This time of year, it seems everyone I know is sick. I haven’t been sick in several years and I don’t intend on getting sick anytime soon! I wanted to share my tips for staying healthy- not just during cold season but for all times of year. Following some of the tips below should help you improve the overall function of your immune system and therefore, when you’re exposed to germs, your body is much better equipped to fight it off.
So, here we go! This is a long post, sorry. I couldn’t stop writing.
Let me ask you, do any of the situations listed below play a part in your life?
Excessive or prolonged stress
Exhaustion from busy social and work schedules
Bad food choices and a lack of important nutrients
Regular drinking (did you know alcohol can impair your white blood cells’ ability to combat viruses up to 24 hours after?)
All of these things impair our immune system and make us more susceptible to some of the less exciting elements of the season: Cold, Cough, Fever, Flu.
However, you can protect yourself from such menaces by making sure your immune system is in tip-top shape.
So what is your “immune system” anyway?
• Simply put, it is a layered system designed to protect you from disease. There are surface barriers such as our skin, lungs and intestines that act to physically stop bacteria from causing harm. Then there are chemical barriers such as antibodies that the body produces within bodily fluids. Then there are also cellular barriers, which are actual cells that fight foreign invaders- such as white blood cells.
• Think of the immune system as a machine or engine, with many parts that perform different tasks to keep you running effectively. So, when we speak of “boosting our immune system” we want to think of it as keeping the engine well-oiled and in great shape so it doesn’t break down.
Good health = good immune system = NO FLU
The most important aspect of boosting your immune system is looking at your overall health habits and making sure you are caring for your body regularly – popping a bunch of vitamin C once cold symptoms set in won’t do you any good if you already have a weak immune system.
Easier said than done, right? Well here are some tips to help you get started.
Tips To Help Boost Your Immune System
Manage Stress: Social stress can be even more damaging than physical stress. Reports are finding that stressful situations can reduce our cellular immune response, so take time to decompress and relax
Balance Exercise: Regular exercise is one of the pillars of healthy living. It also boosts your body’s natural antioxidant defense system over time. However, when you feel even the slightest inkling of sickness coming on, physically stressing your body with exercise can actually bring on sickness (especially intense exercise). If you think you may be coming down with something, rest up and skip the gym until you feel 100%.
Get Sleep: Those who get less than 7 hours of sleep are more likely to develop a cold in comparison to those who get 8 or more hours of sleep. Your body really needs sleep to repair and recover. (Your brain also needs sleep to recover, process new information, and prepare you for the next day).
Take Supplements (or make a serious effort to increase foods high in certain listed vitamins. Remember, food sources are the best way to get nutrients):
Vitamin B (as a complex, not just B6 or B12): Studies have shown that a vitamin B deficiency can depress aspects of the immune response.
Vitamin C: an antioxidant responsible for growth and repair of cells. Has been shown to reduce cold symptoms.
Vitamin D: has been shown to signal an antimicrobial response when the body is exposed to sunlight, which is the best source of Vit. D.
Ginseng: known for ability to increase immune function.
Oregano oil: known to be anti-bacterial, it can help improve gut health and boost immune system.
Probiotics: “good” bacteria that support a healthy immune system via your gut. *so incredibly important!
Echinacea: an herb that can help prevent or limit sickness, usually if taken right at first sign of symptoms. Don’t take long-term.
Chamomile: a recent study found that increasing chamomile intake (as tea) increased levels of polyphenols, a compound that is connected to increased antibacterial activity.
Fiber: We all have cells called macrophage- they are white blood cells produced in bone marrow. These cells roam the body, picking fights with bacteria, viruses, or other intruders. But they need you to help them: these white blood cells are activated by components of fiber . So get your fiber!
Brightly colored fruits & veggies: Antioxidants in brightly colored fruits and veggies fight free radicals that dampen your natural defenses,
Cruciferous veggies: supporting liver enables detoxification and support of well-functioning immune system. Vegetables such as kale, broccoli, lettuce and cabbage support the liver’s ability to flush out toxins.
Garlic: Garlic may have some infection-fighting capabilities to work against bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
Avocados: Avocados contain essential amino acids, antioxidants and some healthy fats to help balance hormone production.
Ginger: helps to break down the accumulation of toxins in the lungs and sinuses. Also believed to help cleanse the lymphatic system, which is our body’s sewage system.
Healthy dietary fat: Fat is necessary for carotenoids, antioxidants that have been linked to improved immunity, to be properly absorbed in your body. Choose salad dressings with healthy fats from extra-virgin olive oil or nut oils. Avocado oil is also good. There are actually many fat-soluble nutrients that do not get absorbs into your body without dietary fat. Cook with stable fats such a coconut oil.
Pomegranates: The juice in pomegranate seeds contain ellagic acid and punic alagin which fight damage from free radicals. It’s also a powerful source of phytonutrients that promote healthy skin.
Mushrooms: Japanese mushrooms are a great immunity booster- enoki, shitake or oyster – they have an antioxidant ergothioneine that stays intact even through cooking.