Immune System Health: 5 Ways To Stay Healthy This Winter
It happens without fail, you catch a cold or flu every single winter. Every year right around December you brace yourself for the scratchy feeling in the back of your throat and the overall body fatigue.
Why doesn’t this happen to you in May or July? Well, the truth is colds and flus are not seasonal – they strike year-round. However due to lifestyle changes in the winter along with an ideal environment for bacteria growth – more of us catch a cold, flu, or both in the winter.
Scientists know that it’s not exposure to cold weather that causes you to catch a cold and have three leading theories on why people catch a winter cold or flu:
- During the winter, people spend more time indoors with the windows sealed, so they are more likely to breathe the same air as someone who has the flu and thus contract the virus.
- Days are shorter during the winter, and lack of sunlight leads to low levels of vitamin D and melatonin, both of which require sunlight for their generation. This compromises our immune systems, which in turn decreases ability to fight the virus.
The influenza virus may survive better in colder, drier climates, and therefore be able to infect more people.
(FYI: Why is There a Winter Flu Season? Popular Science)
This means that you need to take extra care during the winter months to strengthen your immune system and focus on ways you can stay healthy in the winter. The great news is that a strong immune system protects you from more than colds and flus and that these healthy winter habits are easy to incorporate into your year-round lifestyle.
What is the Immune System?
The immune system is your body’s defense mechanism against harm. The immune system is constantly scanning your body to determine if bacteria, viruses, toxins, parasites, and other pathogens have entered your system or if your cells have mutated and become abnormal.
You have two basic types of immunity: innate and adaptive. Your innate immunity launches an immediate, non-specific attack against a threat. Your adaptive immunity takes longer to kick in but produces a specific response to a particular microbe.
To stay health in the winter (and year-round) you need to keep your immune system healthy. Many people take their immune system health for granted and assume they don’t need to do anything to support or strengthen it. However, as we know, you cannot take your health for granted and most be proactive in strengthening and supporting your immune system.
5 Ways To Stay Healthy This Winter
Stay healthy and fight off colds and flus this winter with these five immune system boosting tips and advice:
Get a Flu Shot
If you haven’t got your flu shot yet – go, get it. The flu vaccine can reduce your risk of catching the flu by 50 to 60%. And if you do get sick, the symptoms and side effects will be reduced.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone over the age of six months old be vaccinated yearly for the flu (including pregnant women).
The CDC estimates that during the 2016-2017 flu season, flu vaccinations prevented 5.3 million illnesses, 2.6 million medical visits, and 85,000 flu-related hospitalizations.
Wash Your Hands A Lot
Because people tend to stay indoors more in the winter, we’re in much closer contact with people who are carrying the cold and flu viruses. Think of everything your co-workers, family members, and other people touch that you then touch.
This is exactly why you need to wash your hands a lot. You don’t know how often others around you are washing their hands and we know that all it takes is a simple handshake for germs to be passed around.
Sleep In and Go To Bed Early
When you’re fatigued, your immune system becomes stressed. Sleep is one of the best ways you can help support your immune system. A deep sleep allows your body to go to work and help you recover from the day’s activity.
When you sleep your immune system is busy building flu and cold fighting antibodies and repairing damage to your body. When you skip out on sleep, you’re making it extra hard to stay healthy in the winter.
Invest in a Humidifier
Scientists believe that cold and flu viruses thrive in dry environments. The winter months can be very dry, creating the perfect environment for cold and flu breakouts. A humidifier helps add moisture to the air, which helps prevent and sooth dry skin, makes it easier for you to breath, and helps counteract the dry winter air.
Moist air is key in making it easier for your nose to stay healthy and ready to fight off bacteria and viruses. The mucus in your nose needs moisture to thrive and it’s this mucus that you depend on to trap bacteria and viruses, preventing them from making you sick.
Get Outside and Move Your Body
Yes, we know it’s cold out, but the fresh air and exercise will do wonders for helping you stay healthy this winter. You need to breathe in fresh clean air, and this can’t happen when you’re indoors all day and night breathing recycled air.
As well, we know that exercise helps your body fight off stress and strengthen your immune system. Not only that, exercise gives you an endorphin boost which helps brighten your mood. Look for fun activities that you can enjoy with family and friends – things like sledding, winter hiking, skiing, tubing, or snowshoeing.
The extra bonus of this fresh air is you’ll get a good dose of Vitamin D. So many of us are low in Vitamin D, and this is exacerbated in the winter months when sunlight is in short supply. Try to get outside and soak up the healthy sunlight.
How To Support Your Immune System
To support your immune system, you need to focus on the basics of balanced healthy living – eat a balanced diet, get adequate sleep, keep your stress levels low, move your body on daily basis.
But, the realities of life can make it hard to do all of this on a consistent basis. A natural supplement like AHCC that has proven immune system benefits is one of the best ways you can support your immune system. AHCC is a functional food derived from healing mushrooms that is clinically tested and proven to support immune system health.