The leaves have changed colors and fallen, we’ve had our first cold nights and frosty mornings, and winter will be here before we know it. There’s a lot of opportunity for getting cozy and embracing the hygge of the winter months, but the change of seasons and colder weather also brings an increased risk for colds and flus. While it’s good for our immune systems to get a cold every once in a while (think of it as good practice for keeping things alert!), it never hurts to have some good prevention tools in place.
- Protect your sleep. This can be a challenge in what tends to be a very busy season for many, but doing your best to get 7-8 hours of sleep a night is one of the best ways to keep your immune system in tip-top shape!
- Manage stress. High stress causes elevated cortisol levels which in turn prevents the immune system from working as well as it should. Regular walks and taking a few minutes to do some breathing exercises goes a long way to keeping stress levels AND potential viruses in check.
- Eat whole foods most of the time and watch your sugar intake. I know this is the season for festive meals and fun desserts but sugar and processed foods are inflammatory and depress the immune system, making you more vulnerable to the cooties you want to avoid. Do your best to keep things balanced and eat well MOST of the time while allowing for an occasional slice of pie.
- Bundle up while out in cold, wet weather. Covering your neck with a scarf when exposed to cold and wind helps prevent what Chinese medicine theory calls an “external invasion,” aka colds and flus.
- Saline nasal rinses. Cold air in the winter months dries out mucous membranes of the nose which increases vulnerability to being infected by viruses. Doing a regular saline nasal rinse (or saline spray if you don’t have the bandwidth for a full rinse) keeps the tissues healthier and helps rinse away potential invaders on a regular basis. This is also a great tool if you end up getting sick!
- Vitamin C is a classic go-to for a reason. It’s a potent antioxidant that helps keep our immune system primed and ready to go. It’s been found to help shorten the length of a cold IF you’ve already been taking it so aim for 500-1000 mg daily as a preventative (unless contraindicated).
- Vitamin D3. Pretty much everyone living in the Pacific NW should be taking Vitamin D. It’s important for helping get calcium into our bones but also plays an important role in our immune system (as well as energy)!
- Zinc. Zinc deficiency impairs the proper functioning of the immune system and it can help decrease the duration of a cold. If taking zinc daily, always make sure it’s combined with copper to avoid a copper deficiency, AND always take it with food!
- Garlic. Garlic is good for us in multiple ways including GI health, cardiovascular health, and yes, immune health. It can act as a potent anti-viral! Don’t hesitate to throw it in your meals every chance you get but make sure to smash it first to get its highest potential.
Hopefully, this helps you chase any unwanted “friends” away this winter season, but if not, these are also great tools to help recover from a cold much sooner. Here’s to a happy AND healthy winter season!