Wash Your Hands Frequently
This is a no-brainer. It’s easy for your hands to accumulate microbes throughout the day, so wash them for at least 20 seconds, with soap, frequently and always after preparing food (especially raw meat), touching an animal, blowing your nose or changing a diaper. And make sure your kids wash up, too.
Take Vitamin D Daily
Vitamin D supports the proper functioning of T cells, a key immune-system component.† Unfortunately, “we have an epidemic of vitamin D deficiency in this country because nobody is getting into the sun,” says Len Saputo, MD. “The only time that we can make vitamin D is between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m., because that’s when the UVB rays come through.” While spending time in the sun is a good idea if you can manage it, Saputo recommends taking 5,000 IU of vitamin D3 per day as a good alternative.
Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Short-term sleep deprivation can leave you vulnerable to every virus that comes along. “If you miss just one night of sleep—about five hours—your natural killer cells, which are what fight viral infections, go down 30%,” says Saputo. Staying physically active is one way to improve your odds of finding dreamland, which leads us to…
Exercise Regularly—In Moderation
“We get a fraction of the normal, natural movement that we would get if we were in our native state. We have to make that up with exercise,” says J.E. Williams, OMD, FAAIM, author of Viral Immunity (Hampton Roads). “Individuals who complete a moderate amount of physical activity on a daily basis—a minimum of 30 minutes—have a stronger immune system,” adds Brian McFarlin, PhD, of the University of Houston’s Laboratory of Integrated Physiology. Moderation is the key; McFarlin says that excessive training tends to suppress immunity.
Load Your Plate with Vegetables
You can’t go wrong with varieties that are rich in color, including deep green (such as spinach and broccoli) or bright orange (such as carrots and sweet potatoes). The nutritional power of many fruits is canceled out by their sugar content. Berries, however, particularly blueberries, are high in antioxidants, making them the preferred immune-boosting choice. To cover your nutritional bases, go with a multivitamin/mineral based on whole foods.
That Includes Garlic
Another edible immune-system booster is garlic. “Garlic is wonderful stuff. It has a direct toxic effect on microbes, and it tends to selectively get those microbes that are bad for us,” Saputo says. Packed with various vitamins and nutrients, garlic also contains the beneficial compounds cysteine and allicin. While garlic is most potent raw, it is still quite effective when its cloves are roasted, giving it a slightly more subtle flavor and soft texture that makes it perfect for spreading on bread. It can also be consumed in supplement form.†
Replenish Your Probiotics
Did you know that the digestive system contains approximately 70% of the body’s immune cells? Most people don’t. One way of boosting digestive health is via probiotics, beneficial microbes normally found in a healthy gastrointestinal tract. Saputo suggests making plain yogurt a staple of your diet, particularly brands that contain live cultures and are relatively low in sugar. What’s more, probiotic microorganisms are not just found in the large intestine. Some, such as S. salivarius K12, reside in the mouth and nose; this strain produces proteins that appear to target disease-causing bacteria.†
Employ Herbal Remedies
The herbs echinacea, which aids the immune system, and goldenseal, an anti-infective, are often used together. Commonly used in supplements or teas, this combination is particularly useful after the first sign of a possible cold. Saputo notes that many people take them before illness strikes as a preventative measure.†
Break Out the Botanicals
Dozens of different cells and chemicals make up the immune system, each with its own special role to play in fighting off infection. Fortunately, nature has supplied a number of plant-based immune aids. They include arabinogalactan (ARA), a fiber from the Western larch that boosts immune-cell activity; olive leaf, which contains a substance called oleuropein that has shown an ability to overcome many fever-causing microbes; and andrographis, an herb from India’s Ayurvedic medicine that boosts production of both white blood cells and interferon.†
Stay Well Hydrated—Inside and Out
More than half your body weight consists of water, which gives you an idea of how important it is to stay properly hydrated. Saputo suggests drinking filtered water, which contains significantly fewer impurities and pollutants. Atmospheric moisture is also an ally in supporting optimal immunity; arid air can dry out mucous membranes, the body’s first line of defense. People who are susceptible to viral illness may want to run a humidifier at night, particularly in cold climates and in desert-like areas such as the Southwest.
†The information provided is not an endorsement of any product, and is intended for educational purposes only. NaturesPlus does not provide medical advice and does not offer diagnosis of any conditions. Current research on this topic is not conclusive and further research may be needed in order to prove the benefits described.
**These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.