Boost your immune system this winter
It’s that time of year again. It seems as if everyone, and their dog, is falling ill.
The good news? You don’t have to get sick just because everyone else is! The reality is that you don’t catch the cold or flu just because you are exposed to it, you catch it because your immune system is compromised.
When it comes to preventing the cold and flu, your most powerful ally is prevention. Whether you get sick or not is largely dependent on your immune defenses and your nutritional status.
Learn our top immune boosting tips that you can start implementing today to keep you healthy and ward off those bugs this season.
What can weaken our immune system?
Chronic stress, toxins and chemicals, poor diet (sugar, processed foods, hydrogenated oils, fried foods, food additives, trans fat, alcohol, refined carbs...), radiation (airplane travel, EMFs…), drugs (nicotine, steroids, cortisone, anti-inflammatories, adrenaline, amphetamines...), surgery, lack of sleep, allergies...
How do we boost our immune system?
When it comes to health we always have to start with the foundations, which are nutrition and lifestyle. Because we can’t out supplement or out medicate these important pillars of health. These represent the basics to staying healthy and creating a strong defense system.
You obviously know by now that you should eat healthy. But why? Your nutritional status is an important factor to determining whether you will catch the common cold or flu. So what are the best foods you can eat this winter?
Nutritional powerhouses, greens are rich in disease-fighting compounds and immune boosting nutrients like chlorophyll, phytonutrients, antioxidants, enzymes, and vitamins and minerals. Aim for 1 cup of greens (collard greens, mustard greens, swiss chard, romaine lettuce, dandelion greens, spinach, arugula, kale...) per meal on a daily basis. Add greens to juice or smoothies for an easy way to pack in those nutrients!
There was a reason behind grandma's chicken soup growing up. Bone broth contains easily absorbable nutrients like magnesium, calcium, iron, and zinc, and important amino acids like glycine and glutamine that are all linked to improved gut health, increased function of immune cells, and lowered inflammatory levels.
Make your own bone broth at home or buy from your local butcher but make sure you are using the bones from organically raised, pastured or grass-fed animals. In a rush? Try powdered bone broth that you can add to soups, hot water or stews, and enjoy right away!
Antimicrobial, antiviral and antifungal properties, garlic can help relieve the common cold as well as other infections. Allicin, in particular, is believed to play an important role in this vegetable’s antimicrobial powers, which is formed when garlic is crushed or chopped. Add to your cooking for increased flavor and health benefits.
Another common remedy for viral and bacterial infections, ginger helps to relieve nausea and GI upset, soothes the respiratory system to help you breathe better, and reduces inflammation in the body.
Make some ginger tea with manuka honeyand you have yourself a yummy immune boosting remedy!
Did you know that around 80% of your immune system lies in your gut?
You’ve probably taken probiotic supplements but do you regularly eat probiotic-rich foods? Now’s the time to get started! Probiotics are our good bacteria found in our gut that have many health benefits: they strengthen the gut barrier, secrete antibacterial substances that prevent disease-causing bacteria from taking over, and train your immune system to distinguish between harmful and non-harmful pathogens.
By eating fermented foods, you increase your intake of these beneficial bacteria. You can make your own fermented foods at home or buy them from the refrigerated section: sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, kefir, natto, tempeh, miso...
What you eat but also what you do on a regular basis is significantly influential on your health status. There are many ways to add immune boosting activities to your daily routine:
The lymphatic system, a network of tissues and organs that carries waste out of the body and carries white blood cells to destroy pathogens, is an important part of our immune system that we often disregard. Stimulating our lymphatic stimulation can help prevent disease, promote longevity, and reduce the duration of the cold and flu. Try dry brushing, hot-cold showers, massage, and any type of movement to get your lymphatic circulation moving!
This the time for repair and regeneration. It has been shown that your body reacts to stress and sleep deprivation much like it does to sickness, increasing its white blood cell count which is usually a sign of infection in the body. Sleep issues are becoming increasingly common these days, which is problematic because lack of sleep increases inflammatory markers, decreases T-cell function (immune cells), as well as the efficiency of communication between the brain and the immune system. The average human needs 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep, so schedule in your ZZZ’s!
Do you have trouble falling asleep? Here are some tips:
- Avoid electronics at least 1 hour before bed and remove them from your bedroom.
- Get daylight exposure during the day and sleep in complete darkness during the night. This will help regulate your circadian rhythm which will boost energy when you should be awake and promote sleepiness at bedtime by enhancing melatonin and serotonin production.
- Develop a sleep routine that is relaxing to you: meditation, journaling, essential oil or Epsom salt bath, reading…
- If you still have problems falling asleep, you may want to try magnesium or melatonin before bedtime to promote sleep and relax the body.
We live in an overstimulated and stressed society, and this is affecting our long-term health and immune status. Chronic stress elevates stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline in the bloodstream which suppress the immune system. This results in decreased white blood cell production, natural killer cell production, and an increase in pro-inflammatory compounds called cytokines. Stress also has a negative effect on gut health by potentially decreasing good microbes, encouraging the growth of harmful bacteria, and making the lining of the digestive tract more permeable.
How can you manage your stress?
- Evaluate: what are your current stressors? Can you get rid of or delegate any of them? Make an action plan today.
- Schedule in time for fun and play! And make it a daily habit. This could be as simple as taking a hot bath whilst reading a book, playing soccer with your friends, or booking that dance class with your partner.
- Practice deep breathing, especially during high-stress moments, this will help activate the parasympathetic nervous system; our rest and digest state.
- Nourish your body with vibrant plant-based foods to increase your resilience against stress and mitigate its effects on the body.
Oil of Oregano
This is a powerful and potent herb capable of killing off harmful yeast, funghi, bacteria, and inhibiting viral infections from multiplying. Oregano has been shown to significantly diminish symptoms associated with upper respiratory tract infections and work as a shield against toxins and harmful microbes to promote faster healing. Look for wild oregano with a natural carvacrol level of over 80%, such as Hedd Wyn Wild Oil of Oregano.
Known as one of the most nutrient dense, antiviral, antibacterial, and anti-inflammatory food sources, medicinal mushrooms are powerful immune boosters. Medicinal mushrooms can include chaga, shiitake, reishi, maitake, turkey tail and cordyceps. Always choose organic and from a reputable source. You can take them in tea, tincture, capsule or powder form. We love Host Defense Shield Spray and Four Sigmatic coffee, perfect for on-the-go!
A common deficiency, zinc helps boost immunity and reduce cold and flu symptoms by encouraging the destruction of foreign pathogens, decreasing inflammation and free radicals, and encouraging white blood cells, antibodies and natural killer cells to combat infections. Some studies show that zinc may reduce the duration of colds by 50 percent. Take at the first sign of symptoms for optimal results.
This may be the most beneficial vitamin (which is really a hormone) for disease prevention. Studies show higher vitamin D status enhances your immunity to infections and reduces your risk of getting sick with the cold and flu. It was found that subjects with vitamin D deficiency had significantly more days of absence from work due to respiratory infections than those with healthy levels. In order to get the correct dosing, testing is recommended. Always choose vitamin D3, which is the natural form that your body makes, and is converted 500 percent faster than vitamin D2.
We put together this short video on surviving the cold and flu season: