This was a very informative post I saw over on Training Fitness Magazine. It was written by Dr. Sarah Penney, ND, MSc.
At some point this winter, it will seem like everyone you know is sick. So what do you do when you are surrounded by sniffles? Even the healthiest of us get sick once in a while, but there are simple ways to decrease your susceptibility and help prepare your body to get over infections faster. Supporting your immune system is your top line of defense against the viral infections that cause both the common cold and flu, so try some of these tips to help boost your immunity and keep seasonal sickness away naturally!
- Watch What You Eat – Your diet can either help or hinder your immune function, and choosing the right foods during cold and flu season could make all the difference. One important question to ask yourself, “How many servings of fruits and veggies am I having per day?” These foods are packed with vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that are thought to help keep the immune system in optimal shape. Pick produce with bright colors to get the most bang for your buck – red, orange, blue and yellow generally indicate high nutrient content in these foods. Some believe that high amounts of sugar suppress immune function in the short term. Try monitoring your intake of pop, chocolate, and other sugary foods during the fall and winter, especially when surrounded by sniffling friends and family.
- Optimize Your Digestion – You might wonder what your tummy has to do with catching a cold, but the trillions of bacteria that live in our gut are instrumental in supporting several aspects of our immune system. Research suggests that when it comes to our response to infection, our gut bacteria may help sound the alarm to alert our immune system of potential invaders (1). However, these helpful bacteria can be impaired by the use of antibiotics, prolonged diarrhea, chronic stress and a diet low in healthy fiber. Consider supporting your gut flora with an extra dose of good bacteria through a probiotics supplement in the winter season and talk to a Naturopath about how to maximize your digestive health.
- Keep Moving – Exercise is a tried and true way to prevent many health concerns, including the common cold! Studies suggest that regular exercise is associated with a decreased risk of infection and, as a bonus, it can help boost your mood during the dark days of winter. Try taking a walk during your lunch break to get some fresh air or climb the stairs in your building a few times if it is too cold outside. Careful not to overdue it-athletes who exert themselves to the level of extreme training for prolonged periods of time may be temporarily depressing their immune function, which may be important to consider if you are training for an event (2). Be sure to dial down the intensity if you get sick.
- Stress and Sleep – These two factors go hand-in-hand when thinking about immune function. When we are under periods of prolonged stress, our body releases a hormone called cortisol that can suppress our immune function. As if stress doesn’t increase cortisol levels enough, many of us lose sleep when we are under pressure or we have issues on our mind. This perfect storm can seriously increase our susceptibility to infection and make it harder for the body to recover. As a Naturopathic Doctor, I help patients manage stress through tools like deep breathing, retraining negative thought patterns, and acupuncture to calm the mind. Identifying and treating the underlying cause of sleep concerns, whether it is stress, hormonal imbalance, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome or blood sugar levels, can also help stabilize cortisol and improve immune response. Individualized assessment and treatment can help you optimize your overall health and immune function this winter.
- Support From Supplements – For patients who are chronically ill with long, drawn-out colds or seem to pick up everything their child brings home from school, I often recommend considering the use of nutritional supplements to further support the body. Some patients stand by trusty Vitamin C to keep them healthy, and an increased intake of zinc may help decrease the frequency of upper respiratory tract infections (3). There are also some herbal remedies called adaptogens, such as Ashwaghanda and Withania, which can help support the immune system for those who are susceptible to frequent infections. It is important to use these herbs on an individual basis to prevent interactions with medication and determine the correct dose according to age and overall health.
Remember that everyone gets sick once in a while and that encountering certain viruses may actually do the body good. When we are exposed to an infection, our body mounts an immune response, which means that we create a specific attack plan in our immune system for the exact offending virus we are exposed to. Next time we are exposed to that virus, either later on in the year or the following year, we are better prepared to tackle it before it gets the best of our health.
I think this is an excellent reference to what we need to do to stay healthy. I know our kids always come home with nasty germs and bugs from school – trust me, I know – but we can help stop so many of them with just following those 5 simple rules.
I was so nervous this past month because sickness bugs were going all over the place at my boy’s school. One day I even watched during school pick up as a little kid got “sick” all over the doorstep of the classroom while getting ready to leave. The kids had to be lifted over it before it was cleaned up. I went crazy, stripping my boys down when they got home and making sure they got all of the above!
As far as what we do in our house to follow those 5 ways of boosting your immune system, this is what we do.
- Fresh fruits and vegetables EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. My kids all eat at least one apple a day with probably another cup of fruit and then fresh bell peppers or carrots in their lunch/after school snack. We also try to limit sugar as much as possible – but we are definitely realistic in this as well during the holidays.
- The kids walk/ride bikes to and from school each day, and if it’s raining they still get to play outside at school for at least 30 minutes a day.
- My girls get a Shaklee Optiflora probiotic 2 times a week and my boys get it 3 times a week. They know the routine and gladly swallow the itty-bitty pearl. This tiny pearl has a patented triple-layer system that allows all the good stuff to get to the right spot to help fight off the bad stuff.
- Our kids are pretty much champs when it comes to sleep, but if they are more moody or stressed they get some chewable CalMag supplement to help calm them down to get a restful sleep.
- I personally have a daily routine of supplements I take. I am not excessive, but I know my diet and I know the areas I need to supplement to ensure that I am fueling my body appropriately. I don’t believe in shoving vitamins but then eating a crap diet. That’s just stupidity. I believe in making healthy choices in your diet and then ensuring that you are giving your body the nutrients it needs to stay strong. I personally take Shaklee’s Vitalizer strip, 1-2 Nutriferon and 5-10 Alfalfa a day to keep my immune system up to par. I also take a few other supplements to help with my hormone levels.
If we are every coming down with something my very first step is to make sure we get good rest, disinfect with Basic G (germicide) but then I give the kids our Vitalized Immunity drink (think airbornne – but all natural version) and then they get some Defend & Resist tablets crushed in apple sauce. This is also what we do as adults too. I typically don’t need much after that but if it is still coming on I make sure to take my Stress Relief Complex if I’m stressed out. Stress Relief Complex contains Ashwaghanda as mentioned previously that is recommended to help with stress levels. Then, I will also add in some extra Vitamin C or Garlic Complex if I feel it’s going to be worse.
I have a lot of people ask me how to help support their immune system and honestly it’s not just as easy as doing one thing and it definitely won’t happen over night. All of these go hand-in-hand. You can’t expect to never be sick by getting a quick fix. You have to make changes in all areas of your life. I get beyond frustrated when I hear people say that you only need “this one amazing thing” to boost your immune system. It’s absolutely not factual or based on any clinically proven science. If you need help starting up a plan to get you and your family strong, let me know and I can help. I work with all kinds budgets and would be happy to help get you started.
If you are on this blog but already have your own Shaklee Distributor, please contact them to help place your order. We at Shaklee like to live by the golden rule. 🙂
Happy Healthy Winter everyone!
- Stephanie C. Ganal, Stephanie L. Sanos, Carsten Kallfass, et al. Priming of Natural Killer Cells by Nonmucosal Mononuclear Phagocytes Requires Instructive Signals from Commensal Microbiota. Immunity. 2012; DOI: 10.1016/j.immuni.2012.05.020
- Gleeson M. Immune Function in Sport and Exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology. 2007; 103(2):693-699
- Sazawal S, Black R, Jalla S et al. Zinc Supplementation Reduces the Incidence of Acute Lower Respiratory Infections in Infants and Preschool Children: A Double-blind, Controlled Trial. Pediatrics. 1998; 102(1): 1-5