Follow these tips to increase your chances of preventing cold & flu when the weather (finally) gets cold....
From a western medicine perspective, colds and flus are more prevalent because cold viruses thrive in colder weather. Researchers speculate our immune system works better when our core temperature is a bit on the warmer side.
Also, in late fall, winter and early spring, much of the U.S. population does not receive enough sunlight (that's strong enough) for vitamin D3 synthesis. (The UV index needs to be 3 or higher; check your local weather in the newspaper for daily readings.)
In the winter when it gets dark by 5:00 p.m., even if the UV index is 3 or higher, many of us simply don't spend enough time outdoors to keep our vitamin D levels up. And vitamin D, of course, is directly linked to the health of your immune system. Low serum levels have been linked to chronic diseases including cancer. In fact, one study suggests vitamin D supplementation cut down the risk of cancer by 35% in postmenopausal women.
How important is vitamin D? D deficiency, says this study is "endemic and has been associated with many of the diseases of civilization."
In light of this, how much vitamin D should you consume? It's difficult to obtain enough of it from diet alone, so supplementation is necessary. The latter of the above two studies suggests, "Those with large amounts of melanin in their skin, the obese, those who avoid the sun, and the aged may need up to 5000 IU/day ... especially in the winter."
The Vitamin D Council, a non-profit, also recommends 5000 IU/day for most people.
Remember when your mother annoyed you when you were a kid, pleading with you to bring a sweater with you? It turns out mom was right to noodge you. Why did that common sense advice bother so many of us when we were young? And more importantly, why was mom right to pester us? To answer the first question, toddlers, kids and teens seem to have a higher threshold for cold weather. A naked toddler can blissfully play outside in near-freezing weather on the beach. When mom admonished us to wear a jacket, we got annoyed because we didn't think we needed one. We weren't cold. But at the time, we didn't realize what cold weather was doing to our immune system.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has understood for centuries why mom was right. Unlike in hot weather, when the pores of your skin open to cool you down, in the winter, your pores, which are considered in TCM theory to act like tiny windows opening into your body, close. By closing, your pores keep wind and cold from invading the body. But if you're outside playing in a t-shirt and a cold, lake-effect like wind whips up, those windows can't shut in time. The cold and wind invade your body, weakening your immune system.
So remember mom's sage words and always bring warm clothes. Those of us on the LonoLife team have seen it many times when people get sick visiting San Diego in the winter. Thinking San Diego has the same weather as Honolulu, unknowing tourists stroll on the beach late in the afternoon with board shorts and a tank top. But once that sun gets low to the horizon, at around 3 p.m., the air gets very chilly here. What was an epic 70-degree day can quickly turn into a 45-degree bone-chilling night.
In addition to always carrying warm clothes with you, also, practice some deep breathing exercises or yoga to keep your core temperature up.
It's going to take major discipline. At all those holiday parties, always skip dessert. Sugar weakens your immune system. After you eat sugar, your body's white blood cells go MIA. It's as if your pathogen-fighting cells have a sugar crash and pass out.
Also, when your blood sugar levels go up, this blocks your body's ability to fight certain infections.
Limit sugar to naturally-occurring ones, which should only come from fruit. And in winter, you really don't need to eat as much fruit as in summer. If you're eating seasonally, fruit will barely factor in your diet. The good news is if you like starches, they seem to not have as dire effect on your immune system as simple sugars. However, if you're going to eat white rice and other quick-burning carbs, eat some fat (fish, avocado, walnuts, eggs, etc.) to slow down the conversion into sugar.
If you like to drink alcohol this time of year, try to ditch beer. Opt instead for dry or semi dry wines and distilled spirits, which have very little residual sugar.
Did you think we wouldn't mention this tip? Well, we wouldn't if we really didn't mean it. There are dozens upon dozens of studies linking the compounds, nutrients or amino acids in bone broth to enhanced immunity. Just one of the many reasons bone broth can help keep you healthy when the thermostat plunges is it contains marrow. Marrow contains fats that produce white blood cells.
We'll add to our blog more content that covers different reasons why bone broth can enhance your immune system. But suffice to say there are too many reasons for this already verbose blog post.
No other time of year is sleep more important than late fall, winter and early spring. Obviously, your immune system benefits tremendously from sleep. Try to be sleeping by 11 p.m. every night and get at least 7 or 8 hours. Take a cat nap during the day if you can.
There's no guarantee that even strictly adhering to all 5 tips, plus taking other supplements like probiotics and immune-enhancing herbal formulas will prevent you from getting sick. But, as Benjamin Franklin famously quipped, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."
What do you do to prevent getting sick? Let us know. Post a comment below....