It’s cold and snowy here in northern Nevada, which means coughs, runny noses, fevers, and body aches aren’t far behind — or already here! Yes, it’s cold and flu season, and this year in particular, it’s rampant. But some people manage to avoid these illnesses, even with sick family members in the same home. Is it luck? Maybe a little, but it’s also due to a robust immune system — and there are ways to support and promote yours to minimize the risk of getting sick. Here are four tips for staying healthy during cold and flu season.
MEET THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
Our immune systems are amazingly proficient networks designed to defend against invading germs and diseases. It’s a complex system, but here’s the simplest explanation: when a foreign germ is detected, it triggers specific hormones (white blood cells) to swarm in and destroy the invader. It’s an ongoing procedure that takes place without any conscious direction or thought, just like breathing.
While it’s in everyone’s best interest to make sure the immune system is functioning properly, there are elements of modern living that actually weaken this important system. Unmitigated stress, inadequate sleep, and poor nutrition can all be detrimental to our immunity, particularly at a time of year already associated with more illnesses. New research published in December 2022 identifies a biological reason for more respiratory illnesses in the winter — the cold air can damage the immune response that takes place in the nose. Pair that reality with more sugar, less sleep, more socializing, and less exercise, and it’s no surprise that people fall ill this time of year!
Here are four methods of improving long-term immunity to get you through this sniffly season:
- Supplement with Vitamin D. Research confirms the benefit of vitamin D on the immune system and specifically the greater susceptibility to infection with a deficiency. In the U.S., it’s estimated that approximately 35% of adults are deficient. While sunlight is an ideal way to get vitamin D, that’s not always feasible, especially during the colder, shorter days of winter. That’s where a good vitamin D supplement comes in.
- Prioritize sleep. Scientific studies show the significant effects of sleep on immune function. Sleep loss can directly affect key parts of the immune system, which means a greater risk of illness. Aim for at least eight hours of sleep every night.
- Minimize sugary snacks and drinks. Foods high in sugar or refined carbohydrates, which are processed in the body as sugar, can suppress the immune system. Make sure to prioritize colorful fruits and vegetables to ensure your body is getting all the vitamins and minerals it needs to fight off infection. Remember, what goes in your mouth is truly a building block to a strong immune system, so keep that in mind when you’re eyeing alcohol and sweets this holiday season!
- Get regular adjustments. Chiropractic care can improve immune function any reducing stress on the nervous system. Research shows an immediate increase in specific signaling molecules that regulate white blood cell activity following an adjustment.
In Reno, Drs. McSweeney and Allen are here for regular chiropractic care to help keep your spine balanced and aligned. Schedule a visit today.