’Tis the season for doing all we can to keep our immune system healthy. We are heading into flu and cold season in the middle of a pandemic, holiday plans are being cancelled, schools are shifting to full distance learning...so many things are outside of our control right now. You might be feeling anxious and worried with so many things up in the air. Thankfully there are some things we can control.
We can do our best to eat a nutrient dense diet. Our immune system relies on a colorful, nutrient dense diet to function well. Food truly is medicine!
Focus on adding a variety of colorful fruits and veggies to every meal. Can you aim for all the different colors? Aim for variety to make sure you are getting those important vitamins and antioxidants.
Add spices like turmeric, ginger, garlic, onion, cinnamon and cayenne pepper to your cooking to help fight infections. These spices pack a powerful defense.
Another way to support our immune system is to make sure we keep our gut healthy. Eat fermented foods and foods rich in probiotics like sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, miso, yogurt and lots and lots of fiber.
Eat foods rich in omega 3 fatty acids: cold water fatty fish like salmon, flax seeds, chia seeds, and walnuts.
Keep sugar and processed foods to a minimum. These foods can be inflammatory and research suggests that sugar actually weakens your immune system.
While you can’t replace a healthy diet, supplements can help fill nutritional gaps in our diet. Here are some of the supplements that might help boost your immune system:
Probiotics: Our gut health plays a major role in a healthy immune system. In order to have a healthy gut you need to have a healthy balance of bacteria. Probiotics introduce “good” bacteria in our system and help maintain that healthy balance. Look for lactobacillus strains.
Fish Oils: omega 3 fatty acids play an important role in immune function by boosting white cells and helping regulate immune cell function. Choose a high quality oil that contains DHA and EPA.
Vitamin C: not only a powerful antioxidant, Vitamin C plays a key role in many immune mechanisms in your body. Choose one with ascorbic acid as it’s the best absorbed by our body.
Vitamin D: enhances the function of immune cells that protect your body. Many people are deficient in Vitamin D, so it’s a good vitamin to take for overall health, especially if you live in northern states.
Zinc: keeps our immune system strong and healthy. Moore zinc isn’t better though, so talk to your doctor about recommended dosage.
Adaptogens: these are herbs that have been derived from plants and help our bodies adapt to stress. Adaptogens may also boost immunity by supporting and balancing the endocrine system. Some adaptogens are ashwagandha, reishi, cordyceps, turmeric, licorice, mace root, tulsi, schisandra berry. Talk to your doctor before adding any of these into your diet.
Most of these supplements are safe but please talk to your doctor before adding any new supplements into your diet.
Aside from your diet, it's also important to move your body and exercise! Yes exercise is shown to improve immune function. Make sure to also include restorative and stress relieving forms like yoga, deep stretching and walking. Meditation is a great practice to incorporate into your day. It only takes a few minutes to feel the benefits. Journaling, taking a bath, essential oils and going for a walk can also help bring down stress levels.
Finally make sure you are getting sufficient sleep. Aim for the amount that leaves you feeling well rested and energized when you wake up. If you wake up feeling groggy or super tired, chances are you aren't getting enough. Magnesium glycinate is a wonderful supplement that can help you get better sleep. I personally love this Vital Proteins sleep supplement- the apple cinnamon is warm and comforting. It contains a few other ingredients like l-theanine, GABA and B vitamins that help relax and restore my body.