As the weather finally cools down here, it's the time of year when I see patients start coming down with the cold and flu symptoms that are a seemingly inevitable part of the fall and winter seasons. I've jotted down a few suggestions to help keep you healthy this fall and winter. As always, be sure to run any supplements or over-the-counter products by your healthcare provider so that they can make sure it's safe for you to take and doesn't interact with any prescription medications you may be taking.
Did you know this "sunshine vitamin" isn't really a vitamin at all?! It's actually an important hormone that our bodies make when exposed to the sun. Vitamin D deficiency are common in the winter months as the days grow shorter and we are outside less. In addition to keeping our bones healthy, vitamin D also regulates our immune systems. There might even be a correlation between lower vitamin D levels in the winter months and an increase in sickness! A simple lab test that your healthcare provider can order will tell you if you need some extra vitamin D. You can find vitamin D in liver, fatty fish, egg yolks and mushrooms!
This is a trace mineral that plays a critical role in keeping our immune systems functioning ideally. It's present in most multivitamin and mineral supplements but can also be found in oysters, nuts and seeds, and my favorite, dark chocolate (just be sure to find a brand without added sugars, soy or dairy as those foods can actually cause inflammation!)
When most people think of colds, this is the vitamin that comes to mind. Vitamin C is an antioxidant in our body and helps our bodies fight off the bacteria and viruses that can make us sick. Citrus fruits are a great dietary source of vitamin C.
Did you know that nearly 80% of your immune system is actually found in your gut?! Without a healthy gut, you can't have a healthy body. Probiotics are good bacteria (and sometimes yeasts) that compete with the bad guys for space. Besides helping to alleviate stomach problems, probiotics can help strengthen your immune system so you're ready for whatever cold is going around the office this week. Fermented foods are a great way to get these healthy bacteria in your diet. Kimchi, kombucha, yogurt (full-fat, no sugar added, please!) and sauerkraut are full of healthy bacteria.
While not necessarily a supplement, exercise helps boost the cells in our bodies that fight off the bugs that can make us sick. Pick your favorite activity and talk to your healthcare provider before starting. The activity doesn't have to be strenuous to be beneficial to your immune system. Stroll around the neighborhood, try a yoga class or go for a run! Moving our bodies keeps us healthy.
This cooler weather is a reminder that the holiday season and all its busyness will be upon us soon. We may be eating unhealthy foods, exercising less, traveling more and just experiencing more stress from all the fun festivities (parties! presents! parents!). Meditation helps our bodies respond better to the stresses that we all encounter every day. Have you ever noticed after an extremely stressful project at work that you come down with whatever is going around? Mediation can help prevent that. Like exercise, a daily meditation practice is a great tool to have in your self-care arsenal going into the hustle and bustle of the holidays.
Hopefully you can pick a few of these ideas to incorporate into your daily regimen and help keep yourself out of the cough and cold aisle this season!
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