Ever wonder how many times a preschooler catches a cold? Studies show that children under seven can suffer nine to twelve colds a year, while adolescents and adults can have up to seven per year. There are over one billion colds in the United States each year and according to the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention (CDC), 22 million school days are lost to the common cold.
Your immune system is what protects your body from harmful viruses, bacteria, fungi and other microbes that may enter the body. It is made up of different cells, tissues, organs and proteins that work together as a system to eliminate foreign invaders or prevent them from causing infections. Supporting your immune system is the best way to insure a healthy winter season free of colds, flu and other respiratory illnesses.
Here are some simple lifestyle practices to boost your immune system naturally:
Get some sun – Even on cloudy days, the sun is working its magic. Safe levels of daily sun exposure triggers your body to produce adequate Vitamin D levels, which jumpstart your immune system and protect you from respiratory infections. You can also take Vitamin D supplements.
Be active – Getting the body moving for at least 20 minutes a day stimulates production of immune cells that fight off infections. Take your dog for a walk, join a fitness class, or just kick around a soccer ball with your kids.
Sleep – Adults need at least eight hours of uninterrupted sleep per night, while children over five years old need a minimum of ten. For infants and toddlers, it is recommended that they sleep for at least 12 hours a night. This allows the body to replenish nutrients and provide building blocks for tissue rejuvenation and development. Lack of sleep decreases your immune system, causing mental deterioration and body fatigue.
Improve your diet with food high in antioxidants.
Eat at least 2 servings of fruit and 3 servings of vegetables each day. The more colorful the better.
Reduce your sugar intake. Sugar is the favorite meal for viruses, bacteria and yeast.
Reduce dairy foods such as milk, cheese and sour cream. It can decrease mucous production and nasal congestion, which can become a breeding ground for germs.
Minimize your stress – Studies show that chronic stress reduces your immune strength over time, so taking those few extra moments each day can really help build a healthy body and mind.
Change in lifestyle is a safe and reliable strategy to stimulate and strengthen your immunity, but if you are in the midst of a full-blown cold or flu and clearly symptomatic, natural remedies can ease your suffering and help get rid of the viruses quickly. Before starting any new supplements, consult your pediatrician or internist to make sure the symptoms are not related to a bacterial infection, allergies, a deeper respiratory condition or more.
Natural Immune Boosters for everyone’s medicine cabinet:
Olive Leaf Extract: Prevents and eliminates viral infections. Excellent for mild fungal and bacterial overgrowth. For children, look for olive leaf extract in liquid form. It is easy to drop into applesauce or almond milk.
Vitamin C: Stimulates immune cells that gobble up cold viruses and protects against free radical damage caused by infections. Chewable and liquid Vitamin C are available for kids. Vitamin C can cause loose stool and bowel irritation so watch for high dosages.
Quercetin: Reduces histamine release and inflammation, reducing nasal congestion and post-nasal drip. Can be found as a chewable and children formulas.
Garlic Extract: Helps to fight infection and boost immune function. Non-odor formulas available. Take when mild symptoms start such as sore throat and nasal congestion.
Andrographis: Well-known in traditional Asian medicine as an immune system booster to fight viral infections. Difficult to find in pediatric doses. More commonly used by adults.
Zinc gluconate lozenges: Reduces the duration of symptoms of the common cold, great for sore throats. Children dosages come in lollipop form. Avoid lozenges with sugar and food coloring.
Elderberry extract: Also known as “Sambucus Nigra”. Enhances the body’s immune system and works as an anti-viral and bacterial agent. It can reduce mucous membrane swelling and nasal congestion. Comes in liquid and pill form. Organic is best.