“I always get sick at this time of the year. How can I boost my immunity?”
The flu shot is very valuable, but since it doesn’t guarantee that you won’t get the flu, I recommend taking a few additional measures to keep your immune system as healthy as possible.
How to boost your immunity
The first way to strengthen your immunity is to get enough sleep. Research has shown that people who sleep less than seven hours a night are three times more likely to catch a cold or the flu. I encourage everyone to try to get eight hours of sleep each night. (Keep in mind, these serious health conditions are linked to poor sleep.)
In my clinic, I test everyone’s vitamin D because in the winter, we don’t get much of this essential vitamin through sunlight in Canada, so many people are deficient — sometimes even those who are taking a supplement. Often, when people tell me they get sick frequently, their tests show that their vitamin D levels are insufficient, so I guide them on how much they should be taking.
There are a few supplements that are generally associated with boosting immunity, but research doesn’t actually show that they can prevent you from getting a cold or the flu. Not sure what you have? Here’s how to tell.
There’s been little research to support taking vitamin C, except for one study that shows benefits for a very specific demographic: those exposed to brief periods of intense physical exercise and/or cold temps.
According to research on echinacea, it can’t prevent illness. But, if someone starts taking the herb at the onset of a cold or flu, it might help reduce the duration and severity of illness.
Zinc has more potential benefits. It offers mild preventive effects and can help reduce the duration and severity of illness if taken at the onset of a cold or flu.
There has also been some promising research on probiotics. One study showed that people who take probiotics have a lower risk of contracting a virus, so there could be immune-boosting benefits to keeping your gut healthy with probiotic supplements and foods, such as yogurt. Check out 13 more foods that are high in natural probiotics.
One last precaution…
Of course, a supplement can’t actually fight off a virus — it just helps support your immune system when faced with an illness — so it’s also important to maintain proper hygiene to help reduce your risk. Washing your hands often and staying home from work when you’re sick are key ways to help prevent the spread of germs and keep yourself and those around you healthy.
Dr. Tomah Phillips is a naturopathic doctor at Kinetic Patterns in Vancouver.