With long store lines, office potlucks, and family demands at an all-time-high around the holidays, chances are you haven’t had much time to think about how you can prevent the season from taking you down.
To keep your immune system strong through the most wonderful time of the year, you need to up your body’s defenses before they can be broken down by whatever comes your way. That definitely means washing your hands and staying as far away from your runny-nosed office-mates as possible, but you can also help prep your immune system by stocking up on the right nutrients.
We asked nutritionists to share the supplements that help them get through the hustle and bustle of the holidays. Read on for the full lowdown about why these supplements are such seasonal superstars and how to use them to give your body the boost it needs.
The helpful bacteria living in our guts help support our digestive and immune systems, and create an environment that’s more conducive to overall health and wellness. “70 to 80 percent of our immune system lives in our gut, so we need to start with a healthy digestive foundation by using probiotics regularly,” says holistic nutritionist Danielle Pashko. (In case you need a quick refresher, our immune system is our body’s defense system.)
Consuming fermented foods and drinks like yogurt and kombucha daily is an easy to show the probiotics in your gut some love, but if you’re constantly on the go, a quality probiotic supplement is a convenient way to help keep your gut in good shape, Pashko says. Look for a supplement that contains a few strains of bacteria to support diversity in your gut and at least a billion live active cultures. Start with one dose a day, and bump up to two if you feel like you have a weakened immune system.
This mineral, which is hugely important for healthy nerve and muscle function, can also help promote the quality rest that’s much needed throughout the stressful and chilly holiday season.
You can find magnesium in many foods, like green leafy vegetables and whole grains, but neuroscientist and holistic wellness expert Leigh Winters likes sipping on a drinkable magnesium supplement to reap the mineral’s benefits. “Nothing relaxes me better,” says Winters, who recommends Natural Vitality’s Natural Calm Magnesium Drink. “I can handle any stress or challenge in my day as long as I’ve slept well—and this drink helps me do just that.”
In general, Winters recommends getting 300 to 450 milligrams of magnesium per day to support energy, sleep, and relaxation.
3. Vitamin C
200 milligrams of vitamin C a day usually does the trick, and is easy to obtain from fruits and vegetables like oranges, tomatoes, and broccoli. During the sneezier months, though, Pashko recommends upping your intake with a supplement (you can find vitamin C supplements in capsule, powder, and even gummy form) and aiming for 500 to 1,000 milligrams twice a day.
Vitamin C supplements can be very acidic (which can hurt your tummy), so look for a ‘buffered vitamin C’ supplement if you notice any stomach upset, Pashko says. These contain some sodium, magnesium, potassium ascorbate, or calcium, which makes them gentler on the tummy.
4. Vitamin D
Like vitamin C, vitamin D plays a big part in immune function—and because our bodies need sun exposure to make this vitamin, it’s especially hard to come by in the winter when many of us spend less time in the sun.
You can get vitamin D from salmon, tuna, cod liver oil, fortified milks and juices, and of course sunlight, but many Americans fall short on this important nutrient. That’s why Pashko recommends taking a daily vitamin D supplement to help ensure your vitamin D stays in good shape all winter long. Just check with your doc to determine the right dose for you.
Echinacea, which is believed to stimulate the immune system, is a popular herbal supplement that deserves a place in your wellness routine this winter. Research suggests that echinacea helps boost the number of white blood cells, which promote a healthy immune system, in our bodies, according to Winters.
You can find echinacea in teas, capsule, and tablet supplements. Winters likes to use echinacea tea and syrup, and recommends supplementing with 300 milligrams of echinacea extract three times a day when you feel under the weather or rundown.