How to Support Your Immune System
We've officially had our first frost in New England, the weather is getting colder and with that comes the dreaded cold and flu season. Our best source of defense against colds and viruses is to support our immune system naturally, and I have some tips that I'd love to share!
Full disclaimer: I'm not a medical professional, and every one has their own circumstances and health needs. This post is just information I've personally used and/or have gathered along the way-- please always remember to ask your own trusted practitioner before implementing any advice you read on the internet into your life.
Your gut health is directly linked to your immune system, in fact a very large portion of your immune system is actually in your GI tract. Getting your gut health assessed is best done by a practitioner, especially when it comes to adding a probiotic supplement into your regimen as different strains are better than others for each individual. (I personally use Seed's Daily Symbiotic which has a pre-biotic exterior and a probiotic interior (both of which are important for your microbiome)). Other ways to support your gut health, and in turn support your immune system, are to drink bone broth, and to add in fermented foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, yogurt, miso, etc.
Supplements + Antioxidants
3 supplements that I take daily are Vitamin D, Vitamin C and Zinc. Vitamin D is important for immune function and many people are deficient in Vitamin D, especially if you live in a colder area where it's not super sunny year round. It's best to get Vitamin D from short amounts of sunlight exposure, but that's not always feasible in the winter when days are short. Supplementation can help-- I personally like New Chapter's Vitamin D3. Some foods also have small amounts of Vitamin D, like egg yolks, certain fish and mushrooms, etc. Vitamin C is an important vitamin for overall health and immunity. It is also an antioxidant and helps protect our immune cells. Many fruits and vegetables are high in Vitamin C, and I also love Pique's Liposomal Vitamin C packets. Zinc is another important mineral and antioxidant that supports the immune system and helps with many body processes, including DNA repair. Certain meats, grains, nuts and seeds have good amounts of Zinc in them, but I also like to supplement this. I like Mary Ruth's liquid Zinc, which can be used for adults and kids.
Sleep is SO important to your overall health, and especially your immune function. Lack of sleep has a direct impact on your immunity as it decreases the activity of T-cells, which are a crucial type of immune cell. Life is demanding, especially if you have young kids or hectic work lives, but prioritizing your sleep is the best thing you can do for your overall health and immunity. If you start to feel run-down, it is so important to pause and make sure you get the rest you need.
Your lymphatic system has many important functions, but in relation to your immune system it "produces and releases lymphocytes (white blood cells) and other immune cells that monitor and then destroy the foreign invaders — such as bacteria, viruses, parasites and fungi — that may enter your body." Exercising is a great way to move the lymph in your body, dry brushing is a great way to stimulate the lymphatic system, sweating and making sure you're well hydrated are important to the function of this system, and avoiding toxic chemicals also helps to keep this system healthy and happy.
What you consume by way of food has a big effect on your immune system. Eating more fruits and vegetables can certainly support your health, especially if you focus on eating "in season" produce. Citrus fruit, red bell pepper, garlic and ginger are all powerhouses when it comes to supporting your immune system. (Organic is best, but it does add up-- I'd recommend looking into the "dirty dozen + clean 15" and buy organic accordingly). Reducing your intake of sugar and refined carbohydrates can also help support your immune system- this can be a hard switch, and I like the mentality of "crowding out" instead of "limiting" these food groups. Crowding out just means that you add in more of the stuff you need, like fruits, vegetables and proteins, and that typically satiates you enough to not feel like you need as much sugary or starchy foods. It's a mindset shift that makes a huge difference.
A no brainer-- wash your hands regularly, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds. Hand sanitizer is okay in a pinch but washing your hands in a sink is best. Antiviral foods such as garlic, Manuka honey and oregano oil are all great for immune system function. Certain fungi are great for immune support, such as reishi and shiitake. Reishi is typically taken as a capsule or in teas (and can actually be found in my current favorite morning drink/coffee alternative - Mud\Wtr), and shiitake mushrooms can easily be found in any grocery store.