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5 Immune-Supporting Additions to Your Fall Routine

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Don’t feel under the weather during the coziest time of year.

woman drinking tea

As the weather turns chillier and you start spending more time indoors with other people, you become more at risk for picking up germs. In addition to frequent handwashing, a healthy diet, and regular exercise, what can you add to your routine to help keep your immune system in tip-top shape? Here, five options.

1. Vitamin C

You know when you’re about to travel and everyone reminds you to “take your vitamin C”? That’s because the antioxidant supports the immune system—which you obviously want to be in tip-top shape. Vitamin C also helps protect your body from damage caused by free radicals, which are molecules that can harm cells and lead to illnesses. Although you can find vitamin C in a variety of fruits and vegetables (think: oranges, strawberries, bell peppers, and broccoli), a vitamin C supplement can be especially useful in the cold months, when fresh produce is less readily available. (Keep in mind, too, that vegetables lose some of their vitamin C when you cook them.)

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides a handy tool for figuring out all your nutrient recommendations, but the average daily recommended amount of vitamin C for adult women is 75 milligrams.

2. Vitamin D

Sun is the main source of this nutrient, which not only keeps your bones strong by helping the body absorb calcium, but also helps out the immune system. Unfortunately, you’re not likely to get much sun in the coming months. (Even if you live with sunshine year-round, you should be applying sunscreen to reduce your risk of skin cancer.) Since few foods naturally offer sufficient amounts of vitamin D (although fatty fish such as salmon are a good go-to source), a vitamin D supplement can be vital to your health. Without enough of it, you might develop a deficiency, which could lead to brittle bones, osteoporosis, or muscle weakness, and be generally more susceptible to germs. The recommended dietary allowance for adults is 600 International Units (IU) daily, but talk to your doctor to tailor your plan according to your needs.

women playing in snow

3. Multivitamins

While standalone supplements are useful to target specific deficiencies, multivitamins are useful when you want to cover your bases and you can’t get all the nutrients you need from food alone. They’re also a good option if you only want to deal with one supplement. Because multivitamins contain multiple nutrients, some of which you may need more help with than others, you might also consider a multivitamin tailored to your nutritional gaps: multivitamins for older people, for instance, tend have more calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12. Refer again to the USDA’s tool for determining your recommended intakes, or speak with your doctor.

4. Probiotics

There are trillions of bacteria living in your gut, but many of these little guys (also known as microbes) are good bacteria that are essential to a healthy gut and immune system. To ensure that your digestive tract has the right balance of microbes, try a probiotic to support your body’s good bacteria. Probiotics can also support your immune system, improve digestion, and help your body absorb nutrients. You can get probiotics from foods (like some yogurts and fermented foods) or a supplement.

Pro tip: Not all probiotics offer the same health benefits. Certain strains help your immune system, for example, while others provide digestive benefits. So look for the name of the strain and its advantages on the product label.

5. Sleep Aids

Getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep per night is essential to giving your body time to heal, which is in turn essential to the health of your immune system. If you’re having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, OTC sleep aids could offer a solution to your problem. Just keep in mind that this is typically a short-term fix: Most OTC aids contain antihistamines, which means you’ll build a tolerance to them over time. (For that same reason, some OTC aids may leave you feeling groggy the morning after you take them.)

For a natural solution, melatonin supplements can sometimes do the trick. Melatonin is the hormone in your brain that tells your body it’s time to call it a night. But taking too much melatonin can lead to headaches, nausea, and dizziness, which isn’t exactly ideal for bedtime.

Find other great health and wellness stories at MarthaStewart.com/Strive.