Add This To Your Water To Ward Off Winter Illness

The winter season for most people usually means gathering more often indoors to avoid the chilly outdoors. Winter air is not only colder, but it's also drier, so you might notice you're less resistant to other people's colds and other respiratory illnesses, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

You probably already practice many of the common strategies to ward off getting sick in the winter such as keeping your hands clean, getting enough sleep, eating wholesome foods, and flushing out bacteria through physical exercise. While vitamin C and zinc can't prevent you from getting sick, both nutrients can support your immune system to reduce the number of sick days (per University of Pittsburgh Medical Center). You might even try some alternative remedies like apple cider vinegar, ginger, and garlic.

Staying hydrated is also important when your body is fighting illness (via Abbott). Water helps to hydrate your skin and mucous membranes so they can ward off harmful bacteria. To improve your immune system, try adding cayenne pepper to your water.

Capsaicin in cayenne can improve the immune system

Cayenne is a nightshade similar to other peppers, tomatoes, and potatoes. What brings the heat to cayenne pepper is its capsaicin. The capsaicin gives cayenne its medicinal properties (per WebMD). According to a 2021 article in the Annals of the Romanian Society for Cell Biology, capsaicin in peppers such as cayenne can improve your gut health, digestion, and metabolism. It also has antibacterial properties and can reduce fever. Capsaicin interacts with cells that are important for our immune response.

Capsaicin might also affect the flu in your system, according to a 2023 article in Nutrients. A flu virus needs a particular enzyme to spread and infect other cells in your respiratory system. Capsaicin might activate neurons in your respiratory tract that can inhibit this enzyme. This compound in cayenne pepper might also help stop various strains of a virus found in West Africa from entering cells by blocking key processes of the virus.

Adding cayenne to your diet

If you're familiar with cayenne pepper seasoning, you know it's a pretty hot spice. You can start adding about ⅛ teaspoon to your water a day to get your system accustomed to the spice. You can use hot water and steep the cayenne for a few minutes like tea, as WorldHealth.Net suggests. Some people like adding lemon to the water for a little extra taste. Adding cayenne pepper to your water might help you feel better, but there isn't any published research to support that it will cure a cold or shorten its duration (per Medical News Today).

Keep in mind that dried cayenne pepper used as a spice doesn't have nearly the same nutritional value as fresh cayenne pepper (via WebMD). You can buy cayenne peppers in the store, but you'll need to be careful in handling them. The oils from the peppers can remain on your fingers and surfaces, so be sure to avoid touching your eyes until you're sure the oils are no longer on your skin. Certain medications don't mix well with capsaicin such as blood thinners, aspirin, stomach acid medicines, and ACE inhibitors.