Fall is here! Along with the beauty of the colorful leaves and the anticipation of the holidays comes the realization that cold and flu season is coming too. I talk to so many moms and we all share similar concerns when it comes to keeping our families healthy and avoiding these illnesses if at all possible. I have some tips to share that I use to keep my family well. I will be a series of posts this month on this topic. This week’s post is on lifestyle changes to boost your immune system. I hope you find it helpful.
Wash Your Hands: This is the most basic of the basics but hand washing is so important. It is the single most effective way to prevent spreading infections. Removing the germs from our hands helps to prevent us from taking them in to our body.
Stay Hydrated: There are so many benefits to drinking water, but when it comes to the immune system water helps to take oxygen to our cells and flush toxins out of our body. Two very important things for a properly functioning immune system.
Eat Fresh Veggies, Fruits and Whole Foods: Whole foods are the fuel your body needs to function optimally. To have a healthy immune system your body needs the proper nutrients and those come from whole foods including fresh vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts whole grains.
Drink Bone Broth: Bone Broth has many health benefits as well. When it comes to immune function it helps in white blood cell production (the cells that fight infection in our body), and it helps to provide many of the amino acids necessary for immune function. It also helps to reduce inflammation which helps our immune system to function better.
Eat Fermented Foods: Fermented Foods provide healthy bacteria for our gut. Similar to the way that probiotics work, however this is a more natural way to get them. Much of our immune response is housed in the gut, so a healthy gut means a healthier immune response! Fermented foods include: yogurt/kefir (no sugar), sauerkraut, kimchi, and kombucha. You can find many recipes online to make your own at home!
Eat More Garlic, Lemons and Ginger: Garlic is antiviral and antifungal and it is an immune booster because it increases the production of our natural killer cells which help to kill off infection. It is an immune superstar! Lemons are loaded with Vitamin C which is a known immune booster. It also helps to balance the pH and decrease inflammation. Try starting your day with warm water and a squeeze of lemon. Add some honey if you want it a little sweeter (bonus points if it is raw, local honey). Ginger is antibacterial and antiviral. It helps to blood circulation which will help get rid of toxins and viruses.
Limit Sugar and Processed Foods: Sugar and Processed Foods have a negative effect on the immune system. Eating them makes the immune system weaker which can result in more illnesses and illnesses that last longer.
Get More Sleep: Sleep deprivation can also cause a weaker immune system. During sleep our body has a chance to rest and repair. Cytokines are released when we sleep and these help us to fight off infection. Shoot for 8 hours of quality sleep per night. Children and teenagers need more than 8 hours- more like 10-12!
Decrease/Manage Stress: Stress causes a weaker immune response. Our ability to fight off infection is compromised and also the stress hormone Cortisol (released when we are under stress) lowers our immune response by decreasing the amount white blood cells. Reducing stress from our life and creating a healthy stress management routine can go a long way. Sometimes that means saying no, doing less and adding more self care opportunities. This is not selfish- it is for your health :)
Nasal Irrigation: Using a clear saline rinse or spray in the nose regularly can flush out germs and toxins before they make their way deeper into the body.
Exercise: Physical activity helps to flush toxins out of the lungs and airways. Exercise also causes an increase in white blood cells to help us fight off infection. The brief increase in body temperature can also help to kill off bacteria. In addition, exercise reduces the stress hormone cortisol which can also help to boost the immune system. Moderate activity is all that is needed for these amazing benefits!
Fresh Air and Sunshine: Direct sunlight is our main source of Vitamin D which is a known immune booster. Even just a few minutes of sun exposure can help boost our Vitamin D levels. Fresh air helps to boost our oxygen levels which can help destroy bacteria and viruses and create healthier white blood cells.
Bodywork: Bodywork boosts your immune system! Chiropractic adjustments can help to remove nervous system interference which allows the body to function optimally and help to boost your immune system. Regular Massage Therapy has been shown to increase natural killer cells and T Lymphocytes (white blood cells) which results in a healthier immune response. Acupuncture can help to regulate immune function and reduce symptoms, speed up the healing of infection and normalize the body’s immune response.
There are a lot of things that we can do to help keep our families well during cold and flu season. This week my focus was on lifestyle changes and next week I will be posting about supplements to consider to boost your immune system. I hope you find these tips helpful!