Boosting Your Immune System
We all know that when the leaves start dropping, the breeze gets colder, the days get shorter and the nights get longer we know that we are in transition into winter. With the winter just a short skip and a jump away so is cold and flu season! Here are my #NutritionistApproved tips & tricks for strengthening your immune system, staying healthy and avoiding infections.
- Consume a Balanced Diet
During the fall/winter season, our body requires fat-soluble vitamins A, C, D, and E and minerals such as selenium, zinc, and omegas to support the immune system. Whole foods such as quality animal protein (if you're an omnivore), whole grains, legumes, seeds, nuts, fruits, and vegetables are an ideal diet.
- Consume Seasonally-Rich Fruits and Vegetables
Read: 10 Reasons to Eat Seasonally
- Use Superfoods!
Camu Camu: Potent food-based source of Vitamin C
Bee Pollen: Nature's Multi-Vitamin
Reishi Mushroom: Immunity Boost
Micro Algae: Antioxidant & Mineral Boost
- Avoid Processed Foods
This means processed meat, fried foods, soft drinks, processed baked treats, any products with refined sugars or artificial sweeteners. Did you know that eating too much of these foods causes our immune system to become suppressed?
- Load Up on Vitamin C
Fresh fruits and vegetables are our BEST and most bioavailable sources of Vitamin C. Some of the best sources are guava, brussel sprouts, black currant, grapefruit, peas, parsley, red pepper, broccoli, kiwi, cauliflower, mango, strawberries, orange, green peppers, papaya, kale, and pineapple.
What does Vitamin C do? repair and regenerate tissues, protect against cardiovascular issues, help absorb iron, decrease LDL cholesterol + triglycerides, neutralize nitrate damage, combats free radical damage. Supplemental Vitamin C has been shown to lessen the duration and symptoms of the common cold and support healthy immune function.
- Use Herbs & Spices
By using fresh herbs & spices to infuse flavour into your foods rather than pre-packaged sauces this gives our body a boost to the immune system by the active components found. Some great options are garlic, onions, ginger, black peppercorns, allspice, cayenne pepper, and turmeric.
- Drink LOTS of Water
While water consumption is a big deal year round, it's even more important during the fall and winter because it's easy to forget to drink water due the sun not being out as much. When the sun is out, this has a dehydrating effect on our body causing us to become thirsty - therefore it's easy to drink more. During the winter, while we may not feel the sensation of thirst easily our body still requires water. If you drink about 1 1/2 to 2L of water daily, you may not feel the sensation of thirst, likely because your body is using water efficiently and has enough to operate optimally. Why? Water helps in the production of lymph which carries white blood cells plus other beneficial immune cells to other areas of our body for absorption. Did you know that when you feel the sensation of thirst that you are already dehydrated?
- HELLO, FRIENDLY BACTERIA!
It is well known that approximately 80% of our immune system is housed in our gastrointestinal tract. This is the site of neurotransmitter production such as serotonin, dopamine, GABA and acetylcholine which is then taken up by receptors in the brain. When our gastrointestinal system is in a state of distress, our gut doesn't make these neurotransmitters because our body is too busy trying to re-balance the digestive distress that it doesn't deem neurotransmitter production as necessary. Keeping a healthy guy correlates to a healthy well-being and strong function immune system. Probiotics are a healthy bacteria that help our gut to regain the balance of good to bad bacteria. Our body actually requires bad bacteria in smaller doses to keep the immune system on track, think of sonar that is constantly working to identify any foreign invaders. Great sources are fermented foods such as sauerkraut, miso, kefir, kimchi and microalgae, supplementation is also necessary because some days we don't always eat what we should but that's okay! That's why supplementation is great because you can have a peace of mind knowing that just because you slipped up a little bit doesn't mean that you've derailed all the hard work you've put in. It's best to choose brands that offer a variety of bacterial strains and that's ideally refrigerated.
- Avoid Antibiotics, IF possible
Antibiotics are known to attack bacteria when we are sick however antibiotics are not selective in which type of bacteria they attacked. They not only attack bad bacteria but they also attack healthy bacteria and comprise the immune system in the process. If you really have to take them, I would recommend to finish your prescribed antibiotic dose and then go on a round of high dose probiotics to reinoculate your gastrointestinal system. This encourages your body to strengthen its immune system and produce neurotransmitters which will dictate how we think, act and feel.
- Getting Sick
If you do happen to get sick, there is no need to be upset with yourself - it happens! Often times, getting a cold is just our body's way of telling us we need to slow down and give ourselves a little more love. Sip on hot water with lemon, ginger and organic honey! You can also use echinacea or zinc. Get plenty of water and vitamin C!
- Regular Exercise
I realize that working out may not seem appealing in the colder months where you just want to stay in with a warm cup of tea, a fire, and your favourite blanket but I promise you that exercise during this time does have benefits! It increases our immune system function, improves our overall sleep quality while making us stronger. Find the time to workout, even if it’s only a long walk!
- I WANNA SOAK UP THE SUN
No this does not mean go to your local tanning bed, but rather go outside when the sun is out! If it's during your lunch hour or just a walk to the mailbox, being outside for about 30 minutes per day gives our immune system an essential boost of Vitamin D. Supplementation with D3 is recommended all year round but you can increase your dose as the sun doesn't show its face as much and decrease at the months start to warm up again. Some benefits include improved bone health, improved blood sugar levels, decrease cancer risk, increase cardiovascular health, enhanced immune system function, regulate hormone production, improve mood & help with concentration, learning, and memory.
- Chill out, Belly Laugh and Enjoy Life!
Did you know that chronic stress, anxiety, and depression can suppress the immune system and make us more vulnerable to foreign invaders? This can lead to chronic inflammation and infection over time with affects our respiratory system, kidney function, digestive system and hormone function. It’s important to take the time to enjoy life and have fun!