Nutrition to Support Immunity in Cold/Flu Season

Fall has undoubtedly arrived, and although we may be blessed with a few more glorious, sunny weekends, the days are getting shorter and there will soon be fewer hours to enjoy natural sunlight and pleasant temperatures.  As we spend more time indoors while heading into cold and flu season, many people may be wondering what nutrition and supplements are most beneficial to support health and immunity. 

Of course, eating a nutritious diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables along with lean protein and whole grains, nut and legumes help keep our bodies functioning properly.  Good sleep, regular exercise, water as your beverage of choice and social interaction round out a healthy lifestyle.  But sometimes our busy lives or the region where we live leave us lacking some crucial vitamins and minerals and if we can’t get them from our nutrition then our minds turn to alternatives.

In northern climates, winter can often mean a lack of natural sunlight and in turn, lower levels of Vitamin D.  Talk with your doctor about taking a blood test to determine your Vitamin D levels, if you need supplementation, and how much to take. The standard recommendation is 1,000 to 3,000 IUs per day.  According to a recent True Potential Health Services blog post, Vitamin D helps support our immune system, as well as bone health and good mental health. 

Vitamin C is found in colourful fruits and vegetables, but often we don’t get enough to support a healthy immune response.  Vitamin C also plays a role in bone health and stress management. The recommended daily dosage of Vitamin C is 75mg per day for women and 90mg for men with an upper limit of 2,000 mg per day, according to the Mayo Clinic.  Good sources of Vitamin C include oranges, strawberries, red pepper and broccoli. 

Eating fatty fish like salmon provides a good source of Omega-3 Fatty Acids which are beneficial for brain and joint health, and are also needed to keep skin and hormone levels healthy.  Omega-3 supplementation can be beneficial for people who do not consume cold-water fatty fish, nuts and seeds or plant oils such as flaxseed, soybean, or canola oils.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends consuming no more than 5 g per day of EPA and DHA Omega-3s combined per day from dietary supplements. 

As always, talk with your doctor before starting or stopping any medication or over-the-counter supplement.  A blood test can help determine if you are lacking in any vitamins, nutrients or minerals.