Winter Wellness Part 1
The winter months can be long and dreary, the skies are gray and it’s too cold to leave your bed, but there are some simple, effective steps you can take to support your immune system and guard against any sniffles or coughs.
What things can I do to support my immune system this winter?
Your Immune System Is Your Body’s Bodyguard
Your immune system is a complicated, interesting and amazing system which helps keep you healthy and strong, so it can do its job of fighting the nasty bugs we all come in contact with.
During the winter months when people are already more susceptible to the common cold, flu, and depressed mood, it is important to be conscious of a number of things to help stay healthy and maintain a well-functioning immune system.
We live in a world where it’s easy to be glued to our computers—sending e-mails, playing video games, shopping—both during and after work. And, it’s awfully tempting just to plop down in front of the TV after a long day at work, too.
Exercise – Exercise can help give the immune system a boost. Colder weather and limited hours of daylight can bring out the natural instinct to hibernate and stay inside, even in the most active person.
Cold temperatures are no excuse to forgo your exercise routine. Resist the urge to slouch on the couch, as staying active even when it’s cold out can help you avoid holiday weight gain and coming down with colds and the flu, plus give you countless other health benefits.
Engage in some consistent, moderate exercise, even if it is in a few short bouts throughout the day. If you can`t get to the gym for a workout, take brisk walks on your lunch break, and take the stairs when possible. You may want to walk with a friend or join a Yoga, or Pilates class.
Regardless of how you maintain your physical activity level during the winter, the important thing is that you find a way to make exercise a part of your day! Hibernation is not an option.
Vitamins & Supplements
Nutritional Supplements – Of course, eating healthfully helps to keep your immune system up to par. Adding nutritional supplements can also help support immunity.
What vitamins can I take to help my immune system?
Antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, and beta-carotene, selenium, and the mineral zinc are all important for proper immune function. Taking a daily multivitamin/mineral supplement can help ensure good nutritional status as well.
How do those vitamins work to help me?
Antioxidants, such as vitamins C, E, and beta-carotene, and the antioxidant mineral selenium protect cells from damaging substances called free radicals. Vitamin C plays a vital role in many immune mechanisms. The need for vitamin C increases under periods of stress, such as during an infection, when it is more rapidly depleted from the body. Vitamin C also works closely with other antioxidants in the body, like vitamin E. Both vitamins C and E work together in the body to fight off free radicals and protecting healthy cells. Zinc also plays an essential role in the immune system. When blood levels of zinc are low, a number of our immune-protecting mechanisms, such as T-cells and white blood cells are inhibited. A zinc supplement can help you maintain a healthy immune system especially during the winter months.
Vitamin D is perhaps the single most underrated nutrient in the world of nutrition.
Research has discovered a correlation between weakened immune systems and low vitamin D levels, suggesting a possible need for supplementation. Sunshine is the best source of Vitamin D on earth. Unfortunately, during the dreary winter months, most of us simply don’t receive the daily amounts of vitamin D we need to stay healthy at this time of year.
Because sunlight is scarce for many during the cold winter months, it can be very difficult to maintain high enough vitamin D levels, especially if you are not taking a vitamin D3 supplement to make up for the lack of sunlight. Vitamin D has also emerged as the “super star supplement” because of its key role in the proper absorption of calcium for strong bones and teeth and has been shown to support colon, breast, prostate, ovarian, heart and colorectal health. Unfortunately, too many Americans are not getting enough of this “super star supplement.”
In addition, there is some evidence linking low levels of vitamin D to an increased risk of falls among the elderly. Results from 8 studies on more than 2,400 adults age 65 and older looking at vitamin D supplementation for fall prevention showed a minimum of 700-1000 IU of vitamin D daily can substantially reduce risk of falls among older adults.
Are you getting enough Vitamin D?
For dietary recommendations and/or to obtain a quality vitamin D supplement, you should consult with your St Paul MN chiropractor. Most offer nutritional consultations and sell supplements in their clinic.
SAD (seasonal affective disorder)
When confined to the dark days of winter, we tend to stay indoors, become cranky and irritable or depressed, and our sleep-wake cycle can get all goofed up.
Some people may get the “winter blues,” or more severe seasonal affective disorder (SAD). SAD symptoms include low mood, lack of energy and increased sleeping and eating. In fact, if you don’t get enough sunlight in your daily ‘light diet,’ you can suffer deficiency symptoms, such as:
- Poor quality of sleep
- A loss in work performance (especially in night-shift workers)
- Disrupted melatonin regulation
- Depressed cortical brain activity
- Depressed immune function
If you experiences low mood during fall or winter, consider talking to your Minnesota Chiropractor. They can help you determine if you suffer from SAD (seasonal affective disorder), and give recommendations of ways to naturally get more sunlight into your daily life.
Get Your Zzz’s
Sleep – Proper rest is also vital to a well-functioning immune system. Try to get enough sleep/rest each night, and avoid oversleeping during the winter months. Research has found that when you are well-rested you are likely to have a stronger immune response to viruses than when you have not gotten enough sleep. It’s believed that the release of certain hormones during sleep is responsible for boosting your immune system.
It’s important to realize that even if you do everything else right – eat nutritious meals, exercise, manage stress – if you aren’t getting high-quality sleep your health is bound to suffer. Many do not know that aside from affecting your immune system, not sleeping well or not sleeping enough can increase your risk of diabetes. It will also affect your hormone levels and accelerate aging.
As the winter months seem to drag on, it is important to stay positive. Happier people are less likely to develop colds even if they are exposed to cold viruses. Various components of the immune system respond to chemical secretions by the central nervous system that is released when you are happy or sad.
Positive emotions decrease stress hormones, increases and activates some immune cells. On the other hand, negative emotions release the stress hormone which suppresses immune activity.
Play isn’t just for kids. Do something that will make you laugh! Laughter also boosts the number of antibody-producing cells and enhances the effectiveness of T-cells, leading to a stronger immune system, thus improving resistance to disease. Because laughter is contagious and connects us with others, enjoying a few rounds of the giggles with some friends can be some serious therapy.
As you can see, there are many factors within your control that can affect the strength of your immune system and help you live a healthier life. Your St Paul MN chiropractor is an excellent source for strengthening your immune system. Research has shown that chiropractic care boosts the immune system. In fact, people who have regular chiropractic adjustments have up to a 200% stronger immune system than those who don`t.
Using spinal and extremity adjustments, physical therapy, massage therapy, exercise programs and dietary and nutritional counseling, you will feel better, you will have more energy and you will increase your quality of life by strengthening your immune system. You will also reduce your risk of a work, sport or personal injury.