As we recall learning in school when we were children, there are 4 seasons: Summer, Autumn, Winter, and Spring. “Cold and Flu” is NOT one of them!
So why do we do we constantly hear about “cold and flu season”? It is evident that people tend to get sicker in the winter months than throughout the rest of the year. Why? As my grandmother used to say, “you went outside and caught a draft”! Well, not quite. Although it is obviously important to bundle up in the winter in warm layers, just being cold doesn’t necessarily give you a cold.
So when does someone tend to get sick? When their immune system is weakened, and is unable to fight off the environmental viruses and bacteria that it faces; which does tend to happen more often in the winter months. Why? People are more stressed, have taken on poorer diets such as extra sugar around the holiday season, and are a lot less active in terms of physical activity. Research has also shown that there is a close link between the function of the nervous system and the immune system.
So how do you strengthen your immunity and avoid illness in the winter months?
5 Steps to Staying Healthy Throughout the Winter
1. Clean Up Your Diet
Now that the holiday parties are long over, you don’t have any excuses. Cut down on foods that lead to inflammation. These types of foods include refined carbohydrates such as white flour, bread, rice, sugar, and animal fats. 3
Replace processed foods and frozen packaged dinners with home-prepared meals that include fresh vegetables.
An easy way to incorporate vegetables into a fulfilling meal is to make a hearty vegetable soup. Experiment with adding kale, spinach, mushrooms garlic, squash, and a variety of spices to your soup. Garlic has a natural chemical known as allicin that has been known to fight bacteria and possibly viruses. Herbs such as turmeric, rosemary, oregano, and thyme not only add flavor, but are antioxidants as well. 3
Snack on citrus fruits such as grapefruit and oranges, or other fruits such as kiwi or strawberries for a boost of Vitamin C. 3
2. Supplement with Vitamin D
Vitamin D deficiency is more common that you might expect. Especially during the winter months, most people do not get enough sun exposure. Older individuals are at higher risk for deficiency because they have fewer receptors in their skin that convert sunlight to Vitamin D, may not get enough Vitamin D in their diet, may not be able to absorb it, or may not be able to convert Vitamin D into a useful form to the body. The risk for Vitamin D deficiency increases in individuals over age 65.
Why is Vitamin D so important? Every tissue and every cell in the body had a Vitamin D receptor protein. It is estimated that nearly 3,000 genes in the body are directly or indirectly regulated by Vitamin D and over 200 diseases are linked to Vitamin D deficiency and may respond to Vitamin D supplementation 1
3. Keep Moving!
It is easy to get cabin fever when it is too cold outside to do outdoor activities, and you aren’t a skier or snowboarder. However, that doesn’t mean that your physical activity stops until the spring! Join a gym to keep yourself motivated, or layer up and hike some trails, take a short walk around the block, parking lot, your apartment, workplace, or walk inside of a mall.
In a study in the American Journal of Medicine, women who walked for a half-hour every day for 1 year had half the number of colds as those who didn’t exercise. Regular walking may lead to an increased number of white blood cells, which fight infections. 4
Exercise also helps slow the release of stress hormones!
4. Reduce Stress
There is research to support that emotional stress has a negative impact on the immune system. Thoughts and emotions can trigger chemical reactions within the body that affect multiple systems, especially the immune system. Periods of intense emotional stress can decrease levels of natural killer cells, slow down killer T cells, and diminish macrophage activity; which all play a role in the body’s ability to combat pathogens. 2
As we mentioned above, any form of exercise is a great way to reduce stress. Yoga is also great for stress-reduction, and you can do this in the comfort of your home before bed or as a part of your morning routine.
Also, just take time out of your daily work and chore routine and do activities that you enjoy; whether it be Bible study, playing with the puppies, doing a puzzle, or chatting and laughing with a friend.
5. Boost Your Immune System with Chiropractic
The nervous system controls all of our bodily functions, so a properly functioning nervous system should be a priority in strengthening the immune system.
The nervous system works by sending and receiving messages or impulses to all parts of the body. When vertebrae become misaligned, interference to the nerve impulse occurs, which reduces the overall functioning of the nervous system and the particular organ to which it is assigned. This interference is known as “vertebral subluxation.”
An evaluation by an upper cervical chiropractor may help you discover if you have a subluxation in the neck that could be contributing to a weakened immune system. If so, a specialized upper cervical chiropractic procedure could help boost your immune system and decrease the number of times you are sick this winter.
- Wassung, Keith. Central Nervous System Control and Coordination of the Thymus & T-cell Function in The Immune System.