1. Maintain an adequate Vitamin D level throughout the winter and into the spring. Those who maintain an adequate Vitamin D level may have a lower risk of the flu and the common cold. As the effects of summer wane and our exposure to the summer sun wears off, our vitamin D levels begin to drop. Often by about Christmas time they may be low, leaving our immune systems weakened. I recommend taking a dose of vitamin D daily throughout the winter and spring. For most people 1000-2000 IU daily is adequate to minimize most risks, but others may need to take higher doses. Vitamin D levels can be checked during the winter to assess your particular need.
2. Regularly engage in hydrothermal therapy. Those who use a sauna or sit in a hot tub, for example, at least once or twice a week, are less likely to develop a respiratory infection. The regular heating of the body engages the immune system and serves to stimulate the immune system’s capabilities. It is almost like having athletes go to practice as they train for the big game.
3. Physical activity. Those who regularly engage in physical activity stimulate their immune system and lower the risk of respiratory infections, including COVID-19. I recommend a minimum of 150 minutes of both aerobic and weight bearing exercise per week.
4. Get enough rest. Those who run ragged hurt their immune systems. Getting to bed early allows your body to get the maximum benefits of sleep and immunity. Research has shown that we have an internal, biological seven-day cycle, called circaseptan rhythm. The preventative and restorative qualities of a weekly day of rest can reduce the risk of disease and improve mental health. Every Saturday, my family and I take a weekly day of rest to spend time with God, each other, our church family, in nature, and serving our community. Taking regular vacations is another way to allow our body and mind to rest.
5. Avoid overeating, excess sugars and free fats. During the holidays, this can be especially difficult. Before you start your holiday meal, try to plan ahead on what and how much you will eat. Share your plan with a friend or family member for support and accountability.
To Your Best Health,
Greg Steinke, MD, MPH