7 Ways to Build our Immune System

With winter cold months slowly approaching, we are looking at some of the reason why colds and flue are more common in the winter times and provide some suggestions of how we can increase our body’s line of defense against these viruses.

Influenza can occur at any time of year, but most cases follow a relatively predictable seasonal pattern.

Cold air affects our first line of defence

Common cold and flu viruses try to enter our bodies through our noses. However, our nasal lining has sophisticated defense mechanisms against these microbial intruders.

Our noses constantly secret mucus. Viruses become trapped in the sticky snot, which is perpetually moved by tiny hairs called cilia that line our nasal passages. We swallow the whole lot, and our stomach acids neutralize the microbes.

However, cold air cools the nasal passage and slows down mucus clearance. Once a virus has penetrated this defense mechanism, the immune system takes control of fighting off the intruder. Phagocytes, which are specialized immune cells, engulf and digest viruses. However, researchers have also linked cold air to a decrease in this activity.

Enclosed spaces

Experts say you may be more likely to get sick during the winter months, but not because of the rain. They say cold weather forces people to be in enclosed spaces longer and increases the risk of infection. They add that viruses tend to live longer in colder temperatures and lower humidity.

Respiratory infections are transferred more readily in the wintertime for two reasons:

The first is we spend more time in enclosed spaces, close to each other, so that we have more prolonged face-to-face contact.

The second reason has to do with humidity. When we transmit viruses from one person to another, we are usually 3 feet [from] each other — the so called ‘breathing zone,’” Schaffner explained. “When we’re in a time of low humidity such as we have in the wintertime, it appears that that little bit of moisture that surrounds the virus evaporates, so the virus remains in the air for a sufficiently prolonged time so that the person who is sufficiently close to me can breathe it in.”

Not enough Sunlight

A new working paper distributed by The National Bureau of Economic Research, found higher sunlight levels are linked to less severe flu seasons.

This study contributes to a growing body of research that links vitamin D to influenza risk.

When ultraviolet radiation in sunlight hits bare skin, it triggers the production of vitamin D.

You can also get vitamin D from certain foods, but it is difficult to get enough of this essential nutrient from dietary sources alone, so researchers have been looking at the benefits of supplements.

Naturally remedies that can help protect us against colds and flu:

Frequent handwashing

Viruses can live on the hands, which is why regular handwashing is one of the best ways to avoid getting and spreading a cold.
When washing their hands, people should use soap and water and rub their hands together for about 20 seconds. Hand sanitizers containing alcohol are an option if soap and water are not available.

Eating a well-balanced diet

Eating a healthy, balanced diet can help keep you well. Eat a rainbow of vegetables and fruits daily to ensure you’re getting a variety of nutrients. Lean proteins and complex carbohydrates, like brown rice and quinoa, are also part of a healthy diet. Minimize processed foods, sugar and beverages that have no nutrients, like pop.

Drink plenty of fluids.

Water is the best. Many of us have heard that we should drink eight glasses of water per day. That can be hard to do. Instead, try drinking a glass of water when you wake up to start your day off right. Your body is dehydrated from sleeping, so this is a great way to remedy that immediately. Another tip: If you like warm drinks in the winter, try non-caffeinated teas, which you can include in your daily water tally.


Get a good night’s sleep.

Sleep is a regenerative process for your body. When you are sleep deprived your natural immune cells, or T cells, go down, and inflammatory cytokines (inflammation cells) go up. That means good sleep results in strengthening your immunity.

Stress less.

Stress drains your ability to stay strong. If you have big or little stressors daily, your system is constantly pushed to overcome that stress. One way I de-stress is by giving myself time for “self-care.” This means different things for different people, but essentially it’s doing things that “refill your tank.” I like to read a good book, get a massage or exercise. Even singing or prayer can lift you up.

Exercise regularly.

We often think of exercise as a way to prevent chronic illnesses, such as heart disease and high blood pressure, or as a way to keep weight in control. But exercise also can contribute to general good health including a healthy immune system. Exercise can promote good blood circulation, which allows your cells and substances of the immune system to move through your body freely to do their job efficiently.


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