Winter Immune-Boosting Tips for People with Diabetes


the Healthnotes Medical Advisory

The warm stock (also called bone broth) used to make soup may help loosen respiratory secretions, making it easier to cough and blow them out

Related Topics

  1. Type 1 Diabetes
  2. Immune Function Center
  3. Immunization Management Tips

Along with the drop in temperatures comes a rise in infections, especially in people with diabetes. Heightened stress around the holidays and less sleep can also contribute to an increased risk of catching a cold or the flu during the winter. Luckily, you can help stave off sickness by following these simple steps.

  • Get moving. As lovely as it would be to stay in bed on a dark December morning, opt for some immune-boosting exercise instead. For example, taking a 20-minute, fast-paced walk as few as three times per week can help support immune function, making it less likely that you’ll catch whatever bug is going around. Exercise also helps keep blood sugar levels in check, increases insulin sensitivity, lowers blood pressure, and helps you maintain a healthy weight—all good things for people with diabetes.
  • Stress less. Chronic stress from work, relationships, or illness can send immune health into a downward spiral. Stress can also lead to fluctuating blood sugar levels, which can increase your risk of getting sick. Make sure to find your “happy place” during cold and flu season: Give yoga a try, enjoy a warm bath, read that book languishing on your shelf, or connect with a friend. Remember: You don’t have to earn your down time; keeping stress in check is just as important for managing your diabetes as good nutrition is.
  • Eat the rainbow. To help keep your immune system in prime shape, eat brightly colored fruits and vegetables. These foods—like red and yellow peppers, dark-skinned berries, kiwi, collard greens, and butternut squash—are ways to get a variety of nutrients like vitamin C, which may help shorten the length and severity of the common cold. While fresh produce might be harder to find in the winter months, you can always count on the freezer section to supply what you need.
  • Soup it up. Your mother was right when she pushed that bowl of soup under your nose when you were sick. The warm stock (also called bone broth) used to make soup may help loosen respiratory secretions, making it easier to cough and blow them out. To up your soup game, try adding in chopped onions, garlic, and shiitake mushrooms, all of which can help boost its immune-enhancing effects.
  • Get your sleep. Experts agree that most adults need seven to eight hours of sleep per night for optimal health. The body repairs itself during sleep, and untreated chronic sleep disorders can increase the risk of high blood pressure, heart attacks, and obesity. To help get a night of restful sleep, get exercise during the day, don’t drink caffeinated beverages after noon, and remove or power down electronic devices in your bedroom, such as TVs, computers, and cell phones. Light from these devices inhibits the sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin.

What else can you do?

  • Get your D. Low blood levels of vitamin D are correlated with increased upper respiratory tract infections. Ask your doctor about how much vitamin D is right for you.
  • Drink a cup of tea. Stay warm and hydrated this winter with a cup of oolong tea. More research is needed, but at least one study so far has found an association between consumption of oolong tea and a decrease in blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes.
  • Add a multivitamin. Depending on your diet, you may not be getting all of the nutrients you need. It’s also important to keep in mind that people with diabetes may have specific nutrient needs, so consult with your healthcare provider to help you select a comprehensive multivitamin.

(J Pharmacol Pharmacother 2012;3:300–303)

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