Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Immune Boosters

As the leaves fall and the rains remind us of what it means to live in the Pacific Northwest, many people start worrying about they can do to keep their immune system healthy and avoid colds and flus.

There are supplements available that may play in role in helping to "boost" one's immune system, but the cornerstone of staying healthy remains a good lifestyle.

Supplements like vitamin C may decrease the severity of the symptoms, but this nutrient is already in common foods like apples, peppers, and broccoli. Some research has even found that vitamin C in a natural food-based form is more potent than anything available in a pill. Combined with the other nutrients, water, and fiber that an apple has to offer, whole foods are often a better option than a pill.

One immune-boosting vitamin that Seattlites are challenged to get naturally is Vitamin D, the so-called "sunshine vitamin." Our famous gray winters leave the vast majority of Pacific Northwesterners deficient in this vitamin, so supplements may be necessary. Overdose is rare but possible, so check with your physician before taking this supplement.

Other lifestyle options also help support immune function. Regular sleep (seven to nine hours each night, for most people) can play a major role in helping the body fight off the various viruses lurking on doorknobs, keyboards, and schoolchildren. Moderate exercise (30 to 60 minutes, five days a week) can be an important part of immune support, though check with your doctor is you're new to exercise. Finally, good old-fashioned hand- and face-washing is a major part of preventing the spread of seasonal diseases.

Diet, exercise, sleep, and soap: a dynamite and inexpensive combination to help protect yourself and your family from this season's sniffles.

- Bill Walter, ND, Resident and Andrew Parkinson, ND, Core Faculty at Bastyr Center for Natural Health

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