Posted on by Paula Gallagher
Even though we’re already a couple of months into winter, cold and flu season is still hitting hard. New research has shown that cold weather does impact our immune system. In what many are calling a scientific breakthrough, scientists may have found the biological reason we get more respiratory illnesses in winter. It turns out the cold air itself damages the immune response occurring in the nose.
In fact, reducing the temperature inside the nose by as little as 9 degrees Fahrenheit kills nearly 50% of the billions of virus and bacteria-fighting cells in the nostrils.
How Does Your Nose Protect You?
When a respiratory virus or bacteria invades the nose, the main point of entry into the body, cells lining the nose immediately begin creating billions of simple copies of themselves called extracellular vesicles, or EVs. These EVs act as decoys, so when you inhale a virus, the virus sticks to these decoys instead of sticking to the cells. Then these decoys with the attached virus or bacteria are expelled by the cells into nasal mucus, stopping the invading germs before they can get to their destinations and multiply.
The study found that when the nose is under attack, it increases production of extracellular vesicles by 160%. EVs had many more receptors on their surface than the original cells, thus boosting the virus-stopping ability of the billions of extracellular vesicles in the nose. Cells in the body also contain a viral killer called micro RNA, which attack invading germs. Yet EVs in the nose contained 13 times more micro RNA sequences than normal cells, the study found.
However, when cold weather hits and the temperature in your nose drops by as little as 9 degrees Fahrenheit, your immune system's ability to fight off respiratory infections is cut almost in half. According to the study, that little bit of coldness in the tip of the nose was enough to take nearly 42% of the extracellular vesicles out of the fight.
The pandemic actually gave us one of the tools to help minimize colds and flu: masks. Masks protect you from the direct inhalation of viruses, they also help keep your nose warm, and the warmer you can keep the intranasal environment, the better this innate immune defense mechanism will be able to work.
More Tips to Help You Stay Healthy in the Winter
1. Support your immune system with natural cold and flu fighters like quercetin, vitamin C and zinc. Pathway Immune Support contains these and many more immune-supporting nutrients. Pathway Cold and Sinus Blaster is another product that can provide relief for sinus and nasal congestion. This unique herbal formula also stimulates and supports the immune system.
2. Eat as healthy as possible. Boost your nutrition intake by including more plants; brightly colored veggies, fiber-rich fruits and veggies, and aromatic spices like turmeric.
3. Stay hydrated. Winter is surprisingly drying to the body, especially evident in our skin and mucous membranes. Drinks lots of water and use humidifiers in your house.
4. Rest. Being rested and sleeping well play a big part in overall health. Try to maintain regular sleeping routines whenever possible.
5. Vitamin D. Although natural sunshine is your main source of vitamin D, getting enough during colder darker months can be challenging. Consider topping up with a supplement.
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