Staying Healthy This Winter

December 13th, 2015

By Elaina George, MD

The winter months increase the chance of illness. Two contributing factors are limited sun exposure and close proximity to others who are sick. There are plenty of natural steps you can take to decrease your risk of illness. Here are several:

  1. Rest – The immune system is more effective when you get adequate sleep.
  2. Avoid sugar – Sugar depresses the immune system and promotes inflammation/infection.
  3. Consider taking Vitamin D3 – Depending on where you live, sun exposure may go down significantly during the colder seasons. Vitamin D acts as an antiviral and boosts the immune system.
  4. Take Vitamin C – Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and helps boost the immune system. Take 1000 mg a day.
  5. Wash your hands with soap and water – Soap is antibacterial when coupled with the friction of rubbing your hands together. Avoid using alcohol-based gels as they are absorbed through your skin and can disrupt hormones.
  6. Take coconut oil – Taking 2 tablespoons daily or taking gel caps (2000 mg) boosts the effectiveness of the liver, one of the most important organs for detoxifying the body.
  7. Take probiotics – These are the bacteria and yeast that normally live in the digestive tract. Approximately 70 percent of the immune system is contained in the GI tract. Processed foods, genetically modified foods, and antibiotics can destroy your natural bacteria (otherwise known as normal flora). Probiotics are essential to keep the normal flora in balance. Normal flora suppresses the growth of bad bacteria and yeast, boosts the immune system, decreases inflammation, and improves digestion.
  8. Avoid stress – Stress decreases the effectiveness of the immune system.
  9. Avoid alcohol – Alcohol can depress the immune system. Drink in moderation and avoid alcohol if you are feeling ill.
  10. Use nasal saline – It is an easy way to decrease exposure to bacteria and virus particles that enter through the nose.
  11. Don't touch – If you are exposed to someone who is sick and you touch them, avoid rubbing your eyes and putting your fingers near your mouth or nose. Illness is commonly introduced through your mucous membranes.
  12. Avoid dairy products – If you feel congested or have a wet cough, milk, yogurt, cheese, and ice cream make it more difficult to expel mucus by coughing or blowing your nose.

Dr. Elaina George is the chairman of the Liberty HealthShare Physician Advisory Board.