The immune system is a multifaceted and sophisticated network of our cells, organs, proteins and chemicals that has evolved to protect us from a variety of infections from bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites, as well as cancer. The immune system does a great job of protecting our bodies from outside invaders, but with cold and flu season upon us, it’s always a good idea to consider ways you can strengthen your immunity.
But, what can you actually do to fortify your immune system? Because of the complex nature of the immune system, researchers agree there’s no one-stop-shop or pill that will automatically boost immunity (despite what all the ads say). That would be too easy!
The best way to strengthen your immunity is through a combination of healthy habits that contribute to an overall healthy lifestyle. Creating a healthy starting point will allow your body to fend off attackers more easily, and will also help in a faster and smoother recovery if you do end up catching a cold.
Check out our 5 healthy habits to strengthen your immunity.
Eating a well-balanced and nutrient-dense diet is one of the best defences against illness and disease. Adopting a healthy diet is essential for leading an overall healthy lifestyle – this includes ensuring you are getting adequate micro- and macronutrients daily. Micronutrient deficiencies, such as deficiencies in vitamins A, B6, C and E can alter the immune responses in animals, and deficiencies in general can greatly impact other bodily systems and proper functioning.
It’s important to make sure you are getting variety in your diet, including all the fruits and vegetables. If you feel that your diet may not be providing you with all your micronutrient needs, consult with a healthcare practitioner to see if a multivitamin or supplement might work for you. If you’re lacking inspiration for what to cook, check out our blog for tons of free and nutritious recipes! One of our favourites for this time of season is this Ultimate Immune Boosting Soup.
2. Sun and Vitamin D
As the days get shorter and the temperature begins to drop, we inevitably get less sun exposure. What does that mean? Less vitamin D!
Vitamin D is both a hormone in our bodies and a nutrient that we eat. Unfortunately, few foods actually contain sufficient amounts of vitamin D, and if you’re living in areas with limited sun exposure (hello Canada!), it can be tough to get all the vitamin D you need. Try to get outside as much as possible throughout the next few weeks while the beautiful Fall weather is here. You can also consider purchasing a good quality vitamin D supplement to get you through the winter months. Of course, always speak to your healthcare professional before starting new supplementation protocols.
3. Natural Immune Boosters
Other vitamins and minerals can also help strengthen the immune system. A couple of our favourites include:
- Echinacea: Echinacea is a native coneflower that has been used for more than 400 years by Great Plains Indigenous tribes. Echinacea is known to support the upper respiratory system such as your lungs, throat and sinuses. It helps to relieve coughs, sore throat and lung congestion by thinning and drying up mucous production.
- Goldenseal: The roots of the Goldenseal plant contain an alkaloid called berberine, which helps fight infection, protects mucous membranes and decreases inflammation. Goldenseal is a powerful anti-microbial that is used to aid and heal the mucous-covered organs such as your mouth, throat and intestines. This herb is known as the king of mucous membranes.
We know this time of year can be stressful, kids are back in school, the holidays are right around the corner, and the end of the year is fast approaching. Chronic stress can allow cortisol levels to ramp up. Short-term, you actually want cortisol to increase in order to induce an inflammatory response and to fight infections, but over time and in a sustained amount, high cortisol can cause chronic inflammation and it can actually decrease the body’s number of lymphocytes – which are the little guys that help fight off infection!
Our favourite stress-less tips include:
- Get active – carving out time in your day for some movement, whether that’s yoga, a walk, a spin class – any movement is a great stress-reliever!
- Breath – taking a second to breath can make all the difference. Check out our box breathing exercise on our Instagram page!
- Relationships – making time to connect with friends and loved ones can help reset the mind and ground us
If you’re looking for more support in managing your stress, book a discovery call with one of our psychotherapists, Sarah Di Stefano or Tristan Punsalan. They can help you navigate through challenges and develop the tools you need to cope with everyday stressors.
5. Gut Health
Did you know that almost 70% of your immune system is located in your gut? Gut microbiota (the bacteria and microbes that live in your gut) interacts with immune cells and tissues and helps to regulate immune homeostasis. Supporting your gut with a healthy diet that includes a variety of foods can help ensure this defence mechanism is at its best. In addition, adding fermented foods (kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, etc.) to your diet or supplementing with probiotics can be a great way to nourish and strengthen your gut microbiota.
Dealing with digestive concerns or feel that your gut health could use some work? Consider speaking with our Naturopath Dr. Laura Brass who focuses on gut health and can help you get started on your gut healing journey.
And that’s it! The key takeaway is there is no true way to “boost” your immune system – but you certainly can adopt habits that will help build a healthy and strong foundation so that when those pesky cold and flu invaders are in the air, you are ready to fend them off!
If you want help creating a precise combination of herbs, vitamins and nutrition for you and your family this Fall season – book with one of our practitioners today!