Flu Who? Do you want to boost your immune system? Here are some natural ways to take care of yourself this time of year.
As we roll right into “flu season”, let’s talk about the best ways to keep ourselves healthy and free of illness this winter. There is a lot of misconception about the best ways to promote optimal health and prevent illness during the most susceptible time of the year. Most people walk around with the mindset of thinking “hey, I got my flu shot… so I’m good”. Quite the contrary. I won’t even begin to talk about the flu shot and whether it’s good or bad, because to be quite honest… I’d be writing until the following flu season with all the controversy and debate regarding that. But what I will say is this- if your immune system is not functioning to its full potential due to poor diet and lack of exercise, then how can you expect a single dose of the flu vaccine to miraculously protect to its full potential. It’s like putting gas in a car with a bad engine, it still isn’t going to run. Let that sink in… or not. Instead, the best way to minimize your chances of any illness this season is to maximize your health. But how do we most effectively do this?
For starts, lets define illness: “a disease or period of sickness affecting the body or mind”. So, if we can make our body and mind function to its full potential, then we are going to be in pretty good shape this season!
Food is medicine. I cannot stress it enough.
Here are my top recommendations to avoid any illness stopping you from doing all your favorite holiday activities this year-
Antioxidants help prevent disease formation. They help keep cells healthy and prevent cell damage. Berries, dark chocolate, pecans, artichokes, cinnamon and ginger are some food with the highest levels of antioxidants.
Processed foods, alcohol, dairy, gluten, caffeine, refined sugar, soy and artificial sweeteners are the big culprits on this one. “But I can’t give up cheese!” …. When you eat foods that have anti nutrient and inflammatory properties, your immune system reacts and “attacks”, which is why the inflammation takes place. I challenge you to try and eliminate these foods for 21 days and see how you feel. I’m 100% confident you will feel 1000x better.
Green leafy vegetables, nuts, herbs should be your go-to anti-inflammatory goodies. Opposite of the inflammatory foods, these will promote good gut health and healing, which will let your immune system take a rest from trying to fight off all that processed junk for once.
Other contributing factors that are just as important as food:
Adequate sleep is key to regulating everything in your body including your immune system. When you get enough sleep (at least 7hours/night) then your body will be a well-oiled machine. More to come on this, but just trust me on this one 😉
Deficiency in vitamin D can cause the body to be more susceptible to illness and disease. Please, please, please… Have your vitamin D levels checked prior to ever taking a vitamin D supplement as your body can become toxic if levels are too high.
This is such a simple concept that we all know, but don’t do. Even if you start to get some slight congestion or feel illness coming on, pushing fluids is a great way to keep secretions moist and flush your whole system. You can even flush your sinuses to help keep mucous membranes moist which act as a protective barrier against microbial.
I personally am not a huge fan of lifelong daily supplements. I believe in trying to get most of your daily vitamins in minerals from whole food sources, with a few exceptions. However, flu season is when we need to load up on everything to have our bodies running top notch. Again, check with your physician prior to taking any supplement as some vitamins may interact with certain medications. Some favorites of mine to stock up on this time of year are a good multivitamin, zinc, vitamin C, and probiotics.
Last but not least- WASH YOUR HANDS! This is the number one thing to prevent infection. But for keeping your attention, I must list the most obvious one last ☺.
In all, just know that there are so many contributing factors that determine the status of your immune system, a lot of which you have control over. Do your part to help your immune system function at an optimal level and stay as healthy as possible this season. Remember, you only get one body- how are you going to treat it?
Thank you, Lindsey Morrison RN (PNC Consultant).