It’s cold and flu season, and with coronavirus on the rise, immune health is vital.
While I can’t share a proven way to prevent COVID-19, I can give you some insight on best practices for building the immune system during the winter season.
Scientifically speaking, boosting your immune system is going to be your best line of defense against any virus this winter.
One thing you can be sure of is that taking preventative action is better than nothing at all.
The Power of Innate Immunity
Your immune system is your body’s first responder. It’s what you can rely on to not only detect but also prevent pathogens from entering the body and causing disease.
In functional medicine, we refer to this as innate immunity. It’s your body’s natural response to foreign invaders.
There are many reasons why you are more likely to get sick during the winter season.
- Certain Viruses tend to thrive in damp and cold environments.
- Indoor spaces with poor circulation increase your chances of exposure to germs.
- Vitamin levels that build resistance to disease can drop due to lack of sun exposure.
The following are powerful action steps you can take to actively and mindfully boost your immune system and prepare for this time of year.
Improve Gut Immunity
This summer, I shared the #1 thing you can do for your immune system, and it still rings true today. Your immune system works with the digestive system and microbiome.
Microbiome is the combination of good and bad bacteria living in your gut. The good bacteria are responsible for immunity and nutrition.
Each person has a unique microbiome, like a fingerprint, that varies with diet, gender, age, and many other factors. This means that caring for your gut is crucial to a healthy immune system.
The best place to start is by diversifying and balancing the good bacteria in your belly.
You can do this by feeding your body the food it needs to thrive.
Here are the top 3 things you should be getting from your winter diet :
Fiber – fiber feeds the microbiome’s beneficial bacteria in the large intestine while also scrubbing the intestines for improved digestion and elimination. Some high fiber foods include legumes, seeded berries, whole grains, and dried fruit.
Probiotics – probiotics are living microorganisms that help to balance the microbiome. They are best taken before bed, as this is when our microbiota is most active and can be taken as a supplement or in fermented foods like cheese, yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi.
Prebiotics – prebiotics come from carbohydrates and are different from probiotics because they are not living and do not digest until reaching the colon. Prebiotic foods like onions, garlic, leeks, honey, and bananas are great additions to your winter diet.
Manage Your Daily Stress
Stress is one of the most preventable causes of disease.
Still, studies done by the American Psychology Association show that Women are more likely than men (28 % vs. 20%) to report having a great deal of stress.
Stress is a result of the body’s fight or flight system going into overdrive. We live in a society where our nervous systems experience overstimulation, which can contribute to chronic stress. These constant triggers can result in a compromised immune system.
Lifestyle Shifts that Reduce Stress Include:
- Getting 6-8 hours of quality sleep
- Reduced Screen time
- 5-10 minutes or more of daily meditation or prayer
- Consistent Exercise
Implementing small lifestyle changes can have a huge impact on your overall health.
Set Aside the Sugar
During this time of year, when everyone is gifting candies, cookies and other sweet treats, avoiding sugar can be a challenge. However, since sugar can suppress immune functions, it’s important to make sure you are moderating how much you have.
The good news is, you don’t need to completely cut sugar from your diet. Sugar should not exceed 10% of your daily caloric intake. That means 6 teaspoons of added sugar should be your daily limit.
What’s most important is knowing which types of sugars are good for you and where sugar can hide in order to make sure you’re properly monitoring how much you consume.
Good Vs. Bad Sugars
Refined Sugars can be found in cookies, candy, bread, certain yogurts, sauces and really most processed foods. This is what you want to limit or avoid. If it comes in a package, the likelihood of it having refined sugar is high, so make sure to always check the ingredients and nutrition facts.
Natural Sugars appear in fruit, and sweeteners like; monk fruit, agave nectar, raw honey, coconut sugar and maple syrup. These are perfectly fine in moderation.
Focus on Restorative Activities
Even during quarantine, one can get lost in a busy schedule.
You may be homeschooling or working from home yourself. Even if you aren’t getting out as much as you used to, odds are there are still plenty of chores that need to get done around the house and on your to-do list.
Consider restorative activities to be the “inhale” to the exhale that is your daily grind. These low impact activities will not only help you stay healthy, but can also bring relief during illness.
Some Restorative Activities you can add to your week include:
- Simply sitting in silence
Even as little as 15 minutes a day of intentional restorative activities can give your body and mind the much-needed break that will reduce stress levels and boost immunities.
Get Your Daily Dose of Vitamins and Minerals to Boost Immunity
A proper dose of vitamins and minerals is a great way to fortify a healthy immune system. The goal is to make sure your diet is packed with immunity-boosting foods. A balanced diet should contain all of the vitamins and minerals you need to thrive.
Vitamin C is a well-known antioxidant that prevents cell damage and supports the immune system.
Foods High in Vitamin C include:
- Chili Peppers
- Red peppers
- Citrus Fruits
- Sweet Potato
Vitamin D is produced in the body through exposure to sunlight and its main function is to promote calcium absorption as well as bone density and muscle strength. Vitamin D can also prevent the spread of infection in the body.
Foods High in Vitamin D include:
- Herring and mackerel
- Red meat
- Liver and other Organ Meats
- Egg yolks
Vitamin A has been known to boost the body’s ability to fight respiratory infections.
Foods high in Vitamin A include:
- Eggs, Cheese, and Milk
- Sweet Potatoes
Zinc is an immune-boosting mineral that helps to reduce the duration and severity of infections in the body. Foods high in zinc include shellfish, red meat, nuts, and grains.
You can also take zinc supplements to make sure you are getting your recommended daily amount.
Here’s to your health!
With a little education and a focused intent to implement these simple steps into your daily life one at a time, you’ll be sure to see results.
Want to take a more personalized look at how to boost immune function this winter? Click here to sign up for a free consultation: https://rgreenberg.intakeq.com/booking and let’s create a plan that helps you thrive this winter!
With love & gratitude,
- The Innate vs. Adaptive Immune Response