Even before autumn arrived in this part of the world the sniffles began. So far the predominant infection this season has been a sore throat that tends to hang around for weeks, eventually becoming a typical respiratory infection.
But there is worse to come. The Northern hemisphere winter flu season has been a shocker. While a cold is annoying and uncomfortable, it’s impossible to ‘soldier on’ through influenza and in immuno-compromised individuals the ‘flu can be life threatening.
Beyond living in total isolation, there’s no sure-fire way to prevent respiratory infections (even the flu vaccine can’t promise that) but science is validating some surprisingly novel ways to bolster your immune system.
A recent study proved that those who participated in an eight week mindfulness meditation program caught significantly less acute respiratory infections (ARI) than the control group. Another remarkable fact about the study is the participants were all aged 50 yo or older, a group that’s more vulnerable immunologically and at greater risk from dying from respiratory infections.
The meditation group experienced 33% less ARIs compared to controls. What’s more of those who did contract an ARI, the duration was shorter (43%) and less severe (60%).
Take home message: a regular meditation practice decreases both frequency and severity of respiratory infections.
2. Moderate exercise
The study didn’t only look at meditation. Participants were randomly assigned to the mindfulness group, moderate exercise or neither therapy.
Those undertaking a moderate intensity exercise program, working out for 45 minutes a day, fared almost as well as the meditators in reducing their frequency and severity of ARIs.
Take home message: if you can’t meditate daily, try moderate intensity exercise instead.
3. Vitamin D
If you regularly succumb to respiratory infections, high dose Vitamin D could be the answer.
140 participants who regularly got colds and ARIs were assigned to take either 4.000 IU of Vitamin D or placebo daily for a year. The Vitamin D group had 25% less respiratory infections than the control group. Like the meditators and exercisers in the previous study, the Vitamin D study group also experienced less severe infections than the controls.
Note: this study used higher doses of Vitamin D than many Australian doctors prescribe and also took the vitamin for an entire year.
Take home message: Most Australians have low Vitamin D despite living in a “sunburnt country”, supplementing with an appropriate dose of Vitamin D may not only keep your bones strong but benefit your immune system as well.
More tips to help you stay well through the cold and flu season.