Updated: Mar 9
You know it’s cold and flu season when the people in your life seem more and more like Snow White’s dwarves: Sneezy, Sleepy and Dopey! Here are some simple tips to boost your immunity; so, you can feel like yourself all season long.
Exercise is one of the best ways to boost your overall health. By increasing blood flow and lymph circulation in the body, exercise brings immune cells to your tissues so that you’re better able to fight off infection (Harvard Health Publications). Try to implement a routine of moderate exercise about 3-5 times per week. Skiing, skating, sledding – we have so many ways to stay fit and have fun in our Canadian winters.
But be sure to bundle up to keep yourself warm; in Traditional Chinese Medicine, the back of the neck is an important spot whereby external pathogens can enter the body, so invest in a good scarf for your outdoor adventures (Gilbert 2011). But if you’re more of a fair-weather Canadian, try taking a dance class or sign up at your local gym. Keep in mind that overdoing high-intensity exercise can add more stress to your body and weaken your immune defences, so as with anything, moderation is key.
With our busy lifestyles, we often forsake rest and relaxation to check off another box on our seemingly infinite to-do lists. But health research is showing us just how important it is to reduce stress. Try practicing yoga, schedule tea with friends, or add meditation into your self-care protocol. A 2013 study showed that meditation actually reduced cold and flu illness more so than did exercise (Obasi et al, 2013).
Try to catch enough Zzzzs, as a 2015 study found that shorter sleep duration increased susceptibility to the common cold (Prather et al, 2015). If you have trouble falling asleep at night, say goodnight to your screens an hour before bedtime, and sip on a cup of chamomile tea to help ease the transition into dreamland.
Eat to Your Health!
Getting your 10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day is one of the best ways to keep your immune system functioning at its best. To up your intake of antioxidant-rich vitamins A and C, eat carrots, leafy greens like spinach and kale, and butternut squash, for starters. Mix up your usual produce picks to make sure you’re getting a variety of vitamins and minerals.
• Support your gut bacteria with probiotic foods like unsweetened yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut
• Up your vitamin C intake from leafy greens, veggies and fruits
• Get adequate protein from lean meats, or vegetarian options like beans and organic soy
• Embrace healthy fats from avocado and wild fish
• Avoid sugar – that includes cookies, pop, and what you stir into your hot beverages!
Call in the Professionals
Naturopathic medicine is poised to be able to naturally support your immune system. With a deep understanding of the foundations of a healthy gut and lymphoid system, Naturopathic Doctors can help you harness your body's ability to bolster its immune system and keep you healthy all winter season.
Keep in mind that self-prescribing "immune-boosting" herbs isn't doing your body justice. Naturopathic Doctors use an individualized approach that allows us to cater your immune protocol to you. Dr. Irwin serves many people with autoimmunity, in which case the delicate balance between immunosuppression and immuno-stimulation is of prime importance.
Originally written for Healthy Directions magazine.
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Gilbert, Cyndi. “It’s Cold Out There. Cover Your Windgate.” October 28, 2011. http://www.cyndigilbert.ca/its-cold-out-there-cover-your-windgate/
Harvard Health Publications. “How to boost your immune system.” June 15, 2016. http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-boost-your-immune-system
Obasi CN, Brown R, Ewers T, et al. “Advantage of meditation over exercise in reducing cold and flu illness is related to improved function and quality of life.” Influenza and Other Respiratory Viruses. 2013 Nov; 7(6): 938-44. do: 10.1111/irv.12053
Prather A, Janicki-Deverts D, Hall M, Cohen S. “Behaviorally Assessed Sleep and Susceptibility to the Common Cold.” SLEEP. 2015. doi:10.5665/sleep.4968. *Originally written for Healthy Directions magazine. URL: http://healthydirections.ca/achoo-kidding-me/