While germs and viruses circulate year round, the winter months are notorious for peak cold and flu activity. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says that most years, flu activity peaks between December and February.
Not only does the common cold leave you feeling under the weather, it can render you far less productive, even causing you to miss work. Not to mention the fact that colds and flus can tend to worsen your mood, and bring along a lot of irritability. You may even find that getting sick can affect your social life, and that you avoid seeing others so as to get your rest, and not spread germs to friends and family members.
Given all the negative things above, it would make sense that we want to limit exposure to germs and viruses to avoid getting sick. And the good news is you don’t have to be a germaphobe to stay healthy at this time of year. In this blog, I’ll be sharing simple, natural strategies that you can use to keep your immune system functioning at peak performance. Try incorporating a few of the immune-strengthening strategies discussed further on in this article, and you’ll find they improve not only your immune system, but your health as a whole.
Sleep and Cytokines
It makes sense that missing out on sleep is probably not the best thing for our immune health. But why is this? Well, when you sleep, your body actually produces a type of protein called cytokines. Cytokines actively target infection and inflammation in the body, meaning that they effectively create a potent immune response.
Not only are cytokines produced during sleep, but they are actually released during sleep as well, meaning that if you don’t get your recommended 7-8 hours of sleep each night, you’re missing out on one of the body’s simplest, natural ways of bolstering the immune system.
If a busy workweek or other factors are interfering with your sleep in a truly unavoidable way, do your best to make up for the lost sleep time with naps. While naps can’t fully make up for lost sleep time, taking two short naps less than 30 minutes in length has been shown to help compensate for the negative effects that sleep deprivation has on the immune system
The Value of Warmer Body Temperature
Scientists used to think we got sicker in the colder months because the cold temperatures kept people cooped up in rooms and buildings with low air quality. Now, it’s becoming clearer that the cold temperature itself has an effect on the body’s immune response.
Yale researchers recently found that when temperatures in the nose dipped below core body temperature (37 degrees C) the common cold virus replicated more easily. At 33 degrees C, key immune system proteins called interferons were impaired, allowing the cold virus to take root even more easily.
Further investigation yielded even more information on the relationship between core body temperature and immunity. At core body temperature, infected cells die more rapidly, preventing the viral replication that results in sickness. Also, an enzyme that attacks and degrades viral genes, RNAseL, is enhanced and functions better at higher temperatures.
The findings above clearly demonstrate the relationship between body temperature and the function of the immune system. But how can we apply this to our own lives? Dressing in appropriately warm clothing when braving the cold is an obvious strategy, but other things like consuming hot foods and beverages, incorporating saunas, taking hot baths and showers, and exercising regularly are all healthy, simple ways to raise your core body temperature and stave off the common cold.
What is Immuno-Modulation? The Power of Herbs
Immunomodulation is when your body’s immune system self-regulates or automatically adapts to potential stressors. Immunomodulation allows the body to induce, amplify, attenuate, or prevent an immune response depending on the current state of the body. In other words, immunomodulation helps the body intelligently respond to germs and viruses.
So what is the best way to achieve immunomodulation? The easiest, healthiest way to do so is to take advantage of high quality tonic herbs. My favorite herbs for supporting immune health are in the Super Immunity section of the Hyperion Herbs store, but I wanted to talk about two absolute stand out herbs for immunity: reishi and chaga.
The herbs often recommended for knocking out colds are echinacea or garlic, but these are actually immune stimulants, meaning they merely ramp up the immune system for a very short period of time. Potent tonic herbs like reishi or chaga, however, will strengthen your immune system and allow it to modulate intelligently over the long term.
Medicinal mushrooms like chaga have been shown to have antioxidant, antibacterial, antiproliferative, and immune-balancing effects. It’s immune boosting properties are thought to result from its abundance of antioxidants and polysaccharides, two things that also have many other health benefits.
Reishi was hailed by the ancients as “The Mushroom of Immortality” and “The Great Protector,” and is another potent immunomodulator. Besides being used to support immune health, reishi is one of the oldest, most-researched, and most popular herbs of all time. Many testify to its calming, stress reducing effects as well, and we know that lowering stress can improve immunity significantly.
For more information on herbs for immunity, check out my blog on The 6 Top Time Tested Herbs For A Robust Immune System
Even though we are knee deep in the peak of cold and flu season, you don’t have to be germaphobic to protect yourself. In fact, a better approach is to bolster your immune system. This doesn’t have to be complicated, and can be achieved with a few simple strategies: getting a healthy amount of sleep so as to reap the immunity benefits of cytokines, keeping your core body temperature at healthy levels in the midst of cold weather, and incorporating the potent immuno-modulating effects of high quality tonic herbs.
Make sure to check out all my favorite herbs for immune health in the Super Immunity section in the Hyperion Herbs store. Thanks for reading!