Getting the immune system ready for the winter

By Emilie Paradis

As the leaves fall and the trees are left bare, it is a sure sign that the cold season is upon us. Just like we prepare the backyard, our wardrobe and the car for the coming winter, we should do the same with our body.

The immune system is a wonderful and complex body defense that adapts to its internal and external environments. It warns us of the state of our health. Paying attention to signs and symptoms can help slow down and maybe prevent certain illnesses.

Because we cannot always get all our nutrients through food, taking supplements from a reputable brand can help maintain and strengthen the immune system. Below are some supplements proven to do just that. Although supplements are usually very safe, it is always important to talk with your health-care provider to make sure that they are safe for you.

Vitamin C is a great antioxidant and increases immunity. Vitamin C supplements are best taken on an empty stomach. When using capsules, be careful to get a non-ascorbic form. Many supplements on the shelf are ascorbic acid from synthetic GMO corn crops. One of the best supplement sources of Vitamin C is Camu Camu powder.

Vitamin D The best source of Vitamin D is obviously sunlight! However, living in Canada, we suffer a sunshine shortage during the winter and cannot soak up enough rays. Vitamin D is a powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, and it is a precursor for many other hormones and calcium that helps to strengthen bones and prevent osteoporosis.

Researchers from the University of Geneva found a clear correlation between geographical latitude and hip fractures, one of the main consequences of osteoporosis, meaning that in the northern countries the incidence is higher than in the sunnier south. There are a few options to replace the loss of sunshine – we can fly to the sunny south during the winter, or we can supplement with Vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 is fat-soluble which means it is best absorbed with food. Select a liquid or gel capsule for better absorption.

Zinc is essential for a healthy immune system and is also beneficial for the skin and neurological growth; it is a great antioxidant and anti-inflammatory mineral. It is best taken on an empty stomach. Studies show that Zinc picolinate is more easily absorbed.

Probiotics Much research demonstrates the connection between our gut and our mental and physical health! Probiotics are known to nourish and increase the growth of the good gut bacteria which results in positive effects on the body. Probiotics can be taken in supplement form but are also easily found in fermented food sources like kimchi, sauerkraut and natto.

It is not only about taking supplements, it’s also important what else you do! Adopting good habits and a healthy lifestyle also benefit the immune system.

Fresh air Breathing fresh air can strengthen your immune system, increase oxygen in your body and boost energy and mental clarity. During the winter season, opening the window in the bedroom for an hour or so can help to oxygenate the room and make it cooler for a better night of sleep.

Sleep Many studies show the health benefits of sleeping between seven and nine hours a night. Not only does it have positive effects on the immune system, it also helps to prevent weight gain, regulate hormones, improve your mood and increase productivity, performance and memory.

Water Our body is more than 60-per-cent water, so we need to drink water. It helps to carry oxygen and nutrients to the cells, and it removes toxins. How much should you drink? Depending on your size, activity level and where you live, it is recommended to drink ½ to 1 oz of water per pound of body weight each day. The colour of your urine can be a great indicator of your hydration level. Don’t wait to be thirsty to drink water!

Be healthy, be happy!

 Emilie Paradis is co-owner of InStep on Bank Street, where she is a holistic nutritionist, personal trainer and mobility coach.

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