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    The 9 Best Vitamins For Strengthening Your Immune System And Warding Off Sickness

    Your immune system truly has no days off. Whether you’re fighting off a cold or recovering from an infection, it’s always kickin’ in high gear. But believe it or not, nutrition has a major impact on your immunity and there are some easy (and delicious) ways to keep your immune system in top shape. Enter: vitamins for immune system support.

    “Nutrients from our diet including vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients like proteins, fats, and carbohydrates, are required for immune cell production and overall immune health,” says Stacey Simon, RDN, of Top Nutrition Coaching.

    Can you eat your way to a better immune system?

    There is no such thing as an “immunity diet,” but consuming a variety of vitamins and minerals can help prevent nutrient deficiencies that can lead to a decline in immune function. “Rather than cherry-picking or adding nutrients here and there, an overall balanced diet rich with a variety of fruits, vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats, and whole grain can help us consume adequate amounts of specific nutrients to prevent deficiency and keep our immune systems strong,” says Simon.

    Do supplements play a role?

    Now you may be thinking, What about supplements? While there is certainly a time and place for them like if you are pregnant, struggling with nutrient deficiencies, or recovering from an illness or surgery, Simon always recommends food first. “Think of supplements as a tool to fill gaps in an otherwise healthy and nourishing diet,” she says.

    Because supplements are not regulated by the FDA, and too much of a nutrient can be detrimental, always talk with your doctor before use. “Unless you are deficient in a nutrient, oftentimes there is no need to supplement with a mega dose,” notes Simon. “The body actually absorbs and utilizes nutrients in food more efficiently.”

    And while nutrition plays a role in immune health, they are other factors at play too. Things like sleep, stress, certain medications, autoimmune diseases, and genetics also affect your immune function. “We have to make sure we’re keeping up our defense on all of these fronts,” says Simon.

    If you want to keep your immune health in tip-top shape, try incorporating these 10 essential vitamins and nutrients into your diet.

    Meet the expert: Stacey Simon, RDN, is a nutritionist with more than nine years of clinical experience. Her special focus is on managing chronic diseases and maintaining general wellness for older adults.

    1. Protein

    Protein is often associated with building muscles and keeping you full between meals, but it also plays a major role in wound healing, recovery, and cell building, says Simon. “Amino acids, or the building blocks of protein, help maintain immune system function through helping produce immune cells.”

    Plus, many protein sources offer a lot of “bang for your immune system buck,” because they contain a ton of other crucial vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients, adds Simon. It’s a win-win!

    “I suggest always going for whole or fresh food first, so you can get real sources of protein,” she says. If you are looking for on-the-go high-protein snacks, look for something with that’s as close to the real deal as possible and doesn’t have a bunch of additives and artificial colours. Pro tip: If you read the ingredient list and are unsure what something is, it’s probably best to steer clear.

    Here are some examples of whole foods that are high in protein.





    Lean beef

    Plain Greek yoghurt

    2. Vitamin C

    You’ve likely heard that vitamin C is important for immune function and shortening the duration of a pesky cold, but it actually does a whole lot more. Vitamin C also plays a tremendous role in wound healing, which is a huge part of maintaining your immune system by keeping your skin barrier intact, says Simon.

    It’s also a powerful antioxidant that reduces inflammation in the body, ultimately decreasing our risk of developing diseases and feeling sick.

    While orange juice may seem like the ultimate vitamin C source, Simon also recommends eating the following foods to get your fill.



    Sweet melon

    Red bell peppers


    3. Vitamin D

    Vitamin D improves the function of immune cells by reducing inflammation in the body and decreasing the risk of infection, says Simon. But here’s the thing, the best source is actually not food—it’s sunlight. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin, meaning it can dissolve in fats and oils and be stored in the body’s fatty tissue and liver. To help maintain healthy levels, aim for at least 15 minutes of sun exposure a day, according to Harvard Health.

    If you live in a colder climate or can’t get sun exposure on a regular basis, it’s important to supplement through food. “Vitamin D is an area where you might not necessarily feel any deficiency, even if you’re mildly deficient, but it’s one of those things that’s good to supplement with food to close the gap,” says Simon.

    Foods high in vitamin D include the following.


    Orange juice fortified with vitamin D

    Fortified cereal

    Dairy or plant milk fortified with vitamin D



    Egg yolks

    4. Vitamin E

    This is another fat-soluble vitamin with powerful antioxidant properties to help support immune cell production. “Vitamin E helps support T-cell growth, or the white blood cells that play a major role in immune functioning,” explains Simon. “When we think about cells in the body that defend and fight off pathogens, vitamin E helps to support the growth of those defense T-cells.”

    Add these vitamin E foods to your plate to help boost immune health.



