With the kids back in school and the calendar filling up with Christmas parties and events, now is the time to be proactive in avoiding winter colds and flus. No one likes chasing their toddlers around with a kleenex, waking up throughout the night to check on feverish kids or dragging oneself through a work day feeling under the weather. By working to support the immune system now, it is possible to ward off infections or at least shorten their length and severity.
Your body’s immune function can become depleted by a variety of stressors including poor diet, too much sugar and dairy, food sensitivities, physical or mental stress, lack of beneficial bacteria, and insufficient vitamins and minerals. When the immune system becomes weakened by these factors, it is more susceptible to invading viruses or bacteria. This explains why some people stay healthy throughout the year, while others complain of catching every cold or flu going around.
What you can do:
- Sleep 8-9 hours per night: Perhaps this is easier said than done because many people either struggle to clear enough hours in the day to sleep OR they battle insomnia and have difficulty getting their bodies to sleep. Getting adequate sleep is so foundational to every aspect of health….especially the immune system!
- Drink 2L of water per day: Do whatever you need in order to get yourself drinking enough water. Buy a pretty water bottle, add lemon or indulge in your favourite herbal tea.
- Avoid excess alcohol and caffeine: These substances place additional stress upon the adrenal glands and increase levels of stress hormones. These stress hormones actually suppress the immune system.
- Avoid food sensitivities: Many people consume foods on a daily basis that suppress the immune system. A simple blood test can be performed that measures the amount of antibodies your body produces in reaction to each food, so that you can avoid those foods.
- Exercise at least 30 min. 3x per week: It is important to find an activity that you enjoy and get moving! Activities outside are great to get fresh air and connect with nature.
- Cut down on sugar and dairy in your diet: Our bodies often crave sugar when we get tired. Although sugar may give us momentary satisfaction, it can cause more trouble down the road by weakening the immune system and further burdening the adrenals.
- Use stress reduction techniques: Different techniques work for different people, but it is important to know your self and know what works when life gets stressful. I often recommend exercise, prayer, breathing exercise and tapping techniques.
- Eat a whole foods diet with vegetables at every meal: Increasing the amount of green on the plate is a good place to start. Bone broths and soups are also a great way to incorporate lots of veggies this time of year.
- Vitamin D: Here in Ottawa, many of us get insufficient levels of Vitamin D during the cold winter months. Vitamin D3 (the active form) should be supplemented to the diet to improve immune function.
- Probiotics: A probiotic powder or capsule with at least 20 billion cfu (colony forming units) per day is necessary to replenish and support the “good” bacteria that protect the mucous membranes of your mouth, nose, throat, tonsils and gastrointestinal tract from viruses and bacteria that try to enter.
- Vitamins A, C, E and zinc: Many supplement companies sell products containing vitamins A, C, E and zinc which all work to help boost the immune system.
- Garlic: At the first sign of sickness, I always chop up 2-3 cloves of garlic and let them sit for about 10 mins. before swallowing them. I will admit it is not easy to get down, but it does work!