Even though your immune system get’s a lot of press this time of year, it’s actually working pretty hard all year long, and in the fall and winter there just so happens to be plenty of extra stressors. See, keeping your defenses strong all the time will make the process of deflecting (and recovering from) illness much more efficient. Your immune system has several essential functions like protecting against antigens (any small proteins that can cause an immune response, like pollen), fighting off foreign invaders, getting rid of damaged or dead cells and detecting cancerous or precancerous cells.) Here are a couple of long term, day-to-day practices that you can utilize all the time to enhance and support your body’s defenses.
- Eat pure, whole food (especially colorful fruits and vegetables). This increases the amount of food based nutrients your body is processing and absorbing so that you are not deficient in any vitamins and minerals. Most especially go for the blueberries and broccoli – these two are nutrition powerhouses.
- Supplement with a probiotic. A HUGE amount of your immune system resides in your gut, along with trillions of probiotics (about 5-6 pounds of good bacteria in each person). Your probiotics play a major major role in modulating your immune system, and if you’re probiotics aren’t happy then I can guarantee you that the rest of your body wont be happy either. Keeping your gut healthy and supplementing with a probiotic will help keep the “good guys” in place when stressors come up.
- Reduce your stress in any way you can. We all know that increased chronic stress leads to depletion, exhaustion and chronic fatigue. With depleted energy, we are often too wiped out to fight against on coming illness and more susceptible to getting the bugs going around. Make a list of your stressors in life and divide it into “in your control” and “out of your control”. The stressors that are in your control are things you can change, so make an effort to control and decrease that stress.
- Herbal Immune-modulators help keep your system strong. Herbal medicines are a big help in influencing any organ system in the body, and some are really good at supporting the immune system too. I like Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus or Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum) as an immune modulator (meaning they will support the immune system – NOT stimulate it).
- It sounds so simple, to get enough sleep, and it’s the first thing people sacrifice in their health. If you’re not sleeping enough, your body does not have time to rest and repair and recover from every single stress filled day. While your sleeping, your body has an amazing ability to work from head to toe to replenish and repair your organ systems and enhance your immune system at the same time. Restful, restorative, quality sleep is just irreplaceable. Devote as much time as you need to this (be it 5 or 10 hours a night – you know what your body needs).
If you need some extra immune power this year, I recommend taking elderberry syrup, about 1 teaspoon a day to protect against viruses and flu strains ( I like Gaia’s Black Elderberry Syrup). Also drink some warming ginger tea to keep your body warm and to stimulate your circulation in the cold months. Extra vitamin C from citrus is helpful, too. Stay healthy, and remember to take some time off! Resting is just as important as any immune remedy.
Lindsay Kluge M.Sc, CNS, LDN HealthCoach@EllwoodThompsons.com