    Sunflower seeds

    Red bell peppers




    5. Zinc

    Think of zinc as an immunity superstar. Not only does it play a major role in wound healing, but it also aids in the development of immunity cells by impacting the growth of T-cells, says Simon. And while some studies show that zinc can help shorten the length of a common cold, there’s no need to overdo your zinc intake. “Most people are able to maintain their zinc levels within a healthy range by eating a normal, balanced diet,” says Simon.

    You’ll find zinc in many of the foods you’re probably already eating like the following.


    Red meat




    Fortified cereal


    6. Iron

    “We often think of iron playing a huge role in our energy levels and how our body feels, but it also builds up those immune cells, allowing them to reach full maturity so they can go off and do their job,” says Simon.

    Iron is also a major component of hemoglobin (the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body), so significant bleeding can cause your iron levels to drop. Because of this, research suggests it’s especially important for women who menstruate to maintain iron levels and eat iron-rich foods.

    Try incorporating the following high-iron foods into your diet.




    Lean beef


    Fortified cereal

    7. Selenium

    Selenium acts as a powerful antioxidant that can help reduce inflammation in the body, and studies show it promotes heart health, optimizes immune functioning, and may even help prevent cancer. While a generally balanced diet is usually suitable for your daily selenium intake, low selenium levels have been shown to reduce immune function.

    Stock up on some of the following selenium-rich foods.

    Brazil nuts (Fun fact: Eating one Brazil nut a day can help you meet your daily requirement, says Simon.)


    Lean beef






    8. Copper

    Inflammation is a sign that your body is working overtime to heal or repair itself, but copper plays a huge role in minimizing its effects by neutralizing free radicals, says Simon. Research shows that free radicals are unstable atoms in the body that can damage cells and cause illness, but copper has antimicrobial properties to reduce their presence and ultimately calm inflammation.

    Maintaining healthy copper levels is a bit of a balancing act, however, because too little copper can suppress your immune function, yet too much copper can be dangerous and lead to cell death. But no need to overcomplicate it because copper toxicity is rare, stresses Simon. “Just eating a balanced diet is a good way to make sure we are getting enough copper and remaining within that healthy range,” she says.

    Focus on a varied diet by eating some of the following.

    Unsweetened baker’s chocolate


    Sunflower seeds

    Potatoes (with the skin)

    Shiitake mushrooms


    9. Probiotics

    You’ve likely heard probiotics are the good bacteria in your digestive system, but they also play a role in immune health, says Simon. Studies have shown that probiotics promote natural antibodies in the body by boosting immune cell production and fighting off infection. Some research even suggests that probiotics can prevent respiratory tract infections like the cold or flu and reduce urinary tract infections in women.

    Foods high in probiotics include the following.





    Yoghurt (with live active cultures)


    This article was first published in More

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    6 Ways To Get Rid Of A Stuffy Nose Fast And Breathe Again, According To Doctors

    You know when you blow your nose and nothing comes out? Or when you try to inhale and it feels like a dead end? You’re likely stuck with a stuffy nose, and there are few things more annoying. It’s understandable you’d rush to search for how to get rid of a stuffy nose as soon as it crops up.

    What causes a stuffy nose?

    First, you should know the medical term for a stuffy nose is “rhinitis,” which means inflammation of the mucus membranes (a.k.a. mucosa) inside the nose, says Dr Craig Polinsky, an internal medicine specialist at Amicus Medical Centers. “When a person inhales an allergen into their nasal passage, either from a virus, bacteria, or any allergen, cells known as mast cells release a chemical called histamine, which starts the inflammatory process,” he explains. This is what causes mucus to build up, leading to a stuffy nose, along with other symptoms like sneezing, nasal itching, coughing, sinus pressure, and itchy eyes.

    You may think the mucus is to blame, but the stuffiness is mainly due to vein swelling in your nose, says Dr Steven Alexander, an otolaryngologist at ENT and Allergy Associates. “A lot of people will blow their nose repeatedly trying to get the mucus out, when the real issue is the swelling,” he notes. “Blowing your nose is useful, but if nothing is coming out, it generally means there’s not a lot of mucus.”

    Nose inflammation culprits

    The three common culprits behind inflammation in your nose are infections, allergies, and nonallergic rhinitis, says Dr. Alexander. Infections like COVID-19 and the common cold are caused by viruses or bacteria, while allergies are often seasonal and related to triggers in the environment such as pollen, dust, and animal dander. And nonallergic rhinitis is set off by pollution and temperature changes.

    To find the appropriate remedy, you’ll first need to find out what’s causing your stuffy nose. If you are experiencing itchy or watery eyes along with sneezing and runny nose, it’s likely allergies or nonallergic rhinitis. But if you have discharge from your nose that is thick, yellow, or green, then it’s more likely to be infectious.

    Ready for some much-needed relief and to breathe again? Try one of the following treatments recommended by experts.

