(BPT) - Being proactive in supporting your immune health gives you a much better chance of staying healthy this winter season and beyond. Tieraona Low Dog, M.D., Chief Medical Advisor at MegaFood, a leading maker of premium supplements made with real food and added nutrients, identifies several tips to ensure you’re giving your immune system a fighting chance this season:

1. Eat a Nutrient-Dense Diet

A nutrient-rich diet is important all year round, but as we head into the winter season it’s important to start introducing immune-boosting foods, such as garlic and onions, to give your body some extra protection. Consider adding probiotic-rich foods like Greek yogurt, miso, sauerkraut and kimchi to your diet as well, as probiotics have been shown to help support your immune response. Staying well-hydrated is also important. In the cooler months, the air becomes drier and humidity levels fall. Drink plenty of water, herbal teas, and other healthy drinks (adults should aim to drink at least 48oz of liquid every day) for optimal hydration.

2. Sleep Well

Getting a restful night’s sleep (7-9 hours is recommended) is one of the very best ways to ensure your body is ready to take on the challenges of everyday stress, as well as support basic immune functions. Sleep allows your immune system to rest and recharge — an important daily defense against those viruses and bacteria floating around our shared spaces. If you’re not able to fall or stay asleep, try instituting “sleep hygiene” into your regular bedtime routine; turn off screens, make the room cool and dark, and take a warm shower or bath with several drops of essential oil (like lavender) before bedtime. There are numerous apps that create white noise, can tell you a bedtime story, or play soothing music that can also be very useful for those struggling with falling asleep. Dawn simulation devices that mimic the sunrise can be very useful for helping to regulate sleep during the long, dark winter.

3. Supplement

For centuries, herbs have been used to help support the health of our immune system, and research has now shown that these herbal remedies can give your body a boost. One of my favorite herbs, elderberry, has been used for hundreds of years to support optimal immune health; the dark purple berries are a great source of anthocyanins — a type of flavonoid also found in other deeply pigmented fruits such as blueberries and raspberries. Consider a supplement like MegaFood Immune Defense* that blends black elderberry, vitamin C and zinc with bitter and phytonutrient-rich herbs, echinacea and andrographis, to power the immune system.*

Vitamin D3 should also be in your medicine cabinet as it plays a powerful role in the health of our immune system and overall sense of well-being.* I recommend most individuals to supplement with 1,000-2,000 IU of vitamin D3 per day to promote healthy immune function.*

4. Keep Moving

With weather changes and shorter days, our motivation to get out and about may take a dip, but it’s important to keep moving. Regular exercise has been shown to support a healthy immune response and overall health and wellness.* If poor weather prevents you from getting outside, try exploring newer activities like stretching, yoga or an indoor group sport. Activities that can help keep the mind-body connection active during these slower, darker months can be beneficial to your overall health and mood.* Bonus, exercise is known to help you sleep better at night.

5. Wash Those Hands

Last, but certainly not least, hand washing is an important yet simple step in preventing the spread of viruses and bacteria. With soap and warm water, wash for 20-30 seconds to get the most out of this super-easy preventative measure.

In addition to these tips, don’t forget to make space for yourself this season. Even with busy schedules, practicing self-care is always important and can help support your overall health and well-being. This season is a time to rest and wind down, allowing the body and mind to regenerate and recharge.

*This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

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