by Rochelle Riservato
There is no surefire way to avoid all winter maladies. But here are some steps you can take to protect yourself from seasonal ills and minimize any effects if you do catch them.
On this page are a few suggestions by Dr. Tracie Di Marco, a primary care physician at Health Quest Medical Practice in Hyde Park.
Use exercise to boost immunity and reduce stress.
"For a strong immune system, the same principles apply as during the rest of the year," says Dr. Di Marco. "Exercise has measurable effects on immunity."
Exercise can boost circulation and help reduce stress. Getting the recommended 30 minutes a day can be as simple as taking a 30-minute walk. But since winter weather may occasionally get in your way, consider checking into exercise classes or exercising with DVDs. Besides the obvious benefits of boosting your immune system, starting a new health regimen during the colder months can be a smart way to combat seasonal cabin fever.
Partake of probiotics.
Probiotics are the good bacteria in our digestive tract, and they help enhance mucosal immunity. Eating foods that contain these bacteria can help prevent certain gastrointestinal infections.
But don’t let anyone sweet-talk you into the sweeter versions. A probiotic food, such as kefir or yogurt, should not contain sugar. Sugar encourages the growth of flora, such as yeast, but not the good bacteria from which your digestive tract benefits.
Be smart about vitamins.
Dr. Di Marco believes most people don’t need to take vitamins, and the average person’s nutritional needs can be met by eating a variety of vegetables and fruits. The body’s cells require thousands of substances to function, and having an excess of one vitamin can be more harmful than helpful. Plus vitamins and supplements are not regulated; they don’t have to prove they are effective or even list all the ingredients.
Occasionally, however, a nutritional deficiency might call for supplementation. For example, vitamin D3 may be helpful, especially in northern climates with less sunshine. But that does not mean there is no risk. Excessive vitamin D supplementation can be harmful, so it’s smart to discuss the possibility with a medical doctor.
Pursue a plant-based diet.
Because plants are high in micronutrients, vitamins, and antioxidants, a whole food plant-based diet is the best way to boost your nutritional intake. Eat foods that are "close to the earth" and not processed. Avoid overcooking. And use sweeter vegetables, such as sweet potatoes and carrots, to reduce cravings for sweets.
Sprinkle on anti-oxidant rich herbs and fungi.
Although some are skeptical about using herbs, many people swear by their power.
"Some herbs and foods, such as turmeric, garlic, and mushrooms, have been studied for their immune-enhancing properties," remarks Dr. Di Marco, "and more research is being done." But given their possible immune-enhancing properties—and also because they make food tastier—you might toss some garlic into your soup, spice up dishes with a turmeric-rich curry, and sauté some savory mushrooms.
"To simplify," says Dr. Di Marco, "eat whole foods, including lots of plants. Your miraculous body will do the rest."
wash your hands
According to the Center for Disease Control, simple handwashing is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of many types of infection and illness in all settings. Clean hands can stop germs from spreading from one person to another and throughout an entire community.
When should you wash your hands?
● Before, during, and after preparing food
● Before eating food
● Before and after caring for someone who is sick
● Before and after treating a cut or wound
● After using the toilet
● After changing diapers
● After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing
● After touching an animal, animal feed, or animal waste
● After touching garbage
What's the right way?
Wet your hands with clean running water (warm or cold), and apply soap. Rub your hands together to make a lather and scrub them well; be sure to scrub the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails. Continue rubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds. Rinse your hands well under running water. Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry.
( information below is not provided by or in association with Health Quest Medical Practice )
Foods that CAN BOOST the immune system
1. Echinacea - Combined with goldenseal, another herb, or enjoyed alone as tea, this member of the daisy family is thought to prevent and treat upper respiratory tract infections, as well as the common cold.
2. Ginseng - Its main active component, ginsenosides, has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer properties.
3. Garlic - This spice has had a long history of medicinal value. In recent studies, it was reconfirmed that garlic indeed may have cardiovascular, anti-microbial, and anti-neoplastic properties.
4. Ginger - This herb has been shown to reduce inflammation, cardiovascular conditions, blood clots, and cholesterol. Researchers found that animal subjects given ginger extracts had a significant reduction in cholesterol and blood clotting qualities.
5. Turmeric - This spice contains curcumin, which has notable antioxidant properties. It also has antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and stomach- soothing benefits. It reduces inflammation by stimulating the adrenal glands to increase the hormone that lessens inflammation. Turmeric also helps digestive problems by stimulating bile flow.
6. Gingko Biloba - Gingko biloba's leaves contain antioxidant compounds called bilobalides and ginkgolides that protect the body from damage caused by free radicals.
7. Reishi - This is a bitter mushroom also known as ganoderma. A popular herb in Chinese medicine, it is attributed to assisting in longevity and strengthening immunity.
8. Astragalus - This herb stimulates the immune system and combats the common cold and flu. It can lower stomach acidity, resulting in an increase in the body's metabolic rates and the promotion of waste elimination.
Eating foods that boost the immune system can be a cost effective way to maintain health. Coupled with a healthy lifestyle, sufficient rest, and a positive outlook in life, staying healthy does not have to cost an arm and a leg.