Stay Warm and Well: Immune Support to Prevent Viral Infections
Cold and flu season is here, is your immune system ready?
Eating a nutrient dense diet rich in fruit, vegetables with sufficient protein and essential fatty acids is your foundation for healthy immune function. Managing stress, getting adequate sleep, staying hydrated and participating in regular moderate exercise are the next building blocks to wellness.
Regular hand washing or using an alcohol based hand sanitizer and covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze are helpful in preventing the spread of viral infections.
Vitamin A, C, D, Zinc and Selenium are important nutrients for a healthy and balanced immune function. Red peppers and kiwi fruit are rich in vitamin C, 2 to 3 brazil nuts daily are an excellent source of selenium, a handful of pumpkin seeds will provide you with zinc while eggs, salmon and grass fed butter are excellent sources of vitamin A and D.
During our Canadian winters I recommend adults supplement with 1000 IU of Vitamin D once daily to maintain adequate levels and support immunity. Incorporating immune boosting herbs into our diets on a regular basis is important during cold and flu season. Cinnamon, ginger, garlic, oregano, sage, thyme and turmeric can be added to cooking to enhance flavour and your health!
Probiotics support not only digestion but your immune function as well, with up to 80% of your immune cells residing in the gut associated lymphoid tissues. Certain strains of beneficial bacteria can reduce the frequency and severity of upper respiratory tract infections. Dairy or non-dairy yogurt, kefir, saurkraut and kombucha all sources of beneficial flora in our diet. Meta Kids Probiotic (Metagenics) is a great tasting chewable tablet that kids can take once daily during the winter months to reduce the frequency and severity of upper respiratory infections. Just call the office if you’d like us to set some aside.
Elderberry (Sambucus Nigra) berries inhibit the ability of respiratory and influenza viruses to enter cells and also reduce the viruses ability to replicate once a cell is infected. In addition to these potent anti-viral properties Elderberry extracts have anti-inflammatory effects on the lungs being helpful for preventing bronchitis and pneumonia. Elderberry extracts are antimicrobial against strep bacteria which are a common cause of secondary bacterial infections. This amazing berry can be taken daily as a capsule, tincture, tea or tasty syrup.
Beta Glucans (found in mushrooms, barley, oats and seaweed) increase white blood cell production, movement, activity and have a balancing effect on immune function. Consuming these foods in the diet or adding in a balanced mushroom supplement into your daily routine can be helpful during cold and flu season.
Castor oil encourages lymph and blood flow and boosts immune function when applied topically over the abdomen before bed. Xylitol saline nasal sprays can be helpful to keep the nasal mucosa hydrated and to flush any viruses or bacteria out of the nasal passages before they have the chance to colonize and replicate.
These tips will help your family stay warm and well this winter season!
Jane Goehner, ND, Oakville