By Marla Funez
Winter is coming, and with it comes a higher risk of contracting viruses and diseases that attack your immune system. Science shows that there are many ways to prepare your body for winter based upon how you treat it. The simplest way to combat these risks starts with your diet and good self-care. Get your body ready for the coming winter months with these tips boosting and supporting your immune system.
The science behind immunity preparation
Many factors we cannot control, like genetics or economic situation can affect our health. Investing in a strong immune system to prevent viruses and disease may be an upfront investment, but will turn a larger profit in the long run. Knowing how to prepare your body for winter is an important part of the process.
According to a 2002 study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, it was found that functional food is beneficial to fighting infectious diseases. Herbal remedies used around the globe can strengthen the immune system by “[promoting] the body’s normal resistance against infectious agents and to prohibit as well as to cure various diseases.” This includes minerals, vitamins, amino acids, herbs, and nutritional supplements one sees daily at their local supermarkets.
Vitamins and supplements to prepare your body for winter
It may seem like taking your vitamins is common knowledge, but knowing which ones support the immune system specifically can help you create a plan to prepare your body for winter.
Turmeric is a very accessible supplement that increases immunity helping the body fight and prevent viruses, as well as fungal and bacterial infections, according to a 2014 review of curcumin, the active component in turmeric. There is a wide array of forms in which turmeric is sold and consumed, my favorite being turmeric shots. These can be purchased anywhere like Amazon, Whole Foods, Target and Walmart, as well as your local health food stores and some grocery stores. The 2002 study explains that curcumin can enhance the antibody response even in low doses by regulating the growth and response of different immune cells. It is proven that curcumin reduces Influenza A virus replication, supporting immunity during the early stage of virus infection. It can be used as an anti-flu drug and as a preventive measure for other infectious diseases.
Vitamin D consumption reduces the risks of multiple diseases, from infectious disease to neurological disorders, and even cancer, according to a 2017 scientific review. The European study explains that Vitamin D supports innate and adaptive immune systems. It also has anti-inflammatory properties. Getting enough sun can help, but if that is too difficult as our days grow shorter and the winter chill sets in, Vitamin D supplements or eating Vitamin D rich foods such as mushrooms, fish, milk, and eggs can help maintain optimum levels in the body. This includes supplementation of Vitamin D3, too.
Vitamin C is a strong antioxidant that can also support immunity according to the 2002 European study. It supports activation of the body’s, “maximum antioxidant capacity and natural immunity,” to minimize viral attacks. Other vitamins also support immunity, and it’s worth taking a daily vitamin or checking with your health care practitioner to see which ones you may want to add to your diet as you prepare your body for winter.
Prebiotics and Probiotics for winter immune support
Live microorganisms have beneficial effects on the health of humans and animals. Your immune system starts in your gut so preparing your body for winter with probiotics and prebiotics will help you get a head start as you prepare your body for winter.
Probiotics are “effector molecules” which inform the body it is time to boost immunity, changing the mucosa to defend the body against pathogens, according to Nature Reviews Immunology . When probiotics of any kind are consumed regularly and in adequate doses, they can also reduce symptoms of lactose intolerance, inhibit allergic disease, support heart health, produce Vitamin B and improve the bioavailability of dietary calcium, according to a 2020 clinical study by NPJ Science of Food. Some foods such as yogurt, kombucha, pickles, kimchi, and sauerkraut have lactic acid bacteria and are classified as probiotics because of their health benefits according to the study. Be sure to check your labels and ensure that the fermented foods you are eating have not been pasteurized in order to get the probiotic benefit.
Prebiotics are compounds in foods that basically serve as nutrients for the beneficial microorganisms that are already in your gut. NPJ Science found that these compounds, or substrates, are helpful for the GI tract and overall immune system due to their ability to change the composition and activity of the human microbiome. The study also says prebiotics may have an excellent potential effect against COVID-19. While probiotics are living microorganisms, prebiotics nourishes and induces growth of the existing good bacteria. Examples of prebiotic foods are garlic, artichokes, onions, bananas (particularly green), apples, flaxseeds and many more according to this peer-reviewed Healthline article.
Self-care to prepare your body for winter
Winter time is the time for self-care that prepares our body for anything one may face out in the chilly weather. Since days are shorter, one should make the most of their time to do so.
Get more sleep: According to a 2015 study published in Cell, our bodies slow down in the winter due to prolonged cold and produce more melatonin because it gets dark earlier, so listen to your body and make it a point to get more sleep in order to generate more energy needed for the daytime.
Skin care is also crucial during the winter as it tends to dry out with the cold air. The skin is the biggest organ in the body, and it is important to keep it protected from any risks that can lead to viruses. As a reminder: practicing good basic hygiene is another preventative measure and should be done all year long, of course. Moisturize after showers and when needed. Perhaps using one of the many natural transdermal rubs from the company ANSHI.
Stay hydrated: Hibernation mode takes full effect in the winter and one might not want to move. You may want to cozy up with a warm drink and a movie, but the body still needs water. I find drinking hot water with lemon is a great way to stay hydrated, warm, and ingest a bit of Vitamin C.
Stay moving: Just because it is winter does not mean our body no longer needs movement. Make sure to have a healthy dose of exercise even if it is more on the relaxing side of the spectrum. Walking, yoga and stretches are all good movement options. Many people, including myself, tend to have lower moods and motivation during winter, but moving the body releases the chemicals called endorphins that can boost one’s mood and help destress.
You are your body, and you need to take good care of it. The winter months pose higher risks of infectious disease, so taking preventative measures to boost and improve the immune system will help prevent illness, if not aid in recovery. Prepare your body with these natural and sustainable suggestions, and in the long run your natural body processes will thank you.
The information in this article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Please contact your health practitioner to discuss your own health needs.
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