Tips For Preventing Infections This Winter
This is an article for my readers in the northern hemisphere. You have entered peak cold and flu season. I hope to provide you with the information you need to prevent coming down with an infection.
Why are infections much more common in winter?
- Less of the sun’s ultraviolet B (UVB) rays reach the earth, meaning you cannot make as much vitamin D in your skin when out in the sun. Low vitamin D levels make you more prone to infections.
- In fall and winter the air is usually drier. A lower level of humidity allows cold and flu viruses to survive longer outside the body. This means you can catch a virus more easily.
- During cold weather your white blood cells have more difficulty reaching the lining of your respiratory tract; therefore you are less able to fight off invading pathogens.
Having a healthy immune system is your best defense against contracting an infection. You may find the following tips helpful:
- Eat plenty of nutrient dense foods. What you eat each day is your most powerful ally in keeping your immune system strong. Many people do not eat enough vegetables or protein. As the weather cools down, salads are often replaced with carbohydrate heavy meals based on pastry and pasta. It is fine and beneficial to eat warming meals during cold weather, but it is also important to eat some raw vegetables and fruit. They are an excellent source of vitamin C, which is rapidly destroyed by cooking. If you know you don’t eat enough raw vegetables and fruit, you may want to take a vitamin C supplement.
- Selenium deficiency weakens the immune system. Many people do not get adequate selenium in their diet and this leaves them more vulnerable to viral infections. Brazil nuts, onions and seafood provide some selenium, but I see big improvements in my patients when I give them a selenium supplement.
- Please make sure you consume adequate protein and good fats. Protein is found in foods such as seafood, poultry, eggs, red meat (preferably pastured), whey protein, nuts and seeds. Healthy sources of fat include avocados, olive oil, macadamia nut oil, pastured ghee and organic coconut oil. If you base your diet on vegetables, protein and healthy fats, you should be able to achieve a healthy weight, have healthy digestion and plenty of energy. It also reduces sugar cravings, which brings me to my next point.
- Avoid consuming high amounts of sugar and foods that rapidly get digested into sugar, such as grains, cereals and starches. Sugar weakens your immune system for several reasons, mainly because it disturbs the microorganisms in your intestines. Sugar acts as a fertilizer for all the wrong bugs in your gut. It promotes the growth of Candida and harmful bacteria, and can cause Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO). This will weaken your immune system and compromise your ability to absorb nutrients from your food and supplements. If you are currently suffering with Candida or an excess of harmful gut microbes, Bactoclear capsules can help to clean up the environment in your gut.
- N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) can help to reduce mucus congestion in the sinuses and lungs. NAC is a molecule your body uses to produce the powerful antioxidant called glutathione. This helps to improve your liver’s detoxification capacities, but it also helps to clear excess mucus from your body. This can help you to recover from infections more quickly.
- Make sure you’re not vitamin D deficient. Vitamin D insufficiency is a very common problem and will make you more susceptible to all sorts of infections, including colds and flu. During winter, most people’s blood level of vitamin D drops to rock bottom. You should ask your doctor for a blood test to check your vitamin D status. Aim for a level between 40 and 60 ng/mL (100 – 150 nmol/L). During winter it is difficult for most people to receive enough sun exposure to increase vitamin D, therefore a vitamin D supplement may be necessary. Cold Eze capsules are a convenient combination of Vitamin D, plus immune strengthening herbs including astragalus, garlic and echinacea.
- Sleep and stress management are important. You can be doing all the right things with your diet and exercise, but if you are continually sleep deprived and stressed out, your immune system will suffer. Most people need 7 to 8 hours of good quality sleep each night. If you regularly do not get enough sleep, it will be much more difficult for your immune system to ward off an infection, and it will take you much longer to recover. A cold that may have lasted 3 days can linger for two weeks if you don’t receive deep, restorative sleep. Many things can stand in the way of good sleep. If you’ve been struggling for some time, you may find solutions in my book Tired of Not Sleeping? Just about everyone finds that magnesium improves their sleep quality and helps them to feel less stressed and anxious during the day. I typically recommend a teaspoon of magnesium powder with the evening meal.
- Don’t forget to wash your hands regularly. Washing your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap is an extremely effective method of washing away bacteria and viruses that can cause disease. Antibacterial soap or hand liquids aren’t as good because they can promote the development of antibiotic resistant strains of super bugs, and can contain toxic chemicals known as endocrine disruptors, which may raise the risk of cancer.
For much more detailed information, see my book Corona and other dangerous viruses.
The above statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.