Our susceptibility to colds and flu are in direct relationship to the strength of our immune system and internal hygiene. Viruses and bacteria will not thrive or take hold if our internal hygiene is balanced and healthy. Now is the time to be proactive with our health and adopt good wellness habits. Prevention is key!
PREVENTION is the BEST MEDICINE
Beneficial methods to strengthen immune defenses includes the following lifestyle factors:
- Wise food and supplement choices
- Reducing and managing stress
- Improving sleep
- Increasing movement.
Contrary to popular belief, there is little evidence that immune function declines with age. However, as we age our bodies accumulate more toxic substances and nutrient deficiencies, which interfere with good immune system recognition and communication. Therefore, boosting immune function also means strengthening defenses, reducing exposures to toxins, and improving elimination (digestion).
Get Sufficient Sleep
Sufficient sleep is vital to maintain optimal health. Although our immune system is always active, it is most active while we are asleep. Sleep restores and heals the body. Take advantage of the dark winter nights and head to bed earlier. Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
In addition, stress increases the level of cortisol in the body. If sustained at high levels, this “fight or flight” hormone may weaken the immune system. Address the stresses of the day long before bedtime by incorporating various relaxation and breathing techniques in order to allow the mind to rest.
Get Regular Exercise
Physical movementnot only increases blood circulation and oxygenation, but also helps lymph (the body’s garbage collectors) move through the body and eliminate metabolic wastes and toxins more effectively. Mild to moderate exercise (for approximately 30-45 minutes/day) has been shown to significantly boost the immune system. However, if you are feeling run down, avoid overexertion, as this will lower your immune defenses.
Drink Plenty of Fluids.
Wintertime can be a particularly challenging time to stay hydrated. Consuming adequate fluids supports all of your body’s functions including the immune system. Keeping your mucous membranes well-hydrated helps optimize the mucous membranes of the mouth, ears, and nose.
Keep a mug of pure water with you at all times (hot or cold). Make and consume soups and broths. Drink herbal teas like ginger and echinacea daily. Avoid concentrated fruit juices (or dilute 1:1 – juice:water) and sweetened beverages, as the high sugar content stresses the immune system.
Avoid Simple Sugars as Much as Possible
Sweet treats are incredibly prevalent this time of year. Studies have shown that refined sugars (including white flour and fruit juice) can suppress your immune system for hours after ingestion, making you more susceptible to infection. Think of it this way: when you eat sugar your immune system slows down to a crawl.
Use Herbs in Your Cooking
For an extra immune boost, add garlic, onions, ginger, and lots of spices (oregano, thyme, turmeric) to your meals. All of these herbs contain powerful antimicrobials properties that will only boost your immune system. Add these to your soups, sauces and vegetable dishes.
Eat Your Vegetables
Vegetables contain an array of nutrients that support the immune system. High in vitamins C, A, and phytonutrients, these nutrients metabolize energy, support detoxification, and help maintain our stress response. Choose more leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, brussel sprouts, and cauliflower), peppers, sweet potatoes, and squashes. Aim for four servings of vegetables daily!
Daily Nasal Saline Flush
Along with staying hydrated, flushing your sinuses with distille water and mild salt water helps to keep mucous membranes moist, and in turn protects you from unwanted microbes. Mucous membranes are loaded with enzymes, immune cells, and lymph glands designed to catch viruses/bacteria and are our first line of defense against infection.
The best mechanism for this is a Neti Pot. Studies have also indicated that flushing one to two times daily is appropriate; more is not better in this case. Be sure to thoroughly dry (blow) your nose after each treatment, as microbes thrive in dark, wet, moist environments.
Don’t Over Heat Your Home: Dry air dries out mucous membranes. Keep rooms a moderate temperature and consider using a humidifier to keep air moist. A HEPA filter in bedrooms is a great way to minimize dust and toxins, thereby reducing the burden to your immune system.
And finally, wash your hands often!
There are many ways to add health into your daily routine during this cold and flu season. Consider incorporating the following immune-boosting soup recipe into your meal planning. If you do happen to come down with a cold or flu, Natura offers same-day naturopathic appointments to address your symptoms and get you better faster. It may be helpful to have you start taking a potent nutritional supplement and/or herbal remedies to help your body overcome the issue.
Please call our front desk at (406) 317-1965 to discuss scheduling or visit Natura’s Contact Page.