Preventative Immune Health for Cold and Flu Season

Q: I was horribly sick last winter, several times, and I want to avoid that happening as much as I possibly can!  What preventative supplements would you recommend to give me a better chance of staying healthy this year?


A: Now is a great time to start thinking about winter wellness, since it’s much easier to stay healthy than to overcome an illness that has firmly taken hold of you.  There are a number of supplements which I think everyone would benefit from taking this cold and flu season, that help the immune system and entire body to be in balance and work right.

The first thing I’d recommend is Vitamin D.  Vitamin D is a tiny pill and inexpensive- there’s no reason everyone shouldn’t be taking it.  Our bodies make vitamin D when our skin is exposed to sunlight, but both the sun and our time outdoors are sorely lacking in winter, which can lead to most Americans being deficient in the vitamin.  Vitamin D is best known for its benefit of strengthening bones, but it is also fantastic for boosting the immune system when taken in sufficient amounts- so much so that scientists have speculated that a large part of why people get sick so much more often in the winter months as opposed to during the summer is directly related to lower vitamin D levels during the winter months.

When looking for a vitamin D supplement, be sure to choose the D3 form of the vitamin, since it is the best absorbing form.  Noted natural physician Dr. Weil recommends that adults take 2,000IUs of vitamin D daily, so that is the recommendation we use as well.  If you have been shown to be deficient in vitamin D on a blood panel, you may need even higher amounts to restore your body to sufficient levels of vitamin D.  

New research is coming out every month on the many varied benefits of increased vitamin D supplementation, so I would very much recommend boosting your vitamin D supplements this winter.

The second preventative supplement I’d recommend are probiotics.  Probiotics are good bacteria that reside in the colon and intestines and help with digestion and balancing the bad bacteria and microbes that enter the body.  When the balance of good bacteria in the body is upset, it can lead to a number of undesirable effects.  One example is how diarrhea and yeast infections are so common after taking antibiotics; that is because antibiotics kill the good bacteria that we need along with the bad.  Thankfully, many doctors are becoming aware of the necessity of the good bacteria in our bodies and will actually recommend probiotics as a necessary supplement to take during or after taking antibiotics.

I love probiotics because they are safe for everyone to take from children to adults, and have no negative effects, only positive.  They are fantastic for boosting the body’s immune defenses, which has been confirmed by numerous research studies.  Probiotics are especially beneficial for reducing the risk of respiratory and gastrointestinal infections, particularly in children.  

One recent study found that school children who took a probiotic along with vitamin C had 33% fewer upper respiratory infections and missed 30% fewer days of school than children who took a placebo. Another study reported that children who took probiotics had a 24% reduced chance of getting gastrointestinal infections like “stomach flu” when compared with children who did not receive probiotic supplements.  Though those two studies were with children, the benefits are applicable for people of all ages.  

One we particularly recommend are Jarrow-Dophilus EPS Probiotics, which are room temperature stable.  I love them because their probiotics are made up of specific strains which have been shown to be most effective by clinical research.  Jarrow-Dophilus uses strain identifiers for their probiotics, since there can be different strains of the same probiotic species that have extremely different effectiveness.  

It’s something that can be likened to dogs in a way.  All dogs are technically one scientific species, but we all know there are huge differences between dog breeds. If you want a dog that is going to be fast, you’d get a greyhound, not a pug.  It’s the same thing with probiotics. Specific strains of probiotics do specific things, so if your probiotic is not listing the particular strain of good bacteria that it’s using, you don’t know if you’re getting the most effective formula.  

Stop by the store and we’d love to help you find the products that are right for you to keep you healthy this cold and flu season!