Nurture your Immunity Throughout Winter
by Dr. Hojat Askari, Founder and Medical Director, Thumb Butte Medical Center
Winter is a beautiful season around Greater Prescott, but like everywhere else it’s a fertile breeding ground for respiratory viruses and other infections.
We need to be more vigilant than ever about bolstering our immune systems so we can make it through the season without being knocked down.
Keeping our immune systems strong requires being consistent with many of the same habits that promote overall health: a nutritious diet, adequate exercise and (particularly) sleep, staying hydrated and finding productive ways to cope with stress.
But there are other specific measures you and your family can take to reinforce your immune system to get through the remainder of this season and into the next:
Choose immune-boosting foods
Vitamin C has long been associated with supporting immune health for its role in creating white blood cells and is especially abundant in guava, citrus, bell peppers, strawberries, broccoli and kale. Vitamin D is equally important but harder to find — it’s in salmon and other oily fishes, fortified milks and orange juice, but ask your physician if you should be taking a supplement.
Stay in contact with your friends and family, in person when possible or via calls, texts, letters, Facetime, whatever works best. Studies have shown genes which are positively affected by social connection also impact immunity.
Careful about overtraining
It does boost your immune system, when you’re well, but if you’re starting to feel a little bit “off,” pushing yourself too hard can weaken your immunity further.
But do get out
Sunlight on our skin generates the chemicals your body needs to generate vitamin D on its own, so despite the cold try to expose as much skin as you can to the sun for a few minutes each day (but don’t go for too long without sunscreen).
Wash your hands frequently
Don’t forget this and other fundamentals of basic hygiene. Cover your cough with a tissue or your elbow instead of your hand. Don’t share utensils or napkins with others who might be sick. Wash and cook foods thoroughly to avoid foodborne illness.