Boost Your Immune System

~ By Laura Brieser-Smith ~

This year is an especially bad one for colds and flu, which makes it an important time to look at what you can do to boost your immune system and give you an edge to fight off all the”bugs” you may encounter.

For starters, try to eat a generally healthy diet, as even slightly less than optimal nutrition can compromise your immune function.  This means eating lots of fruits and vegetables, limiting refined sugars and saturated fats, and drinking plenty of water.  Among some of the most important nutrients are the antioxidant vitamins C, E, and A.  These help out because they are great at shielding your immune cells from damage, allowing them to do their job of fighting infection.  Vitamin C has probably received the most attention for its cold-fighting abilities.  Current research shows that vitamin C is probably not going to keep you from getting a cold, but it may lessen the severity and duration of the cold.  Vitamins A and E are very good at keeping the mucus membranes of your nose and mouth healthy.  These membranes are invaluable for filtering out “invaders.”  Vitamin D may play a role in maintaining immune health, although researchers are not sure of its exact role.  The mineral zinc has also received a lot of attention recently for its immune boosting properties.  Zinc lozenges are the best way to take this immune helper.  However, be careful not to take high doses for longer than five days, as this can actually begin to suppress the immune system.

In addition to vitamins and minerals, there are several herbal supplements you may find beneficial.  Probably the best known one is echinacea.  This works by stimulating immune cells to work.  Similar to vitamin C, echinacea won’t necessarily keep you from getting sick, but it will shorten the duration and lessen the symptoms of colds and flu.  Other immune boosting herbs worth trying are garlic, elderberry, turmeric, and ginger.  Researchers are also finding that probiotics (healthy bacteria found in the intestine) influence the development of some aspects of the immune system.

Lastly, don’t forget the other things that are so important to keeping you healthy.  The number one thing you can do to stay healthy is to wash your hands frequently.  In addition, get plenty of sleep, donÕt get overly stressed, and include regular exercise into your schedule.  Keep these immune boosting tools in mind to help you stay healthy all winter long.

Laura Brieser-SmithLaura Brieser-Smith, RD, MPH, CHFS is the owner of Healthy Designs, LLC which provides nutrition counseling and personal training to clients in their homes or offices. She can be reached at 303-635-1131 or at

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