There are many speculations as to why people seem to start sniffling and
coughing more often as soon as the cold air sets in. One Yale
University study announced that cold wintry air weakens the nose’s
immune defenses, allowing the bacteria and viruses lurking in every
corner to more easily creep into your body.*
Prior to this study, many hypothesized that the increase in sickness had to do with more people staying indoors and sharing breathing space. While this theory might be partially true, it’s proven that cooler weather does have a crippling effect on immune systems. While there is no way to prevent winter from coming, there are ways to help the body fight against unwelcome intruders.
Load up on Vitamin C and D
While all vitamins play a role in health maintenance, Vitamin C and D are most notable for their ability to strengthen connective tissue in bones and attack the viruses themselves, both of which lead to fewer doctor visits in chilly months. Make sure to add citrus fruits to your daily diet for Vitamin C, and brave the cold to get some sunshine for a healthy dose of Vitamin D.
Cook with Herbs and Spices
Keep your spice rack stocked this winter. Studies show that garlic, ginger, black peppercorn, cayenne pepper, allspice, curry, and turmeric, all contain properties that strengthen immune defenses.
Maintain a Healthy Gut
The gastrointestinal tract houses a substantial part of the immune system. This being said, an important part of a strong immune system is strong digestive organs. A healthy diet and adequate sleep play a major role in a healthy gut, but probiotics, also known as “good bacteria,” are touted for supporting healthy gut function. Probiotics can be taken as a supplement, but are most commonly recognized as a component found in yogurt.
Eat, Drink, Sweat, Sleep, Repeat
Taking care of your immune system requires all of the same steps it takes to sustain total body wellness. Feed your body whole foods, choose water over soda, exercise moderately a few times per week, sleep 7-8 hours per night, and make each of these healthy choices habits.
Unfortunately, no one is immune to stress. However, the most dangerous type of stress that affects your body’s systems is chronic stress, or stress that results in high levels of the hormone cortisol. This stress hormone has a weakening effect on the immune system and can really put a damper on your winter plans. So remember to relax, don’t sweat the small stuff, and enjoy a flu-free, cold-free winter.
*Yale University study in January 2015