With cold weather comes an increased risk of cold and flu. Now that the seasons are starting to shift, it's a good time to start thinking about protecting yourself and lowering the likelihood of developing winter health concerns. Following these winter health tips can help you support your immune system throughout the season.
When is cold and flu season?
Each year, the time frame changes based on weather patterns and what viruses are circulating. Generally, the season can range from October to March. Typically, the transmission of the flu is highest between December and March.
Why Vitamin D Deficiency Happens in Winter
Research shows that vitamin D deficiency is more common in the winter months. The reason for this is the connection between the sun and vitamin D. Your body can manufacture the vitamin D needed to power your immune system and perform other functions in the body. Sunlight triggers the production process. Because days are shorter in the winter, and you're more likely to spend more time indoors, your body may not be able to make enough vitamin D to meet your needs fully.
How To Boost Your Immune System in Winter
Your immune system is your body's shield against germs that cause illnesses like winter colds and flu. Various cells, tissues, and organs make up the immune system, and they must work together to keep immunity strong. Supporting a healthy immune system is essential all year but is especially vital during the winter when you're most likely to get sick.
- Try a Supplement
A vitamin D supplement is probably the easiest and fastest way to increase your body's natural supply of the vitamin. You can choose a standalone supplement that only contains vitamin D or a combination supplement that mixes vitamin D with other ingredients shown to support immune system function or other benefits. Body Kitchen vitamin D + K2 is an excellent option. With every serving, this supplement provides a full day's supply of vitamin D plus a specialized form of vitamin K2 (MK-7) to support healthy calcium distribution in the body. Before taking any dietary supplement, you should consult your medical provider about which product is right for you and how much you should take daily.
- Protect Yourself During Cold and Flu Season
While you can't altogether avoid the germs that cause colds and the flu, you can take steps to limit your contact with them by:
- Washing your hands with soap and water frequently for at least 20 seconds
- Disinfecting high-touch surfaces at home and work like light switches, faucets, doorknobs, and remote controls
- Wipe down your smartphone daily
- Practice Anti-Stress Techniques
Stress can wreak havoc on immunity. How does stress affect the immune system? Studies into stress and the immune system have found that your body releases chemicals to defend itself during stressful periods. Unfortunately, these chemicals can interfere with how your immune system operates. Learning to manage stress can help you keep your immune system strong. You can:
- Do deep breathing exercises
- Practice yoga
- Talk to friends and family about your feelings
- Support groups are beneficial
- Perform simple acts of self-care like listening to music, taking a long bath, or enjoying a hobby
To maintain healthy vitamin D levels during the winter months:
- Go Outside While You Can
Make the most of warmer days by spending time outdoors. Research indicates that just 15 to 30 minutes of sun exposure three times per week can help promote vitamin D production. Even if skies are gray, make sure that you wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 when you're outside. You can still develop sunburn in the winter, and the UV light found in the sunshine can damage your skin cells during any month of the year. While the idea that being out in the cold can make you catch a cold is a myth, dressing appropriately for the weather is important to protect yourself from exposure.
- Make Changes to Your Diet
You can increase your supply of vitamin D by making changes to your diet. Some foods that provide vitamin D include:
- Fatty fish like tuna and salmon
- Beef liver
- Egg yolks
You can also eat and drink products fortified with vitamin D. Manufacturers may add the vitamin to:
- Breakfast cereals
- Almond, oat, soy and Cow's milk
- Orange juice