    Meet the experts: Dr Craig Polinsky, is an internal medicine physician with 23 years of experience. He practices at Amicus Medical Centers in Palm Beach, Florida.

    Dr Steven Alexander, is an otolaryngologist and a member of the American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery and the American Medical Association. He treats all ear, nose, and throat disorders in adults and children.

    1. Use a saline nasal spray.

    A saline nasal spray is a simple, sterile, saltwater solution that is good for congested nasal cavities, says Dr. Alexander. This over-the-counter treatment works by drawing water out of the congested mucosa in your nose, ultimately shrinking the swollen nasal tissue and clearing up the stuffiness, he explains.

    Saline spray is a safe option for all adults and can be used as often as needed to relieve symptoms, but overuse may cause some of the fluid to drip from your nose.

    2. Try nasal saline irrigation.

    Nasal irrigation (also known as sinus irrigation) is a variation of a saline nasal spray. It still uses a saline solution, but is applied with a larger sinus irrigation squeeze bottle, such as a neti pot. The saline gets deeper into the nasal cavity and goes around the back of the nose to come out the other side, says Dr. Alexander. This OTC method may be more effective than a saline spray because the larger volume of solution covers a larger area in the nose, rinsing it clean.

    Nasal irrigation is safe for all ages, but if you are immunocompromised, check in with your doctor before attempting this, as nasal problems could indicate something more serious.

    For a homemade solution, Dr. Alexander recommends adding ¼ teaspoon of kosher salt (so that it does not include iodine) and ¼ teaspoon of baking soda into eight ounces of sterile water (either distilled water or water you boil for 10 minutes and cool.) “Never use tap or bottled water without sterilizing it,” he notes.

    3. Take an antihistamine.

    Antihistamines such as Allergex can also help wipe out any congestion. “These medicines block the production of histamine, which is the primary driver of inflammation and mucus production,” says Dr. Polinsky. And if you also have sneezing and sinus pressure, he recommends using antihistamines along with a nasal spray. While safe for most people, talk to your doctor before taking antihistamines if you are pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or breastfeeding.

    4. Reach for a medicated nasal spray.

    If you’re looking for congestion relief stat, the fastest OCT remedy is Afrin (also known as oxymetazoline), says Dr. Alexander. “It works within minutes by constricting the blood vessels in your nasal mucosa, decreasing swelling and opening your nasal airways.”

    While effective, it is extremely important to use it only occasionally and for short periods of time. “When it constricts the blood vessels in your nose, the tissue gets less oxygen, and with prolonged use, it can cause damage to the tissue,” explains Dr. Alexander. The mucosa then responds to the damage by swelling up even more, making you feel worse. “It’s best used no more than twice a day for no more than three days in a row,” he says. “After that, stay away for at least a month.”

    Corticosteroid nasal sprays also work by constricting the mucus membranes in the nose and decreasing inflammation, says Dr. Polinsky. “One of the benefits of corticosteroid nasal sprays is that they are readily available, and the medicine works just in the nasal passage.” In other words, it won’t make you drowsy.

    Dr. Polinsky recommends one or two sprays per day, and while you might have a little blood in the mucus if you blow your nose afterwards, it’s nothing to worry about. If the bleeding becomes severe, stop use and check in with your doctor.

    5. Get some eucalyptus oil.

    If you’re looking for a natural home remedy, Dr. Polinsky suggests eucalyptus oil. Studies showed it can work as a pain reliever. It also has anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory properties to decrease mucus production and nasal inflammation. “Eucalyptus oil can be inhaled in a steam through a diffuser to reduce nasal symptoms or by adding a few drops of oil into a bowl of hot water,” says Dr. Polinsky. There are also eucalyptus lozenges and vapor rubs, which can also help to clear the nose.

    While eucalyptus oil is safe to smell and inhale, avoid ingesting or putting it directly on your face. Also, make sure to store it in a cool, dry place. Heat and direct sunlight can change the composition of this essential oil.

    6. Turn on your humidifier.

    Humidifiers can reduce nasal congestion and sinus pain by releasing water vapour into the air and loosening the mucus in your nose, says Dr. Polinsky. Sleeping with a humidifier on also increases moisture and humidity, eliminating dry air that can irritate and inflame the nasal passageways.

    Humidifiers can help ease symptoms, but always use a cool-mist model to avoid burns and keep it several feet away from the bed, according to the National Library of Medicine. Use distilled water in the unit and remember to frequently drain and clean since bacteria can grow in stagnant water.

    This article was first published in More

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    Is It A Sinus Infection Or A Cold? How To Tell The Difference, According To A Doctor

    When you’re stuffed up beyond the usual change of season allergy woes, one question tends to pop up a lot: Since both tend to lead to the same cluster of not-fun symptoms — like constant drainage, a stuffed-up nose, and that familiar sick-and-tired feeling — they’re easy to get confused. “Telling the difference between a cold and […] More