Fall and winter is a festive and wonderful time of the year, but it is often accompanied by a slew of illnesses; from cough and colds, to more serious infections like flu and pneumonia. Many families struggle to stay healthy which results in many missed work or school days.

Often people attribute their cough, cold, fever, malaise and body aches to the flu but only 20% of influenza-like infections are actually caused by the influenza virus. The widely promoted flu shot only protects a person against influenza viruses, but not other types of infections. Respiratory infections can be caused by viruses, bacteria, or fungi and yeast.

Several easy tips that can keep you healthy naturally are listed below. This is appropriate for individuals who have a generally healthy immune system. If you are more prone to getting sick, make sure to visit your Naturopathic Doctor for a more comprehensive plan.

  • Vitamin D is a powerful immunomodulator that has anti-microbial effects and a study revealed that it can help reduce the risk of flu by nearly 50%.
  • Probiotics daily can help to strengthen your first-line of defense against microbes and not only do probiotics keep your immune system healthy and help prevent you from getting infections, it also helps with allergies and your digestive function.
  • Natural Immune Boosters such as oil of oregano, garlic, grapefruit seed extract, echinacea, goldenseal, elderberry, zinc and vitamin C, are very useful as they offer effective protection against a broad spectrum of bacteria, viruses, and protozoa in your body. And unlike pharmaceutical antibiotics, they do not appear to lead to resistance and the development of ‘super germs’.
  • Reducing sugar intake can prevent infections because sugar is an immunosuppressant which means it suppresses the immune cells from attacking harmful microbes. Sugar should be avoided if you are already sick as it is a mucus-producing agent also and it can worsen symptoms of sneezing, cold and coughs. Excessive sugar and indulgence in sweets also stresses the body which is why the incidence of infections tend to rise after holidays.
  • Avoid dairy as it is also a mucus producing food and it is pro-inflammatory and it can worsen and prolong the symptoms of upper respiratory infections.
  • Get ample sleep because sleep helps keep the immune system strong and it is during this time that the immune system is the most active. During sleep, the body’s repair mechanisms are also actively repairing damaged cells and recycling old ones.
  • Stress Reduction is important in keeping the immune system strong as chronic physical, emotional or mental stress can start weakening the immune system. Working late nights, not having ample rest, eating a poor diet, having unhealthy relationships are all examples of stressors for the body.

It’s also advised to use antibiotics only if absolutely necessary as overuse of antibiotics can lead to antibiotic resistance. Antibiotics also kill off essential flora (probiotics) in the body which can lead to an increased risk of yeast infections, digestive issues, and increased susceptibility to infections in the long run. Giving the body a chance to try to fight off an infection actually helps the immune cells to learn how to fight off microbes. Fever is also a natural body response that helps to fight infection so fevering can in effect, shorten the number of days that someone is ill.

Try adopting some of the strategies above to help you maintain a healthy immune system this season!