Winter is a mixed bag. On one hand, we have the holidays, vacations, snow sports and cozy nights by the fireplace. However, we’re also at greater risk for colds, flus and other infections.
There are lots of theories about why this happens: indoor spaces become petri dishes for emerging viruses; viruses thrive in cold weather; we get less immune-boosting vitamin D, etc.
So what do we do? Since it’s impractical to hunker down in the house all winter or wear a “haz-mat” suit to run errands, the best approach is to enhance our ability to fight off viruses. These measures are not complicated, and ultimately reward us with better health all year round.
Common sense recommendations
The first step towards preventing viral infections is to simply wash our hands. Without getting too graphic, viruses can persist on door knobs, conference tables and other surfaces for hours or even days. While the guy sneezing in the next cube may seem like the most obvious danger, there are others that put us at risk. Maybe everyone’s healthy at your meeting, but what about the one two hours earlier? No need to be paranoid — a thorough hand washing will greatly lower your risk.
Next to hand washing, sleep is probably your best bet to maintain good health. Many of us don’t get adequate sleep and it can really dampen the immune system. The fatigue you feel from burning it at both ends can translate to the cellular level. Set a consistent bedtime preferably before 11 p.m., and stick with it.
Hydration is also key. Without proper hydration, immune cells can’t do their job of communicating danger and rallying the troops. We also generate inflammation which further impedes immunity and our healing process. What most people forget is that dehydration is more of a risk during cold weather than in the summer heat.
Be sure to move your body. Exercise is proven to support immunity and doesn’t have to be intense to offer significant benefits – in fact, intense marathons may do more harm than good. Personally, I recommend taking walks in nature, which boosts the immune system and state of mind. Keep it simple, even just 30 minutes a day will support metabolism, immunity and overall longevity.
Nourish the system
Good food is essential for strong immunity. Unfortunately, just like sleep, we tend to neglect nutrition by skipping meals, eating processed foods or overindulging – especially during the holidays. As a baseline, I recommend lean proteins, whole grains and legumes, healthy fats and colorful fruits and vegetables, all of which provide excellent immune support.
One of the best ways to support immunity is mushrooms, both medicinal and culinary. Mushroom cell walls contain beta-glucans, a family of carbohydrates that have been shown to energize immune cells and help them orchestrate a strong response against invaders.
Mushrooms are particularly helpful because they seem to “train” the immune response. In other words, they help immune cells to react appropriately to invaders, without under-responding or acting too aggressively, creating an autoimmune response. Essentially, medicinal mushrooms help to balance and modulate immunity to function optimally, while supporting other areas of health as well.
Among the many medicinal mushrooms, I recommend Coriolus, Ganoderma, Agaricus and Cordyceps. I recommend a unique, botanically-enhanced formula that incorporates mushrooms grown in a sterile environment on a bed of immune-boosting herbs, for additional benefits.
So far we’ve discussed ways to bolster the immune system. But there are also a variety of botanicals that have direct, powerful antiviral activity. These can be made into tea or an infusion; can be used in cooking; taken in capsule form or as tinctures, among other delivery systems.
Some powerful anti-viral botanicals include:
- Lemon balm.
- Licorice root.
- Olive leaf.
- Siberian ginseng.
I also recommend a Tibetan herbal formula that supports immunity and cardiovascular health. This blend, which has been used for thousands of years, combines Iceland moss, cardamom fruit, costus root, beal tree fruit, golden cinquefoil herb, chebulic myrobalan, red saunders and other antioxidant-rich botanicals. With more than 50 years of published clinical studies substantiating its benefits, this formula is one of the most trusted around the world for immune other benefits.
We have been gifted with amazing bodies that automatically know how to fight viral infections. With the right combination of food, rest, exercise and supplements, we can maximize the immune system’s protective impact and sail through cold and flu season with extra vitality to celebrate long-term health.