There are many reasons to love the changing seasons: the crisp smell of falling leaves, warm pumpkin bread, upcoming holidays to spend with friends and family, and so much more. Of course, we can’t ignore one of the major downsides of this time of year. Throughout the country, cooler weather also means flu season.
If you’re one of the many who can’t get sick this year, we hear you–but luckily, there are a few things that you can do to boost your immune system and help ward off flu germs. Certainly, get the flu shot if you can, and keep up your existing healthy habits such as eating well, getting enough sleep and drinking enough water. Increase your chances of staying healthy even more by adding the following 10 immune boosters to your daily routine. Bonus points if you can find formulations that are specifically aimed at improving immunity, such as LoveBug Probiotics’ Colds Suck formulation!
Naturally found in foods like spinach, oysters, pumpkin seeds and nuts, zinc has been shown in scientific studies to reduce the length of cold symptoms in healthy individuals. Researchers theorize this is because zinc can help prevent virus cells from replicating. A supplement of 25mg a day can go a long way to strengthening your immune system.
The vitamin D found in sunlight is one of the many reasons that laying on the beach in the summer feels so, so good. Of course, as the days get shorter, your chances of getting significant amounts of this vitamin from a direct source go down–which is too bad, because it plays a huge role in modulating your immune system. Indeed, research has shown that vitamin D can help regulate your immune systems’ innate and adaptive responses.
In essence, vitamin D acts like a light switch, “turning on” certain peptides that cause your immune system to target invading microbes such as the flu virus. In lieu of sunbathing, make sure your multivitamin has enough vitamin D or add in a separate supplement of this key vitamin.
This one shouldn’t be too surprising, given how closely associated orange juice is with cold prevention. Still, it’s worth confirming that some old wives’ tales are true. There’s a whole body of research demonstrating vitamin C’s ability to help reduce symptoms and duration of many respiratory tract infections, as well as to help lower your chances of developing certain dangerous flu complications such as pneumonia. So whether through citrus consumption or a vitamin supplement, make sure you get enough vitamin C this winter.
That’s right: the ingredient that makes Italian food so yummy can also improve immune function. Garlic has a component called allicin; when eaten, this allicin converts to other substances that help play a role in your white blood cells’ disease-fighting response. Specifically, studies have shown that eating garlic can increase production of cytokines. These cell-signaling molecules help improve communication between cells and aid in directing immune system cells toward infectious viruses. Don’t love the taste of garlic in your mouth? Luckily, it comes in pill form as well.
Vitamin B6 has an important role to play in a number of areas; it helps regulate mood, can lower stress and is key for proper brain function. In terms of immunity, however, vitamin B6 is particularly important for those individuals already dealing with a critical illness during flu season. Research illustrates that taking vitamin B6 can help compensate for the lowered immune response of many critically-ill patients, helping them avoid an extremely dangerous flu infection.
As one of the most powerful antioxidants around, vitamin E has a big part in helping your immune system modulate its response to infections. In particular, there’s evidence that vitamin E can help maintain a healthy immune system that can continue to fight off infection as we age, making it an essential supplement for senior citizens at this time of year.
Ginger has been a common ingredient in traditional herbal medicine for centuries, and for good reason: it has many powerful attributes, such as its ability to calm nausea and preventing vomiting. There’s evidence that ginger has anti-viral potential as well. One study found that taking fresh (not dried!) ginger helped to block human respiratory syncytial virus (HRSV) from building plaque in airways by stimulating mucosal cells to secrete antibodies that fight infection.
Evidence shows that a deficiency in vitamin A is linked with a decreased ability to fight off infections such as the flu. Studies have found that vitamin A deficiency prevents the mucosal barriers that help stop viruses from entering the body from regenerating properly, while the right amount of vitamin A helps improve adaptive immunity. But be careful: perhaps paradoxically, taking too much vitamin A can also lower immune system response.
Derived from a flower related to the daisy, echinacea has been used in herbal remedies for a long time, much like ginger. Long-held tradition believes that echinacea helps stimulate the immune system and provide protection and early treatment for infections like colds and the flu. As with ginger, scientific research actually backs this up: one study found that taking echinacea resulted in shorter and less severe upper respiratory tract infections.
Much as with vitamin C, it should be no surprise that probiotics can help you boost your immune system and avoid catching the flu. After all, probiotics help balance the microbiome of your gut with beneficial strains of bacteria–and since approximately 70 percent of your immune system lies in your gut, this can have a big effect on the robustness of your immune system response. The evidence for the connection between probiotics and a stronger immune system is clear and plentiful as well.
As one study showed, taking a daily probiotic supplement significantly lowers the chances of getting an upper respiratory tract infection and reduces the odds of developing flu-like symptoms. This effect holds true even if you’ve received the flu vaccine: research has shown that adults who received a flu shot and took a daily probiotic had a significantly higher antibody response, indicating higher immune system protection against the flu.
Boost Your Immune System This Season
While there’s no sure-fire solution to prevent you from catching the flu this winter, doing what you can to improve your immune system defenses will certainly lower your chances of ending up in bed for a week. And if you do start feeling a tickle in your throat, don’t stop your immune-boosting routine; keep up your efforts to help your immune system fight back with well-rounded supplements like LoveBug Probiotics’ Colds Suck, with its combination of specifically-chosen probiotic strains, zinc, echinacea and vitamin C.