Boost Your Immune System for School | Office | Home
You may be sweating through the dog days of summer – but fall and winter are just around the corner, and that means cold and flu season is quickly approaching. It’s time to think about boosting your immune system to prevent the misery of fever, headache, and chills.
Falling ill isn’t just a matter of bad luck, there are easy, effective, and natural ways to strengthen your body’s immune response to avoid infection and stay healthy from Halloween to Easter.
Why Does Cold Weather Make Us Sick?
This is an old myth that refuses to die; cold weather does not make us sick. The problem is that we’re confusing cause and effect, it isn’t the cold that is making us ill – rather it’s the conditions that come with cold weather that make it easier for us to catch an illness. Here are the two most important reasons why you need a turbocharged immune system once the leaves start falling.
Cold weather is dry weather.
Gone are the steamy days of late summer, this means your respiratory passages will have a tougher time maintaining a healthy layer of pathogen blocking mucus. This is why your nose can become runny when you go out in the cold; your nasal passages will work overtime trying to keep warm and hydrated.
This post nasal drip can carry pathogens directly to your lungs and stomach – making you sick.
2) Staying Inside
It’s not bad enough that the dry air outside is putting you at risk, but staying inside is also a way that the cold weather season makes getting ill almost inevitable.
Rhinoviruses peak in spring and fall, and influenza viruses peak in the winter primarily due to locking pathogens behind closed doors and windows as people gather for indoor activities like entertaining guests at home.
According to The National Institutes of Health (NIH), dry air makes it easier for the flu virus to both survive and transmit itself. All that still, uncirculated, and dry air is a perfect environment for bacteria and viruses to jump from person to person with a sneeze or a touch.
A study conducted at Tianjin University in China discovered that students in dorm rooms with poor ventilation fell ill more often. Unfortunately, the average classroom in the US exposes students to the same unhealthy conditions.
Furthermore, researchers at Virginia Tech found that good air circulation, as well as higher indoor humidity, makes the influenza A virus inactive.
While there isn’t any connection between being cold and getting sick; stuffy, dry air does create the conditions that can lead to illness.
Here are some of the best ways to boost your immunity to fight off infections at home or work, and keep your kids from missing too many school days.
Get Enough Exercise
Exercise can decrease your chances of suffering heart disease and keeps your bones healthy and strong – but it also revs up your body’s immune response!
Science hasn’t discovered the reason why yet, but here are three good theories:
- The increase in body temperature is similar to a fever, with possibly the same effect; an inhospitable environment for any pathogens you may be exposed to.
- Physical exertion stimulates changes in the antibodies and white blood cells. When these infection fighters circulate more rapidly, it’s possible that they detect infections sooner.
- Exercise reduces your levels of stress hormones. Since stress can depress the immune response; lower stress hormones might protect against illness.
Don’t spend the winter on your couch playing video games with your kids, get up and move on a regular basis to keep your immune system in top shape.
These Herbs Can Boost Immune Function
There is evidence that many herbs used in traditional medicine provide benefits to our immune system and help us fight off infection.
Here are five of the best ones.
Echinacea is a purple flower originally used by Native Americans and renowned for its healing properties. The most often noted benefit of echinacea is its ability to make our immune cells more efficient at attacking bacteria, viruses and even abnormal cells so it’s harder to fall ill and shortening the duration of colds and flu when we do.
The anthocyanins in elderberries have a strong effect on immune function by boosting the production of cytokines (proteins that act as immune system messengers) to help improve your immune response.
There is also evidence that elderberry contains potent antiviral compounds and high levels of infection fighting bioflavonoids and that can help fight the flu. Elderberry extract is usually taken in a syrup and can be used as efficient protection against colds and flu.
Also called the pot marigold; calendula oil has proven antimicrobial and fever reducing properties that make it a valuable addition to your immune boosting regime. Studies have demonstrated that calendula can also be used topically to speed wound healing and fight ear infections.
This has to be the most delicious immune boosting herb you can use! Garlic is rich in allicin a form of sulfur with powerful antimicrobial and immune boosting effects.
Garlic will also boost your immune system by increasing the production of pathogen killing T-cells and has been found to be effective against cancer cells. Including garlic in your diet magnifies your natural infection fighting ability.
Astragalus has both antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. It’s sometimes used on the skin for to speed healing of small wounds. Additionally, studies show that astragalus has potent antiviral properties and stimulates your immune system, meaning that it could help to prevent colds and flu.
You Need These Vitamins
Getting your minimum daily requirement of vitamins is an essential part of any health maintenance routine – but when it comes to boosting immune function; some vitamins are especially important.
Commonly considered a vital nutrient for eye health, vitamin A (retinoic acid) powerfully influences our ability to fight off infection and stave off communicable diseases. Studies consistently show that maintaining healthy levels of vitamin A will help keep the immune system at its best.
Also called pyridoxine; vitamin B6 is critical for healthy immune function and is an effective way to defend yourself against all kinds of pathogens by powerfully amplifying your body’s defense systems.
Vitamin C is the superstar of the vitamin world – with countless studies finding that it’s useful in fighting a plethora of flu viruses as well as the (all too) common cold.
As cold and flu season approach make sure that your diet includes lots of vitamin C rich foods like citrus fruits, leafy green vegetables, and bell peppers.
Vitamin D is a critical component of the immune system. A reduction in UV exposure due to short, cloudy winter days and increasing time spent indoors means that you’ll be getting much less vitamin D than you need to stay in peak, disease fighting condition.
According to researchers; people who have lower vitamin D levels have a significantly increased risk of developing the flu.
Keep your vitamin D levels high until the long days of summer return by eating oily fish like salmon and tuna, beef liver, and egg yolks.
Frequent Hand Washing!
The easiest way to help your immune system to fight off colds and flu is to keep those nasty bugs from getting inside you, to begin with!
Establish a hand cleaning routine for everyone in your home; as soon as anyone comes in from being outside, they should wash their hands with soap and water. When outside you should either wash your hands or use an antibacterial gel every time you’ve touched objects that see a lot of traffic – like door knobs, keyboards, tools, devices, etc.
As stated earlier; higher indoor humidity and good air circulation will render influenza A virus inactive. Use a humidifier to maintain healthy moisture levels at work (if possible) and at home. Although the weather can be too cold for comfort – it’s in your best interest to also try to keep a steady stream of fresh air flowing into any room where you work, study or play.
Use these immune system boosting herbs and vitamins while you:
- Keep your hands clean
- Humidify the air
- And keep your body moving
To stay cold and flu free until spring!