There are reasons the period from October through February is commonly referred to as flu season.
“As the days get shorter and darker, our vitamin D levels go down and so, that impacts our immunity and it’s probably no coincidence that flu season tends to peak in January, February which are the shortest, darkest months of the year,” naturopathic physician Kate Rhéaume said.
“The stress from the cold weather, changes in weather that actually does impact our immune system … as well as being in confined spaces where we are more likely to be coming into contact with these viruses and passing them along to one another.”
Many of us tend to have our own tips and tricks for staying healthy during the colder months but leading Rhéaume’s list of favourites is probiotics.
“Making sure you have enough healthy bacteria and topping up the healthy bacteria in your intestines … is one of the most important things that impacts our immunity,” said Rhéaume.
READ MORE: Reality check: What are probiotics good for?
“Studies have shown that both children, adults and seniors, topping up that healthy bacteria regularly will reduce the frequency and severity of colds and flu in the wintertime.”
Fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut all contain the healthy bacteria but if these don’t get your taste buds excited, Rhéaume says you can always opt for a daily probiotic, taken with food.
Rhéaume adds other choices include a daily chewable vitamin C along with zinc lozenges. But if you prefer eating your vitamins via foods: “citrus fruits and peppers: red, orange, yellow.”
“If you think you’re coming down with something, that’s the time to load up so, zinc lozenges for example: once per hour or the vitamin C tablet, once per hour,” said Rhéaume.
WATCH: Which probiotic foods aren’t worth buying
Another item that may help if you feel that first tickle in your throat — echinacea.
“Echinacea is a botanical medicine that has been shown to increase the number and activity of the white blood cells that protect us against viruses,” Rhéaume said, adding that it should specify “fresh extracted” on the label.
Rounding out Rhéaume’s list just might be grandma’s chicken soup. She says soup like bone broth can help keep people hydrated but she says it’s also good for the health of the intestines as well as being “high in the amino acid cysteine, which also boosts our immune system.”
Finally, Rhéaume says, one of the best ways to stay healthy and get better is sleep.
“Sleep is so important for the immune system and if you’re feeling under the weather, stay home and rest,” she said.