We’ve entered the new year, and the days are getting longer now, but we haven’t put cold and flu season behind us yet. The saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” is particularly true for the common cold. If you come down a virus, there’s little to be done but try to alleviate the symptoms and wait it out. Read on for five ways to naturally ward off colds.
Tip #1: Humidify the Air Around You
It’s no coincidence that we’re more likely to get sick during the colder months of the year. Scientists have found that the influenza virus thrives in low humidity conditions. The more active the virus, the more people are likely to get infected. When the air is warmer, it retains more moisture. Viruses are less able to survive and to be transmitted when the air is wetter. Take advantage of this by running humidifiers in your home—in particular, your bedroom!
Tip #2: Find Ways to Keep Active During the Winter
Exercising on a regular basis is one of the most effective ways to amp up your body’s natural defenses. A study conducted jointly by researchers at the University of South Carolina and the University of Massachusetts compared rates of upper respiratory tract infections among inactive and moderately active adults between the ages of 20 – 70 over the course of a year. All 641 participants were determined to be healthy at the outset of the study. The researchers found that moderately active individuals contracted fewer infections, and that the discrepancy was highest in the fall and winter. Participants who participated in moderate physical activity during those months reduced their risk of catching a cold by an average of 33%!
Tip #3: Fortify Your Immune System with Vitamin D
There’s much talk about zinc as a means of preventing and shortening the duration of colds, but it seems the supplement you should really take is vitamin D. To ensure your immune system is prepared to tackle any nasty pathogens you encounter, you need to maintain adequate vitamin D levels. According to a study that followed 340 children during flu season, half of whom were given 1,2000 IU of vitamin D and half of whom were given placebo pills, taking vitamin D can decrease your risk of coming down with the flu by 40%. Additional studies have shown that vitamin D has a similar effect against other infections.
Tip #4: Get at Least 7 Hours of Sleep Nightly
You probably know how important it is to get enough sleep. Unfortunately, many of us still cut ourselves short of the recommended minimum of 7 hours. A well-designed study recently highlighted the connection between a lack of sleep and an increased risk of catching a cold.
Study participants allowed researchers to drop particles of rhinovirus— the infectious agent responsible for the common cold—into their noses and conduct thorough examinations of their nasal cavities. The researchers, who were affiliated with the University of California San Francisco, Carnegie Mellon University, and the University of Pittsburgh, found that participants who got six hours or less sleep were more likely to catch a cold.
The researchers took into account other factors that could increase your susceptibility to a virus, such as smoking … drinking … stress levels … income … and activity levels. They also considered age, gender, body mass index (BMI), and other standard demographic information. All things considered, participants who failed to get at least 7 hours of sleep were over 4 times more likely to get sick.
Tip #5: Load Your Plate with Veggies and Fruits
According to Dr. Woodson Merrell, M.D., Executive Director of Beth Israel’s Center for Health and Healing, one of the many benefits of eating a plant-based diet is that it helps you stay healthier during cold and flu season. Plant-based foods are rich in phytonutrients, which help our bodies fend off diseases. Papayas and pineapples also contain proteolytic enzymes, which break down and flush out the residue left behind once your body has killed off an infection. To maximize the nutritional value of the fruits and vegetables, you should eat them raw whenever possible.