Keep Your Immune System Healthy This Winter

Keep Your Immune System Healthy This Winter

As seen on Midday in Kansas, December 10, 2012.

Winter’s the perfect storm for your immune system: added stress around the holidays, less sleep, and cold and flu season.

Whether you’re trying to ward off illness or kick a current cold to the curb, Jessica Kellner at Mother Earth Living magazine offers these tips:

Eat Right
Fruits and veggies are important year-round, but we’ll focus on vitamins A and C.

Vitamin A: Guards against bad bacteria, increases white blood cell counts and is an antioxidant, helping the body defend against the harmful free radicals that can damage cells and weaken the immune system.

What to Eat: Generally deep red or orange fruits and vegetables, such as carrots, sweet potatoes and pumpkins – and they’re in season now.

NOTE: Be careful not to “superdose” on vitamin A, though, as other health issues can arise.

Vitamin C: Helps your body produce white blood cells and defend against harmful pathogens and microorganisms.

What to Eat: Broccoli, red peppers and citrus fruits

Zinc: Powerful antioxidant, helping the body produce white blood cells and encouraging healing.

What to Eat: Whole grains, red kidney beans, green peas, dark-meat chicken and lean beef

Try these delicious recipes to excite both your taste buds and immune system:

Ziti With Chicken and Broccoli in a Creamy Sauce

Blueberry Banana Smoothie

Other Lifestyle Factors
Don’t forget to exercise, work to reduce your stress levels and get enough sleep. All three of these factors might sound hard to implement, but they have lifelong benefits.

Go Herbal
If you’re looking to additional help to boost your immune system, you might try herbal supplements. You should be able to find these at your local natural foods store. Keep in mind that these supplements work differently for everyone.

Andrographis (Andrographis paniculata): Historically been used to treat colds, fevers, bronchitis, diarrhea and liver disorders. Andrographis has been the subject of extensive research supporting its actions as a natural immune booster and liver protectant.

Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus): Shown in studies to reduce the number of colds and to reduce cold symptoms once a patient does get sick.

Berberine: Found in several herbs including Oregon grape root (Berberis aquifolium), barberry (Berberis vulgaris) and goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis). A potent antimicrobial, berberine is effective against bacterial diarrhea, intestinal parasite infections and chronic bacterial conjunctivitis. Note: If you buy goldenseal, make sure the producer harvests sustainably, as the plant is endangered.

Echinacea (Echinacea spp.): One of the top-selling herbal remedies, echinacea has a number of antioxidant and immune-stimulating constituents. It’s at its most effective when taken at the first sign of illness — and its effectiveness is dependent on heavy dosing.

Medicinal mushrooms: Shiitake, maitake, cordyceps and reishi are all potent immune boosters, as well as cancer fighters. You can often find a blend of these mushrooms available as an immune-stimulating supplement.

Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea): If stress is an illness trigger for you, consider rhodiola, an herb that helps prevent adrenal exhaustion, helping the body cope with stress.

To find out more, check out Mother Earth Living at
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