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. Nancy Angelini is National Science Educator for Source Naturals and Planetary Herbals, with more than 14 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 our 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 of our red and white blood cells.
  • The spleen is important because it brings blood into contact with white blood cells called lymphocytes, in great volume. Any foreign invader will activate the lymphocytes by their presence.
  • The thymus gland is where our T-lymphocytes are proliferated and is also a part of signaling and orchestrating our 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 the key to keeping the body healthy during cold and flu 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 now shows that emotional and physiological stress significantly impacts the immune system. Anytime we can reduce stress we allow the body a rest from stress hormones and create more support for repairing and renewal.

Supplementing with combination immune formulas is beneficial during peak cold and flu 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.



Jenny says …

That is false information about Echinacea. Echinacea has no effect in preventing or boosting immunity. Vitamin C has been proven effective in the aid of boosting the immune system. It will not help once you are ill, but it can cut back on illness if taken all winter.

shaun says …

That didn't answer my question, but thanks for the info.??!!

shaun says …

What about if you have RA. Can you still rev up your immune system? That may defeat my RA meds purpose. Any suggestions? RA being Rhumatiod Arthritis. Thanks.

Nathalie says …

Propolis, a beehive product, is a great boost for the immune system, as well as having powerful antimicrobial and antifungal properties. Royal jelly,yet another beehive product is also known to strengthen the immune system. Thank you the bees ;o)

Harriet Tuck says …

I have been suffering with a skin condition for years and the doctors have done me no good. I am no using your skin care products the Nutribiotic hypoallergenic skin cream and Oatmeal moisturizer and 365 shampoo and my skin is much, much better. The allergist had me list the ingredients on products I have problems with and it is frightening. I will be a regular customer from now on.

Lorena says …

These are excellent tips on Immune system strengthening, is it possible you could recommend actual products that contain some of these beneficial supplements to include in our diet during this winter season?

Bepkom says …

Since our product selection various from region to region it's best that you speak with one of the Team Members in your local store. Also, you should check out our 'Be Good to Your Whole Body' October podcast which contains TONS of great information on this topic. You can find it by clicking here: http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/products/good-whole-body.php

Maria says …

Great article! I'm so glad to actually know more about the immune system, since I seem to have issues with mine most of the time.. Thank you :)

iAssist! says …

I appreciate the supplement recommendations, but would also love suggestions on how these are best taken - in tea or capsule form? My company assists independent seniors living at home, and part of our work includes assisting seniors with maintaining good health. It would be very helpful if these recommendations were qualified to address whether or not these supplements are recommended/safe for either seniors or for that matter children. Thanks!

David says …

Jenny, Sorry but your wrong about vitamin c. Vitamin C is found in high concentrations in immune cells however it does not prevent colds. It really has no other connection to immune function. Echinacea has had mixed results in several studys. as far as supplements go, my money is on colostrum and NAC.