Greetings Wellness Warriors!
Cold and flu season is up on us and I wanted share these tips nice and early.
Here are some natural ways to boost your immune system.
Sleep – Deep, restful sleep is one of the best ways to metabolize the stress hormones we produce each day. Ideally we’d be sleeping with the natural light cycles and none of us would be sleep deprived. In reality we clearly don’t sleep at five in the winter months, which is another stressor on our body’s natural rhythms. So, set up your sleep schedule to allow for at least 7-9 hours of sleep. For optimal rest, aim to be in bed by 10 pm. (I wanted to say 9 pm but who are we kidding, right?)
Rest and Restore – Reduce stress and turn on the relaxation response in your body DAILY. This allows your nervous system to recalibrate and move out of the adrenaline and cortisol producing fight or flight hormones from a busy day. Watching TV and reading don’t count in this case because they are still stimulating your nervous system. You can induce the Relaxation Response easily by practicing 15-20 minutes one to two times per day of my number one ‘prescription’ to clients: using the Guided Seated Mindfulness exercise or the Guided Body Scan available for free here. For a shorter version, check out the Stop Breath and Think app for an 8 minute mini version. (FYI: if you deal with a bit of anxiety, gut disturbances, poor sleep, poor concentration, elevated blood pressure, or a spouse telling you that you ‘need to relax’, these exercises will do wonders) If that seems too long, click here for an excellent visual that will calm you in just a few breaths!
Vitamin D – A hormone involved in thousands of chemical processes in the body including keeping the immune system in optimal condition. I’d recommend a minimum of 2000 IU during the fall winter season, unless your multivitamin already contains this amount. For individualized dosing, blood testing would be needed; just over $30 if you’re in Ontario, Canada where I am.
High Quality Multivitamin – This is a constant debate especially after a recent report released that dismissed multivitamins as having any beneficial effect. Its important to know that the studies reviewed only looked at preventing cancer or risk of another cardiovascular event. Nothing by it self can prevent cancer and heart disease. Everything works in synergy and reality is we are not getting Optimal amounts of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. The other factor to mentioån is they did not look at QUALITY of vitamins being taken. I do recommend taking a high quality multivitamin to fill in the gaps due to nutrient depleted soils, inadequate plant food intake, and mental/emotional stress which deplete the body. If you decide to take a multi, invest in the highest quality product your budget allows.
Boost Your Bacteria – Take a probiotic supplement or boost your intake of fermented foods like sauerkraut or kim chi. . You have TEN times as many microbes as you do cells in your body. Unfortunately, with the amazing invention of refrigeration, we also stopped getting natural bacteria from fermentation. We also do not eat fermented food regularly. The yogurts that claim to have plenty of bacteria do not have enough to make a significant difference and mixed with sugar which feeds bad bacteria, I question the benefit in the end. Continue the yogurt if your body feels good with it, but do take a daily probiotic as well. Make sure the capsule is ‘enteric’ coated meaning it will actually make it into your small intestine and help replenish and restore a healthy gut flora. I also recommend taking a multistrain probiotic with at least 10 billion live bacteria culture per capsule.
Squash the Sugars – Both actual sugar and foods that convert into poor quality glucose like crackers, cereal or granola bars, cold cereals, breads, pastas. Sugar has been shown to cause and increase inflammation, and decrease immune function. For most people its hidden in the form of man made, factory foods. Be mindful of your grocery cart and aim to fill your belly with at least 80% real, whole, nutrient dense foods like nuts, seeds, fruit, veggies, lean proteins, legumes and small amounts of whole grains/starches (i.e. wild rice, quinoa, root vegetables). Refined starches and sugar laden foods also throw off the gut flora by encouraging the bad bacteria to get comfy and reproduce. If you’re going to take probiotics, keep this in mind so you’re not wasting your resources.
Laugh – Do this often. Its a great way to release tension and anxiety; this pleasant shift in your mood is enough to turn that fight or flight stress response off! It boosts levels of immune cells and infection fighting antibodies. Laughter also stretches the muscles in your face and body, improves blood and oxygen flow, burns calories, can help decrease pain, and improve sleep. Take time out every day to laugh. If making yourself laugh is not your strength, pop in a funny movie or show once a day to keep your cells happy and your immune system working like magic.
Keep Moving – We all know that activity is good for our well being. Take this a step further and make sure that the movement you choose is one you ENJOY. Exercising while thinking the whole time that you’re only doing it because ‘you have to’, ‘you’re butt needs to shrink’, or because some expert told you this was the ‘go to’ exercise for weight loss but you’re miserable doing it is not helpful. Start with movement that feels good to you and your body, in an environment that is also nourishing; this might be walking outside surrounded by nature, in a yoga or pilates studio, in a friendly gym. A recent study showed that moving often through the day was more beneficial then one hour of exercising once/day. So if you’d rather build it in to your daily routine go for it! Keep moving and move with joy!
Eat Your Veggies – Now, I’m not trying to sound like your mother, but these plant foods pack a big punch. Especially cruciferous vegetables (i.e. kale, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower). These vegetables support liver function and the immune system. The liver is responsible for flushing out toxins and when its being supported in its job it provides a good environment for healthy immune cells. So go on and ‘get your green on’!
Recharge Your Energy – Last but not least, check in with how you’re feeling frequently through each day. We are constantly interacting with our environments – people, physical surroundings, and the subtle energies of moods, thoughts, and emotions – which have a profound impact on how we feel and therefore how our bodies feel. Be mindful of the people and places that either drain you or sustain you. There are simple and gentle self-treatment practices within each school of energy healing that anyone can do to boost immunity and vitality. If you feel like you are someone who ‘feels’ others emotions, ‘picks up’ on energy easily, or want to know how to use energy healing for yourself and family and you’d like to learn more about this emerging field of energy therapy, please join me Saturday November 7th for Energy Medicine for Self -Healing.
Wishing You and Your Immune System Well!