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7 Nutrients for "Cold & Flu" Season!

When you consider everything that goes into this time of year, like...

Eating sugar cookies for dinner after a long day of baking, staying up late wrapping gifts, traveling from party to party, stressing about this thing or the next...

It's truly no wonder why many seem to come down with at least one "cold or flu bug" during the holiday season or winter months!

With this, it's no secret there are things you can do to help keep yourself healthy throughout the year, such as: maintaining a nutritious and balanced diet, keeping your body hydrated, getting proper amounts of sleep, exercising regularly, and avoiding stress to the best of our abilities!

But did you know there are certain vitamins, minerals, and herbal remedies you can use to stay feeling good during the season deemed "cold and flu"?

Here are 7 nutrients to help keep your immune system strong this time of year and beyond!

1. Zinc

A powerhouse of an immune-supportive mineral, zinc therapy is shown to increase T-lymphocyte production and enhance other white blood cell functions. Studies show taking zinc soon after the onset of common cold symptoms can significantly reduce both duration and severity of symptoms. (1)

2. Vitamin A

Vitamin A is an essential micronutrient with important functions such as maintaining eyesight, growth and tissue repair, healthy skin, and you guessed it immune support! Vitamin A is not only involved in the development of the immune system, but also supports immune activity by playing a role in regulating cellular responses and processes. (2) Together with zinc + vitamin C, this fat-soluble vitamin also helps kill virus infected cells and prevent disease by improving T cell and natural killer lymphocyte activity!

3. Vitamin C

Often viewed as the star of the "cold-and-flu-fighting show", vitamin C aids with immune defense by supporting a number of cellular functions such white blood cell production.

This essential, water-soluble vitamin helps produce a positive immune response which aids the body in fighting bacteria and viruses this helps with both the treatment and prevention of the cold and flu! (3)

4. Vitamin D

Known as the almighty "sunshine" vitamin, this fat-soluble vitamin is most namely known for its influence on the regulation and metabolism of calcium. However, vitamin D is also important in the function of immune cells, with studies showing deficiency correlating to increased autoimmunity and susceptibility to infection. (4) Vitamin D is also shown to have a modest protective effect, in which it can reduce the risk of infection by about 10%. (5)

5. Oil of Oregano

Oil of oregano is extracted from the leaves of the oregano plant, and has been used for its preventative and immune-supportive properties for centuries. This oil has both antiviral and antibacterial properties (6), and has been shown to be as effective as some prescription antibiotics in treating intestinal parasites and infections such as Candida albicans.

While conventional prescription antibiotics are often recommended (and sometimes necessary), these powerful drugs work by killing bacteria and preventing it from growing. Unfortunately, most antibiotics cannot distinguish between good and bad bacteria, leaving us with suboptimal levels of the good gut bacteria required for a healthy immune system. (Remember 70% of our immune system lives in our gut!) Numerous studies show extensive use of prescription antibiotics disrupt our gut microbiome which can contribute to disease (7), making oil of oregano a potentially safer alternative for some individuals under certain circumstances.

Note: As with prescription antibiotics, oil of oregano should be used for no longer than a 7-10 day period.

6. Echinacea

Echinacea for herbal use goes back over 400 years ago and is one of the most popular herbal remedies used today! It offers antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory benefits, and supports the immune system by enhancing the function of the immune cells and organs. Studies have found this herb can decrease the odds of developing the common cold by 58%, as well as reduce the duration of colds by nearly one and half days. (8)

Note: Suggested use for echinacea is limited to 7-10 day periods.

7. Elderberry

Elderberries come from a family of trees called Sambucas. For centuries, they have been used as ailment relief for things such as allergies, upper respiratory infections, sinus infections, chronic fatigue syndrome, headaches, toothaches, and more. When it comes to cold relief, clinical trials have indicated elderberry can lower symptom severity and shorten the duration of colds by an average of 2 days. (9) Additionally, elderberry has been shown in numerous studies to have significant antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties (10) which are essential in keeping the immune system and body healthy!

While supplemental forms of vitamins, minerals, and herbal remedies can be beneficial under certain circumstances, it's suggested they be discussed with your primary care physician or naturopathic doctor before beginning use. Certain supplements, especially in therapeutic doses, can sometimes interfere with certain medications, lifestyle factors, etc. and should always be discussed with your doctor. It's imperative to work closely with your primary care physician before decreasing use of doctor recommended prescription medications.

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