Winter. It’s the time of year that puts your immune system through the ultimate test of strength. You’re constantly exposed to pathogens that cause colds, strep throat, bronchitis, and the flu.
Get caught in the crossfire of a child’s uncovered sneeze or rub your eye with a contaminated finger. That’s all it takes.
The only thing that will stop you from getting sick is your immune system. If your immune system is weak and unhealthy, you could be in for a rough winter.
Luckily, there are several ways to bolster your immune system, so you have a fighting chance. Start now to make sure your immunity is strong.
This one may sound like common sense. But still 9 out of 10 people don’t eat enough fruits and veggies. And the food you eat has a huge impact on your immune system—it’s only as strong as what you give your body.
That’s because fruits and vegetables contain nutrients that are essential for your immune system to function properly, including vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
If you have a hard time getting enough fruits and vegetables in your diet, you can easily boost your intake with an organic super green juice powder.
Probiotics are healthy bacteria that live in your gut. They help you digest food, produce certain nutrients like some of the B vitamins, and most importantly, they play a key role in the health of your immune system (1).
In fact, several studies have found that those who regularly consume probiotics are less likely to come down with respiratory infections (2).
But that’s not all. Scientists have also discovered that even when these people get sick, they take fewer sick days off from work and the duration of their illness is significantly reduced (3).
So probiotics are essential to a strong immune system. To get more probiotics in your diet, consider adding sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, miso, or yogurt into your diet at least once per day.
Some experts call vitamin D deficiency the “silent epidemic” because so many people unknowingly suffer from it.
When your body doesn’t get enough vitamin D, you can suffer from brain fog, depression, muscle weakness, chronic fatigue, and lower immunity.
The sun’s rays are weaker in winter so most people in the US and Europe can’t make any vitamin D in winter months. This is, without a doubt, one of the reasons why people get sick more often in the winter.
Your immune system heavily relies on vitamin D. Countless studies have shown that when you lack vitamin D, you are much more susceptible to infection and even autoimmune conditions (4).
Consider adding a plant-based vitamin D supplement this winter. Vitamin D sourced from organic mushrooms has the added benefit of beta glucans so you get even more immune support.
If you want to avoid getting sick and keep your immune system strong, managing your stress levels is a must.
Several studies have found that chronic stress exerts a significant immunosuppressive effect (5). In other words, chronic stress suppresses your immune system, which makes it weak.
And when your immune system is weak, it’s much easier to get sick. To manage your stress levels, consider mindful meditation, yoga and daily exercise. Check out a full list of stress-free tips.
Mushrooms are immune powerhouses. They contain compounds that regulate, or balance, your immune system.
So, when your immune system is weak, they strengthen it. On the other hand, if your immune system is too active (like in autoimmune conditions) mushrooms can downregulate it.
For example, tremella mushrooms can help your body fight off infection (6). Turkey tail mushrooms can improve the function of macrophages and natural killer cells—two types of cells that play a critical role in fighting off illness (7).
In this way, mushrooms are one of the best foods for a healthy immune system in winter.
Toxins are a common reason why your immune system can underperform.
For example, the heavy metal cadmium displaces the mineral zinc, which is essential for a properly functioning immune system (9).
The natural mineral zeolite can remove heavy metals and toxins from the body, helping to improve overall immunity.
If you’re a fan of garlic, you now have even more of a reason to add it to your favorite meals.
Garlic contains powerful compounds that can both enhance your immune system and destroy pathogenic microbes.
Specifically, scientists have found that the main component of garlic, allicin, can help your immune system fight off colds and the flu (10).
Allicin is also a potent antimicrobial, meaning it can kill both bacteria and viruses (11). Just note that the allicin content in garlic is highest when consumed raw, making it a strongly scented remedy.
Berries are a great source of polyphenols, which is a group of health-boosting plant compounds.
Among the many benefits of polyphenols is their ability to fight infections. Studies have found that the polyphenols in berries can help protect against the influenza virus, E. Coli, and even Salmonella infections (12, 13).
Specific berries have even more benefits to your immune system. Goji berries, for example, can improve your immune function and enhance the production of T-lymphocytes (14).
Some berries are not in season during winter, but most can be found in the frozen section. And opt for organic since berries are typically heavily sprayed with harmful pesticides.
One of the useful techniques for staying healthy is one of the simplest—washing your hands with plain old soap and water.
While hand sanitizers have been pitched as an alternative to hand washing, research shows they are not that effective (15).
Using hand sanitizers too often can actually weaken your body’s natural defenses against harmful microbes. Alcohol-based hand sanitizers remove the natural oils on your skin which serve as a natural protective barrier.
So, stick to regular soap and water for handwashing.