With cold and flu season upon us, there are some very easy and practical ways we can boost our immune system and the immune system of our children.
- Plants: An apple a day keeps the doctor away, right? It is imperative to eat lots of colorful fruits and vegetables. Those colors are more than just appealing to the eye. Each color provides a different antioxidant power. Those antioxidants destroy the free radicals that weaken our immune system and are responsible for making us feel sick when we catch a bug.
- Soap and water: Washing hands regularly with soap and water is the best way to keep from introducing germs to the inside of our body. But be sure to use plain soap, not fragranced soap or anti-bacterial soap. Though they sound like a good idea, fragranced soaps contain many synthetic chemicals that actually destroy the good bacteria on our skin and also weaken our immune system.
- Fermented food: Fermented foods contain probiotics, which are the good bacteria your body needs to survive. Without a healthy gut flora, your immune system is compromised and the viral and bacterial infections have a better chance of dominating throughout your body.
- AVOID sugar: Lab tests have shown that your immune system is weakened by more than 50% just a mere 30 minutes after eating simple/processed sugars. This weakened state is still present 5 hours later! That means your immune system is still in a compromised state from one meal or snack as you imbibe on another meal or snack containing more non-whole foods. It stays perpetually suppressed, and unable to fight infection when eating a SAD (Standard American Diet). This brings us back to point #1. Eat plants.
- Exercise: Exercise boosts the production of microphages, the kind of white blood cells that “eat” bacteria and viruses. Better yet, head outside for exercise and gain the benefit of fresh air and Vitamin D!
- Sleep: Sleep increases the number of white blood cells boosting your immune power. Conversely, lack of sleep increases inflammation in the body and reduces immune function.
- Reduce Stress: Easier said than done, right? But it is important to find ways to reduce stress because excessive unresolved stress weakens our immune system, and increases inflammation which increases our chances of getting sick. Find a way to relax and be still & calm, and meditate daily.
In addition to those recommendations above, there are some nutritional supplements that can further boost the immune system. It is always best to consume your nutrients from food, but in the toxic world we live in now, that isn’t always possible, even with a whole-food plant-based diet, because in many cases the soil in which our food is grown has been depleted of vital nutrients our bodies require for optimal health. Here are some of my favorites to supplement with:
- Probiotics: as mentioned above, without proper colonization of good bacteria we are at reduced capacity to fight the bad bacteria, leaving us susceptible to getting sick.
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that is a catalyst for many enzymatic and neurological reactions in our body. Without adequate vitamin C we are in a compromised position to fight germs.
- Vitamin D3: Studies show that people who supplemented with Vitamin D3 during the cold and flu season had significantly lower rates of infection. That is because Vitamin D3 increases our body’s production of cathelicidin, which is an antimicrobial compound that helps fight viral and bacterial infections. Vitamin D is vital in facilitating normal immune system function. Since it isn’t always possible to get enough Vitamin D from sun (especially in northern climates where the temps get so low that even when we are outside, we are covered head to toe to keep warm and sunshine never reaches our skin).
- Zinc: Zinc is required for normal functioning of white blood cells, improving the immune system’s ability to fight off infection.
Also, give essential oils a try! Supporting your immune system with essential oils is another easy way to ensure your body stays strong enough to fight the invaders. Applying and diffusing are two easy and efficient ways to use essential oils safely.