Valerie Smith, APRN
10 Ways to Boost Your Immunity During the Winter
The winter season is often an overwhelming time for our patients. These colder months of the year tend to be full of sickness and health difficulties, which can make managing an autoimmune disease quite the challenge.
Here at Paducah Rheumatology, our goal is to help our patients have a healthy winter.
We understand that living with an autoimmune disease is hard and building a robust immune system might feel like an impossible feat, but the lifestyle choices we make on a daily basis can have a big impact on our overall health and well-being.
Although there is no overnight solution that will instantly help you fight off illness, we have compiled a list of ten preventative and proactive measures that you can do to support your immune system during these cold, winter months.
10 S’s for Better Health this Winter
An active lifestyle is one of the best ways to maintain your health. In fact, it’s vital to your health.
Your body needs movement to maintain strength, increase blood flow, encourage white blood cell production, improve mental health, and the list goes on and on.
Strive to incorporate exercise into your daily routine, even in small doses. You don’t need to overdo it to see the benefits of a workout.
Your immune system needs sleep to function.
When you sleep, your immune system goes into repair mode. Sleep deprivation can weaken your immune system, making it difficult to combat illness.
Aim to get quality sleep in adequate amounts.
No matter the time of year, we always encourage our patients to eat a well-balanced diet that consists of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, seeds, nuts, and other healthy food choices.
But let’s be real, following a diet can be a struggle for many of us. If you fit into that category, try out a new approach by focusing on the snacks you consume.
One way you can make healthier food choices is by making a conscious choice to eat immune-boosting snacks. Those baby-step efforts will add up and make a difference in the long run.
While you are working toward making smarter food choices, try limiting your sugar intake as well.
Research shows that sugar leads to inflammation, and autoimmune diseases cause plenty of inflammation on their own. Cut out those sugary sweets and your immune system will thank you.
Although it is ideal for us to get all our needed vitamins from the foods we eat, sometimes our bodies need extra nutrient support and that support can come from vitamins, minerals, herbs, and spices.
Consider taking one or more of the following supplements: vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin B12, vitamin A, vitamin K, iron, calcium, zinc, magnesium, echinacea, garlic, goldenseal, ashwagandha, turmeric, or ginger.
But please, make sure to do so only under a doctor’s supervision. Even too much of a good thing can have negative consequences.
Practice good hygiene. We aren’t talking about going above and beyond to scrub down every surface with fancy cleaning products.
Rather, make it a habit to wash your hands before you eat and after you come home from being out and about.
The National Library of Medicine reports: “Smoking is a prime factor in heart disease, stroke, and chronic lung disease, which cost the United States more than $150 billion a year. The relationship between smoking and cardiovascular disease is well documented, as is the association of smoking with increased levels of inflammatory markers and accelerated atherosclerosis.”
If you smoke, consider quitting as a way to boost your immune system and decrease inflammation.
Alcohol consumption is also linked to increased inflammation, which in turn, affects our immune function.
The National Library of Medicine explains that “clinicians have long observed an association between excessive alcohol consumption and adverse immune-related health effects such as susceptibility to pneumonia” and that there is “evidence that alcohol disrupts immune pathways in complex and seemingly paradoxical ways.”
Stay sober, and instead, drink more water. When you get dehydrated, your body can struggle to properly remove toxins, waste materials, and other debris that tends to build up in our system.
There is a connection between our immune systems and our mental wellness. Studies have proven time and time again that stress weakens the immune system. In particular, long-term stress interrupts the immune system’s ability to fight off infections.
Furthermore, depression and anxiety are known to lead to higher levels of inflammation. If you feel your mental health needs a boost, we suggest to seek out counseling or therapy.
Making self-care a priority is an excellent way to support your immune system.
The National Institute of Mental Health describes: “Self-care means taking the time to do things that help you live well and improve both your physical health and mental health. When it comes to your mental health, self-care can help you manage stress, lower your risk of illness, and increase your energy.”
Improve Your Immunity with the Guidance of a Rheumatologist
Constant battles with sickness can make it difficult to manage an autoimmune disease.
Our healthcare team here at Paducah Rheumatology has the skills, knowledge, and expertise to help you improve your immune function.
We will take the time to discuss your concerns, answer your questions, and address your individual needs as we come up with a treatment plan designed just for you.
Give us a call at 270-408-6100 to set up a new patient appointment with a physician’s referral.