Your immune system plays a critical role in keeping you healthy. It defends against diseases on a daily basis. It even protects in ways you might not consider. Take care of it and it’ll help take care of you. It is flu season after all.

While many will seek out the flu shot, it’s not enough to keep you illness free all season. The flu is just one of many illnesses we can catch. We need a great warrior and defender on our side. The immune system does both.

Layers of Immunity

The immune system fights off microscopic organisms, like viruses and bacteria. It’s complex and has multiple lines of defense.

Our best defense against getting sick is simply keeping the micro-organisms out. Known as the first line of defense, our skin and other barriers keeps most of the “germs” out. Things like washing our hands, covering sneezes and coughs are all important habits that can help prevent the spread of these micro-organisms.

After the first line, comes the second and third lines. This includes immune cells that seek out invading microbe and kill them.

Aiding your defender

In addition to important hygiene habits like washing hands and covering mouths, there are a number of ways to help boost our immune system.

  • Getting enough sleep and reducing stress
    • Sleep deprivation and stress suppresses the immune system by overloading your body with cortisol.
  • Avoid excess alcohol
    • Excess alcohol impairs the immune system and can make you vulnerable to lung infections.
  • Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, seeds and nuts
    • These can provided many nutrients needed by the immune cells to function optimally.
    • Try warming up with a lemon and ginger tea.
    • Eating fruits and vegetables has been shown to boost the function of the immune system.

Catch some rays

Getting some extra sunlight during the colder months might be the most important thing you can do for your immune system. The weather pushes many of us indoors and reduces the amount of vitamin D our bodies can make. Symptoms of a deficiency include tirednessaches and pains, and a general sense of not feeling well.

See, our skin produces vitamin D in response to sunlight. It’s a fat soluble vitamin that has numerous functions in the body. It’s necessary for a properly functioning immune system. That means without enough of it, we’re less likely to fight off infections.

While everyone is different, 30 minutes to 1 hour of midday fall or winter sun, should get you enough of the vitamin for the day. Learn more about the factors that could affect you here. Be wary of sun burns. The body should generate enough vitamin D well before your skin begins to burn.

Can’t get outside? We can get vitamin D from our food. Many juices, dairy, and breakfast cereals are fortified with vitamin D. But if you’re looking for naturally occurring vitamin D, try fatty fish (such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel) and fish liver oils.

Foods with natural levels of vitamin DIUs* per servingPercent Daily Value**
Cod liver oil, 1 tablespoon1,360340%
Swordfish, cooked, 3 ounces566142%
Salmon (sockeye), cooked, 3 ounces447112%
Tuna fish, canned in water, drained 3 ounces15439%
Sardines, canned in oil, drained, 2 sardines4612%
Beef liver, cooked, 3 ounces4211%
Egg, 1 large with yolk4110%
Cheese, Swiss, 1 ounce62%
This table demonstrates foods with natural levels of Vitamin D. Fatty fishes and cod liver oils are the best sources for Vitamin D. While eggs are no where near as potent, they are probably one of the most common sources.
*International Units
**Percent Daily Value based on 400 IUs for adults and children age 4 and older

 

If you can’t get enough sun or vitamin D rich foods, supplements are an option. A study showed that supplemental vitamin D may reduced the risk of influenza A. However, it’s important to talk with your chiropractor or doctor before starting a supplement regimen.

Chiropractic’s role

Not only can your chiropractor help you with a healthy diet and vitamin supplements during flu season, but their adjustments can be beneficial to immune function. There is a growing body of research supporting this connection.

Chiropractic can boost the immune system by improving the communication between the nervous system and immune organs and cells. Through adjustments, chiropractic can remove interference in the nervous system and restore proper functioning of the immune system through various neuroimmune mechanisms.

Don’t rely on just one thing to keep you healthy this flu season. If you want to stay healthier and be ready to fight off those pesky colds visit your chiropractor to learn more!