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Immune System 101

By December 20, 2021No Comments

Let’s talk immune health!

I get so many questions about immune health this time of year. With extra stress, travel, and cooler temperatures it’s no wonder our immune system needs a little more support in the winter. Today we will be discussing how to know when your immune system needs support, foods, and supplements to support your immune system, what to do when you get that dreaded cold, and our top immune-boosting tips! 

Clues your immune system may need support 

Chances are if you have a weak immune system, you are probably well aware. However, frequent colds, infections, digestive problems, and chronic fatigue are not normal and could be a sign that your immune system needs some support.

Common signs of immune system dysfunction: 

  • Chronic SIBO
  • Dysbiosis
  • Crohns/ colitis 
  • Frequently getting sick 
  • Frequent infections
  • Lots of allergies 
  • Feeling tired and sluggish all the time
  • Slow wound healing
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Slow muscle recovery

If you are suffering from any of the above or feel like you have a weak immune system, it is worth reaching out to an integrative health professional like us to get to the root cause and treat it so that you can begin strengthening your immune system. 

Foods to support immune health 

The food you eat can make a major impact on your immune system. When determining what foods to eat to boost your immune system, I look for antioxidants, prebiotics, probiotics, and vitamins and minerals. 

Foods I love for immune health: 

  • Garlic – antibacterial properties
  • Onion – rich in quercetin (a potent antioxidant and natural antihistamine)
  • Ginger –  helps with detox and inflammation
  • Turmeric Root – anti-inflammatory effects
  • Oregano – contains antiviral and antibacterial compounds
  • Basil – rich in antioxidants
  • Parsley – high in Vitamin C
  • Apple Cider Vinegar – contains prebiotics which is good for the gut
  • Bone Broth – rich in collagen and amino acids which are great for gut health
  • Kefir/ Yogurt – contain probiotics for good bacteria in the gut
  • Sweet Potatoes and Carrots – high in beta-carotene an antioxidant that has anti-inflammatory effects, also rich in Vitamins A and B
  • Citrus fruits (lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruit, red bell pepper) – high in Vitamin C, antioxidants, and has anti-inflammatory effects

We recommend aiming for 5-7+ servings of fruits and veggies (combined) per day to ensure you’re getting an adequate amount of nutrients. This may sound like a lot, but is easily achieved if you make sure about half of your plate is veggies. Remember, veggies don’t have to be boring and can easily be snuck into your meals without affecting its taste.  An easy way to do this is by prepping a bunch of veggies at the beginning of the week, so it’s easy for you to grab. 

Immune-boosting nutrients

Even with a healthy diet, I recommend most of my clients take supplements as it is often hard to get all the nutrients you need from diet alone. 

Supplements I love for immune health: 

  • Vitamin A (on occasion) – anti-inflammatory
  • Vitamin C – high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory 
  • Vitamin D  – so important especially during the winter!
  • Elderberry, quercetin, curcumin, and echinacea  – helps support immune resilience and strength and anti-inflammatory
  • Zinc – helps with symptoms of the common cold
  • Oil of oregano- due to an active ingredient, called carvacol, oil of oregano may be helpful in fighting off nasty bacteria and viruses.
  • Ginger – high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory
  • Prebiotics and probiotics – important for your gut health which affects our overall immune health

Note that some of these nutrients can be found in health shots and juices which can be an easy way to get these nutrients in. If you decide to go the supplement route, be sure to consult with a health professional to find the right dosage for you. 

Our top 10 immune boosting tips

Assuming there is no underlying health condition, boosting your immune system does not have to be complicated. In fact, it is pretty simple. Getting outside, moving your body, reducing stress, getting quality sleep, and eating a nutritious diet is key in supporting the immune system. Read more below on our ten immune-boosting tips! 

10 immune-boosting tips:

  1. Eat more garlic
  2. Add in veggie juices (focus on less sugar)
  3. Work on being mindful when making dessert/sugar choices (choose what you really want)
  4. Focus on ONE thing weekly you’re doing to reduce stress
  5. Spend more time in nature (just bundle up if it;s cold out!)
  6. Be more adventurous with your vegetable choices
  7. Include more roots/warming foods (ginger cumin, turmeric)
  8. Prioritize getting enough and quality sleep
  9. Move your body (but don’t push yourself too hard – things like walking and yoga)
  10. Practice stress management (meditation, journaling, make time to SLOW down!)

Not only will these practices likely boost your immune health, but it is likely they will reduce stress, improve your mood, energy levels, and even digestion! 

What to do if you catch a cold

Regrettably, even if our diet is in check it’s still possible to get a cold and in these winter months, it may feel almost unavoidable. There is never a perfect time to catch a cold and it will likely feel inconvenient. Ever wonder why you get sick the day before your big presentation? Well, it is no coincidence. Increased stress levels coupled with lack of sleep tend to be the perfect recipe to leave you feeling running down and more susceptible to getting sick. We get that sometimes life gets in the way, however, prioritizing your health will cost you less time than getting sick in the long run. In any case, below are our recommendations of what to do if you catch a cold. 

Our top tips for what to do when feeling under the weather: 

  • Stay hydrated-  think: lots of water!!,  cold-pressed juices, warm bone broths and broth in general, warm water with lemon, and herbal teas (these can all prevent dehydration and help loosen congestion)
  • REST! – your body needs extra rest when you are sick, aim for at least 7-8 hours per night 
  • Take a warm shower or bath (with epsom salt)- steam can be helpful if you are stuffy!
  • Sleep with an extra pillow under your head- this can be especially helpful if you have a lot of drainage
  • Sip on bone broth- packed full of vitamins and minerals
  • Add manuka honey to your hot water or tea- helps A LOT with sore throats and coughs 
  • Avoid alcohol and excess caffeine 
  • Avoid strenuous exercise – now is not the time to push yourself in the gym! If you feel like moving your body go for a walk or do a gentle yoga or pilates session
  • Do your best not to skip meals – even though you may not feel very hungry your body still needs nutrients!
  • Consider supplements: 
    • Vitamin D3 (about 5000)
    • Vitamin C (buffered, 2.5g 2x daily)
    • Oil of oregano (2 drops in 8 oz water, 3 times daily)
    • Zinc (30-45 mg)
    • Probiotic (2-3 daily)
    • Vitamin A (10,000 IU daily while feeling sick

If you want to learn more about immune-boosting supplements, click here! Be sure to consult with a health professional to find the right dosage for you before beginning any new supplements!

BOTTOM LINE

Your immune health matters more now than ever, but boosting it does not have to be complicated. Focus on eating a colorful diet and a balanced diet and incorporating the foods  mentioned above daily. Get into the habit of taking daily supplements, whether that be a multivitamin or whatever is recommended by your health professional. Lastly, prioritize yourself by engaging in daily activities to reduce your stress levels and make sleep a non-negotiable. 

Do you think your immune system or health in general could use some work? Click here to work with us!