(And all year round!)
The winter time is often referred to as "flu season", and seems to be a time when a lot of people get sick. Are there suddenly too many germs? Is something "going around"? Is it the cold weather? Too much sugar? I love this topic because I don't think it's talked about often. Some simple shifts can not only boost our immune system, but improve overall health and prevention of disease.
Working part time in a conventional medicine practice, I often hear people ask "is ____ going around (strep, flu, Covid...)?" If the patient tests positive, the doctor typically prescribes medication, and they continue on with their life. They don't change anything about their lifestyle or do anything for their immune system.
(And the amount of Tylenol, Motrin, and Advil people take is wild and sad to me! These do not heal the body, suppresses the immune system, is hard on the liver and kidneys, is harmful for the gut microbiome (NSAID drugs), and that's even before the chemicals, preservatives, and dyes that are often in the ingredient list. But medication is a whole other topic :)).
There is so much more that can help the body in it's natural ability to heal, yet is not discussed and considered in conventional medicine.
Is your lifestyle promoting disease? Do you get sick often? An immune system that is strong and healthy is supposed to be resilient against germs, unwanted bacteria, viruses (strong, not invincible)... Maybe your immune system needs a boost, and your lifestyle can use a few tweaks.
An article from Evolutionary Herbalism articulated the point perfectly- "Do we get sick because a pathogen gets into the body and makes us sick? Or does it happen because the ecological terrain of the body is in a state of imbalance which makes them more hospitable to those pathogens?" (TSOEH). I believe it is LESS about the pathogen going around, and more about the state, or terrain, of our body. Both do come in the play, but if our body is weak and more susceptible, or already in overdrive (due to toxic environment, food, living in survival mode) then the more effective solution seems to be to strengthen the body and its environment, rather than medicating the body and keeping everything else the same.
Let's dive in to how we can boost our immune system and strengthen our terrain against disease.
Before adding all kinds of fun supplements and tinctures, take an honest look at your foundations of health to see if you need to improve. How is your sleep? What is your diet like? Are you sitting at a desk all day with no exercise? Are you super overwhelmed and stressed? Is your mental health struggling? Is your mindset negative and pessimistic? If yes, how can you support those areas? All of the above will impact your immune system and overall health.
2. Vitamin D + Sunshine.
Try to get some sunshine in daily, especially morning sunshine in your eyes. You can test your vitamin D levels, along with RBC magnesium to see if you need supplementation. (Magnesium is needed for absorption, so it's important both levels are optimal.)
Fresh oranges, kiwis, grapefruit, lemon, bell peppers, strawberries and broccoli are examples of food sources of vitamin C. Supplementing vitamin C can be helpful as well. (I like this one.)
Elderberry, Echinacea, dandelion root, and immune tincture blends are the perfect little boosts for when you feel something coming on, or for proactive prevention.
Food sources of zinc include pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, cashews, chia seeds, pine nuts, sunflower seeds, pecans, and flax seeds. If you feel like you are getting sick, test low in zinc, or need a temporary boost in zinc, this is a great one. (Long term daily zinc supplementation is not recommended.)
6. Immune Boosting Nutrition:
Greens, honey, raw garlic, ginger, bone broth, turmeric, cloves, cabbage, all have immune boosting properties (ex: antimicrobial, antibacterial, antifungal, ant-inflammatory...) Some swear by their honey, raw garlic, ginger, turmeric immunity shots- and there's a reason why these foods have been used for healing for thousands of years! (You can add in apple or dates to help sweeten the shot!) Here are some recipes! 1. Immunity Shots 2. Raw Garlic combos.
8. Parasympathetic state.
This was touched on at #1 Foundations. We need our body to be able to "fight off" germs and pathogens, and if it is in survival mode, aka fight or flight mode, it will prioritize only what you need to survive if you were running from a tiger. A calm, parasympathetic state is the body's state for healing. We can't heal (or properly digest, detoxify...) in survival mode. Deep breathing, journaling, yoga, meditation, baths, and walks are examples of activities that not only reduce stress, but help to be in a parasympathetic state to support your immune system.
Beware of Immune destroyers:
Alcohol, poor sleep, high stress is a recipe for sickness/disease. Add in high sugar, fried or processed foods, preservatives, artificial flavors, dyes, seed oils... and very little nutrients, it really is going to be hard to keep the odds in your favor! Of course we also have the glorified grind of being super busy (high cortisol, taxed adrenals, tanked nervous system, fight/flight mode), and overexposure to artificial light rather than sunshine and fresh air coming in to play as well, which make it so hard for the body to have a strong immune system!
I know it is overwhelming to hear all these things that are stacking up against us, but remember all the things listed above are what you can do instead to help your body!
You really can make lifestyle tweaks, if that is your goal. You just need to start, swap, add, or change one thing at a time. If you need guidance, and accountability- that is what Health Coaches are for :)
Start with what you can. Add in the nutrients, and crowd out the toxic. Allow your body to rest and recharge.
Don't underestimate the power of good, quality sleep, slowing down, fueling with nutrients, vitamins, minerals, and utilizing the power of plants + sunshine.