Whole Story

The Official Whole Foods Market® Blog

Understanding the Immune System for Winter Wellness

Ever wonder what your immune system is actually made of? Learn how the body responds to foreign invaders and what you can do both internally and externally to support winter wellness in this revealing encore presentation. Nancy Angelini is National Science Educator for Source Naturals and Planetary Herbals, with more than 15 years (and 1500 lectures!) in the natural products industry.

The immune system runs all throughout the body and includes various organs and glands that work together to keep the body balanced:
  • The immune system is a network of cells that defends the body from foreign invaders.  It includes protective barriers such as the skin and all mucus membranes, which are used as transport vehicles by the body to rid it of any foreign materials.
  • The immune system begins in the bone marrow where stem cells are formed and from there, all red and white blood cells.
  • The spleen is important because it brings blood into contact with white blood cells called lymphocytes. Any foreign invader will activate the lymphocytes by their presence.
  • The thymus gland is where T-lymphocytes are proliferated and is also a part of signaling and orchestrating immune defenses.  It is likened to a crossing guard at an intersection and cross-walk.
  • Lymph nodes are found distributed around the body to filter and destroy bacteria.
Prevention is key to keeping the body healthy throughout the season:
  • Wash your hands for at least 10 seconds in warm, soapy water. Public health studies have demonstrated that doing this simple task can reduce the spread of germs.
  • Consider getting a longer night’s rest during the months when there is less light.  Longer, deeper sleep helps our bodies to recover and build even in the lack of exposure to sunlight.
  • Science shows that emotional and physiological stress significantly impacts the immune system. Reducing stress allows the body a rest from stress hormones and creates more support for repairing and renewal.
Supplementing with combination immune formulas is beneficial during the peak season:
  • Cayenne, ginger and garlic encourage sweating to help cool the body.
  • Elderberry has been an effective seasonal remedy for hundreds of years in Europe.
  • Research shows Echinacea’s ability to support immune function, specifically through the increased activity of macrophages.  These scavengers make sure foreign matter is destroyed and help rid the body of debris.

Leave a reply

To provide feedback or ask a question about our company, a store or a product, please visit our Customer Service page.

For more information about posting comments to our blog, please see our Comment Posting Guidelines.

58 comments

Comments

heather stewart says …

didn't ever think about getting longer nights sleep to help with months of less light. Interesting

Cynthia C says …

Thank you for explaining. I was not sure of the spleen's role in fighting infections.

Tara Jennings says …

Great information!

Mary Michaud says …

Thank you! That was very imformative and helpful. I knew about garlic and echinacea being helpful, but not the others.

Janice Cooper says …

Great info. I definitely wash my hands all the time at least 10 seconds or longer in warm water to fight germs. What I didn't know was ginger is a cold/flu remedy.

bets says …

Love the idea of needing more sleep in the winter due to lack of sun.

Joellyn Akerley says …

Really informative.

Anne Loyd says …

I did not realize that the red and white blood cells were so involved in the bone marrow. I also learned that the lymph nodes act as a filtering system. This is very interesting and I also appreciated the measures to help prevent illness.

JulieK says …

Thanks for the mention of several natural remedies to keep up immune support in winter - I am a fan of Elderberry and Echinachea already! But enjoyed hearing other ways to keep up good health! :)

Patricia N says …

Very concise, easy to understand overview of how some of our body's systems work.

Mary Brown says …

As a student in nursing school, I know how important it is to wash your hands often as well as trying to contain your sneezes and coughs. Wish more people understood how important it is, thanks for spreading the word!

Corey Olomon says …

This is great! I want to thank Whole Foods for doing a public service with these great podcasts!

Laura Muzughi says …

Amazing and useful information! Thought I knew quite a bit, but it is a wonderful surprise to find out just how much you don't know!

Amber says …

Wow, I never thought about the role bone marrow actually plays in our immune system!

The Happy Wife says …

Thanks for helping me see just how many body "parts" play a role in our immune system. I have taken a physiology course, but still never knew the extent of the various systems roles.

Dina says …

Thank you for the fascinating and timely information!

Eugenie says …

I like to eat ginger and garlic. It's good to know that those will help my immune system.

Lindsey Davis says …

I really like the idea of more sleep in the winter. I always feel more sleepy durning the winter. I do think the sun has something to do with it!

Melissa says …

Great tips and information. Thanks!

sindy murray says …

love to cook with Cayenne pepper and garlic!!

Grace Thomas says …

Liked the natural remedies info about Elderberry-had never heard of it!

Pu Ye says …

I Love the idea of needing more sleep in the winter due to lack of sun.

Geri S says …

WOW!!! this was very interesting. I didn't know how the immune system worked and I learned alot.

Katharine D says …

That was interesting, learned a few things I did not know.

Jill Watkins says …

Thanks for explaining all about our immune systems.

Mari says …

When I'm sick I juice with garlic, ginger, onions, and kale. It sounds gross, but it clears my congestion up!

Howell says …

I appreciate the explanation of how the immune system works and the supplements that can benefit it.

Jennie Swencki says …

Wow, very good info. Thank you!

Melissa says …

I appreciate the explanation of how the immune system works.

amy v says …

great info for the upcoming winter season!

amber says …

I love the idea that ginger can help fight off winter ailments by increasing sweating, esp. since it relieves nausea at the same time

jennifer orr says …

i get more rest during the winter being an asthmic i have to be very careful.

Theresa Shafer says …

The most important food facts are the last three bullet points. Washing our hands is very important and I am glad it is repeated here as the first item. May we all be healthier this season.

Mary Thomas says …

Avoid stress, increase sleep!

steff says …

i wish stress healed instead of hurt!

Carey says …

Wow...thanks for this info!!! All during the year I stop by your store for shots of wheat grass juice. It boosts the immune system and it works wonders for my allergies and when i feel a cold coming on.

Jeremy says …

This is full of important information that I need to share with my parents. I will be loading this up onto their iPod! Thank you!

Melissa T says …

Wow, this was super informative, definitely did not know half of the points listed here. Thank you for sharing! Also thank you for the supplement recommendations!

lyndsey says …

very fascinating! i learned a lot. thanks. :)

Erin says …

I have heard conflicting reports about Echinacea’s ability to support immune function. Glad to hear another pov!

meredith says …

thanks for the great overview! lots of information on how our bodies work!

Melissa says …

Very interesting! Love this <3

Liz says …

It was great to learn more about the body. I have a soldier currently in Afghanistan and he is constantly fighting colds/flu and the "dirty" air over there especially as the weather there changes.

Rita Spratlen says …

Thank you for the great review of the immune system. I am a nurse and it is great to be reminded of things that I forgot or do think about. You are very informative and to the point. Great information for all of us. Thanks again. Rita

Amanda C says …

What a great post! I never wash my hands long enough and I am definitely going to try elderberry this winter.

elizabeth s. says …

Interesting information! I never knew that about the spleen either. I always thought it didn't really have much of a purpose!

Robin Estep Appelhans says …

The hand washing is a huge factor in keeping a family healthy. I taught my children to spell Mississippi and when they finished they had spent the 10 seconds.

Jen Shirley says …

Wow - Great info! Thanks to Whole Foods for the education on staying healthy!

Jessica Peeling says …

Thank you for the great information! I did not know about the Elderberry :)

Sara McKibben-Lehman says …

Thanks for the info! Whole foods might have saved me from the flu!

Pages