinc in the diet support your immune system before it even encounters a virus?
Zinc is a trace element essential for all cells of the immune system and is extremely important as an immune system booster. Without adequate zinc, immune cells cannot function properly and thus cannot fight off cold and flu viruses. Taking 15-30mg daily can help prevent illness and keep your immune cells strong. Make sure to take zinc with food as taking it on an empty stomach can make you nauseous.
4. Take a Daily Probiotic:
Since the majority of the immune system resides in the GI tract, it is imperative to maintain a healthy gastrointestinal system during cold and flu season. The best way to take care of your GI tract is to make sure the normal healthy flora are intact. Taking a daily probiotic can ensure that the good bacteria exist in the correct proportions and are doing their job to keep you healthy. A good maintenance dose is 10-15 billion CFUs (colony forming units) daily. If you have a GI disorder or any GI symptoms, talk to your doctor about the correct amount for you.
5. Larch Arbinogalactans:
Larch arabinogalactans are a type of polysaccharide (a special type of carbohydrate) derived from the wood of the Western larch tree. These polysaccharides stimulate the immune system to fend off infections. They also are a natural fiber that provides food for the good bacteria in your GI tract, so taking larch arabinogalactans have been shown to be a wonderful way to keep you healthy and strengthen the immune system.
6. Get your ZZZs:
The hormones released during the day to keep our energy levels up and sustain activity have a suppressive effect on immune function. When we sleep — and only when we sleep — a different set of hormones are released that stimulate immune function and repair the damage we do from our busy and active lifestyles. Make no mistake, if your sleep is suffering, so is your immune system.
And where sleep deprivation has an adverse effect on immune function, chronic sleep loss can increase an individual’s vulnerability to infectious diseases. If you get less than 6 hours of sleep per night you are going to be more at risk for contracting the flu. Aim for 8-10 hours per night to give your immune system the help it needs to protect against the flu. The hours before midnight are more effective, so its better to go sleep at 10 pm and wake at 6 then it is to go to bed at 12 am and wake up at 8 am. If your schedule doesn’t allow for this, try taking power naps, even 20-30 minutes a day can improve immune function.
7. Cut out the sugar:
Food can be a major factor when it comes to either supporting immune function or suppressing it, and sugar can be devastating to your immune system. Sugar causes body-wide inflammation which is exactly what you do NOT want during flu season. Inflammation triggered by sugar creates the perfect environment for pathogens like the flu virus to thrive in. Sugar can also disrupt the balance in your gut flora which as previously discussed is an important part of a healthy immune system. So skip the desserts and your immune system will thrive! Here are a few all-natural sugar alternatives to consider, but if you find yourself in the middle of an all-out binge on sweets, be sure to do what you can to counteract the sugar all the sugar you ate and save your system the added inflammatory burden.
8. Try Garlic
The immune benefits of garlic may not get much hype, but they are not to be underestimated. Garlic contains allicin, an organic sulfur compound that has antibacterial, anti-fungal and antioxidant properties. It works from the inside out, increasing your body’s ability to fight pathogens, so that they don’t invade your immune system and cause illness.
Garlic’s ability to stimulate immune cells gives your entire system a better line of defense, should an infection or sickness occur. It has been known to fight candida infections, viruses and bacteria. Garlic is thought to increase immune cells and strengthen them by inducing phagocytosis and promoting the activity of macrophages, which encourages white blood cells to fight infection and foreign organisms in the body.
Dr. Passero completed four years of post-graduate medical education at the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Oregon after receiving a Bachelor’s Degree in Environmental Biology from the University of Colorado. Dr. Passero has trained with some of the nation’s leading doctors in the field of natural medicine. In his practice, Dr. Passero focuses on restoring harmony to both the body and mind using advanced protocols that incorporate herbal therapy, homeopathy, vitamin therapy and nutritional programs. Through education and guidance patients are able to unlock the natural healing power contained within each one of us. For more information, visit his website, Green Healing Wellness, or follow him on Facebook.