Don’t wait for a cold or flu to take you away from family, school or work this winter. Learn what you can do to fortify your health and the health of your loved ones.

Rest and routine
As simple as it sounds, getting a consistent amount of sleep is one of the single most effective ways to maintain a balanced and active immune system. This means retiring and rising at the same time every day. Adults should get 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Children 8-12 hours or more per night depending on their age.

Drink plenty of water
Like rest, water is a simple solution that can save you time and money. Drinking up to half your weight in ounces a day will flush your system of unwanted metabolic debris and improve the ability of your immune system to respond to an invading virus or bacteria. Speak with your physician before drastically increasing your water intake if you have kidney or heart disease.

Mouth-throat gargle and nasal flush
A simple at-home strategy that can prevent many viruses and bacteria from gaining a foothold after exposure is to gargle and flush your nasal passages with salt water. This will inhibit the microbes ability to adhere to the mucous membranes and thereby halt proliferation in the body. Helpful tools such as a neti pot or nasal washing bulb can be found at your local pharmacy.

Eat foods that promote immunity
Fresh garlic, ginger, lemon, orange, cayenne, mushrooms and virtually every green food in the produce section are loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other nutrients essential for maintaining a hardy immune system. In addition, the aforementioned foods have powerful anti-bacterial and anti-viral activity that will keep unwanted infection at bay. Eat fewer foods such as dairy and refined sugar that produce phlegm and suppress immune function.

Build up your terrain
One sure way to reduce unwanted sickness is to fortify your natural defenses. One of the simplest ways to do this is through the use of daily probiotics – beneficial bacteria that stabilize gastrointestinal ecology reducing inflammatory reactions to food and preventing overgrowth of pathogenic organisms. In addition, daily probiotics continuously stimulate immune cells so that they can respond with accuracy and speed during the onset of infection – stopping it altogether or limiting its effect. Ask your physician which probiotic is most appropriate for you.

Vitamin D
Vitamin D is one of the most versatile and powerful nutrients produced by the body. However, we need sunlight to stimulate its production. This presents a particular challenge during the winter months and at higher latitudes such as ours. Supplementing higher doses of vitamin D can be a great idea to boost immune function and protect against exposure. As a side benefit, vitamin D is also involved in blood sugar regulation, bone health and quenching inflammation in the body.

Re-building immunity
In some cases, more is necessary to repair the systems involved in creating and maintaining the immune response. For help with discovering which systems may be out of balance and what additional support you may need speak with your natural health care practitioner.