Winter is known as the most susceptible time of catching “what’s going around.” Part of the reason for this is a lack of sunlight. With more time indoors and less time enjoying sunshine, our immune systems become more vulnerable.
Sunlight provides us with essential vitamin D and elevates our mood, which in turn, supports our immune system. In addition, a study out of Georgetown University notes that sunlight helps stimulate T cells, which fight infection.
If the weather is behaving, get outdoors! As little as 15-20 minutes of sunshine daily (without sunscreen) can help support immune function.
Here are a few other natural protocols that help boost your immune system naturally:
Several studies indicate that elderberries have antioxidant and anti-viral/anti-bacterial qualities that can prevent colds and flu as well as shorten the duration and intensity of symptoms.
Elderberries are high in vitamin C and have been shown to stimulate the production of white blood cells. Ingesting elderberries when you have the flu can improve and shorten symptoms by 4 days compared to placebo, according to studies.
You can purchase dried elderberries at an herbal shop or online and make your own tea and herbal concoctions at home. Below are a few recipes:
Elderberry Syrup: One way to ingest elderberries is to make Elderberry Syrup.
Here’s what you need and how to make it:
- 3½ cups water
- 2/3 cup black elderberries (dried)
- 2 tablespoons fresh ginger (grated)
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 cup raw honey
- In a medium sauce pan, pour water, elderberries, ginger, cinnamon and cloves. Bring to boil.
- Cover and reduce heat to simmer for about an hour.
- Remove from heat and let cool.
- Mash the elderberries with a spoon.
- Strain through a cheesecloth or strainer, and pour into a glass jar.
- Discard the elderberries—and let the liquid cool to lukewarm.
- Add honey and mix well.
Elderberry syrup can be stored in the refrigerator and stay fresh for up to six months.
Take one tablespoon a day for prevention and 4 tablespoons a day when you have a cold or the flu.
Another way to ingest elderberry and other natural immune-boosting ingredients is Fire Cider. Fire Cider is a bit more intense than Elderberry Syrup and also helps with sinus and respiratory congestion, allergies, digestive issues and fatigue.
Here’s what you need and how to make it:
- 1 large horseradish root
- 1 large ginger root
- 1 large onion
- 1 lemon, unpeeled
- 15-18 cloves of garlic, peeled
- 2-4 habanero peppers
- 1 tablespoon ground or fresh grated turmeric
- 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
- raw apple cider vinegar (with the mother)
- raw honey
- Grate the horseradish and ginger roots (turmeric, too, if you are using fresh)
- Chop the onions, lemon, garlic, and habanero peppers.
- Put contents into a glass canning jar with a tight-fitting lid.
- Sprinkle in the turmeric and black pepper.
- Pour the apple cider vinegar over the contents.
- Lay a piece of parchment paper over the rim of the jar, then screw the lid tightly in place.
- Store the mixture in a dark, cool place. Shake it once daily, and let it infuse for 4 weeks (write the date on the jar—it helps to remember).
- After 4 weeks, strain with a cheesecloth. Squeeze the contents to remove excess liquid through the cheesecloth.
- Add honey to taste.
- Pour the liquid into a sterilized canning jar with a tight lid.
- Store in a cool, dark place.
Fire Cider will stay fresh for up to a year. Be sure to shaking well before using.
You can take one tablespoon a day for prevention. If you have the cold or flu, increase your intake to 3-4 tablespoons a day.
Vitamin D is responsible for regulating up to 2000 genes. It also plays a vital role in every bodily system: brain health, bone and muscles, nervous system, cardiovascular function as well as endocrine and immune activity.
It is estimated that 42% of American adults are vitamin D deficient. Sunlight and diet may not be enough—most people require supplementation.
Recent studies are pointing to vitamin D’s ability to fight upper respiratory infections, such as the common cold and flu.
Vitamin D is thought to boost levels of antimicrobial peptides in the lungs, which act like a natural antibiotic on lung tissue. Vitamin D has also shown promise against asthma attacks.
Supplementing with vitamin D is important for immune health throughout the entire year, but especially during winter months when levels are at their lowest due to less exposure to sunlight.
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When supplementing with Vitamin D, be sure that you are also taking a bioavailable form of magnesium, at a different time of day. Vitamin D requires magnesium for its own absorption and will utilize stores in the body for its own use. Magnesium is responsible for over 300 roles in the body, including supporting the immune system, so don’t end up with a magnesium deficiency! Be sure to supplement.