With winter upon us, it’s important to fortify our immune systems with the proper nutrition to fight off the bacteria and viruses that increasingly populate our environments, whether they be homes, workplaces, or schools. That’s why supporting your immunity prior to any disease-bearing germ encounter is key to making sure you stay sick-free all season long. Here’s a list of seven natural ways to ensure your immune system is strong enough to handle anything that might come your way.
- Vitamin D3: Arguably the biggest nutritional reason people get sicker in the winter is the lack of sun exposure, which leads to a deficiency of vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 is essential for a host of bodily and immune system functions, so much so that up to 77% of all cancers are believed to be preventable with vitamin D3 alone, let alone the majority of colds and flus. If you haven’t supplemented with it before, chances are you’re deficient, and it will take months of heavy intake before your vitamin D3 levels are back to normal. On a general basis, you can take 40,000IU to 50,000IU per day for two to three months, before tapering down to 10,000IU for the average person, though more or less may be needed depending on physical size and skin color (the darker the skin, the more you’ll need).
- Vitamin C: While vitamin C for immune strength has become so well-known as to be almost cliché, it’s nevertheless important to take each day. The one addendum is to make sure you take far more than the US Recommended Daily Allowance—a good dose is two to three grams per day, far more than the miniscule conventional recommendation.
- Cat’s Claw: Cat’s claw, or una de gato, is a Peruvian herb that’s been used for centuries by Ashanica Indians for its immune-supportive properties. While it’s able to treat a variety of conditions and illnesses, it’s widely used as a way to fight pathogens and support on-going immunity. A good starting dose is two to three grams per day, though more is often used, especially at the first signs of a cold.
- Grape Seed Extract: Grape seed extract is a powerful antiseptic, both externally and internally, and if taken on an on-going basis acts to kill the harmful bacteria and viruses that tend to invade our bodies in small numbers each day. Its ability to directly deal with this daily onslaught frees our immune systems to fight off the larger pathogens we might come across without having been more depleted fighting off the everyday invaders.
- Garlic: Garlic is one of the most powerful substances to fight off pathogens that inflict colds and flus. Its antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties can keep our bodies relatively clean of disease-promoting pathogens, thus reducing the on-going load our immune systems have to deal. It’s most effective when consumed raw, but cooked garlic provides some benefits as well. If you don’t like the taste, you can find crushed garlic supplements at most retail and online health stores.
- Olive Leaf: Olive leaf comes from the same olive tree as olive oil, but unlike the oil, the leaf has natural antibiotic, immune-stimulant and anti-inflammatory so strong that it’s often taken in its liquid extract form alone to treat colds. In fact, it contains almost twice the amount of antioxidants as green tea, and four times more than vitamin C. A good starting dose is two grams of a standardized olive leaf extract taken in divided doses throughout the day, with larger doses taken on an as needed basis.
- Echinacea: Echinacea is an herb effective in the treatment of colds and flus. While it doesn’t have the direct antibacterial properties as grape seed extract for instance, it does have some antimicrobial properties, and works more by nutritionally supporting the immune system with a host of compounds like alkamides and glycoproteins. A study at the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy concluded that Echinacea alone can diminish the risk of catching a cold by 58%, and found that it can shorten the duration of a cold by 1.4 days.