10 EASY WAYS TO BOOST YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM
Leaves are beginning to fall, days are shorter, and everyone smells like pumpkin spice. My favorite season is here right along with my least favorite, flu + cold season. I am really big on taking preventative measures, and I wanted to share a few tips on how to help avoid getting the crud.
1. VITAMIN D
The weird thing is that this “vitamin” is actually not a vitamin. It’s a hormone! We all know Vitamin D is essential for good bone health, but it’s also crucial for immune function. Cholesterol and UVB combine to produce Vitamin D when the sun shines on our skin and then has to travel to the liver first and then kidney to become activated. Producing Vitamin D naturally is always better than supplementing!
The gut microbiome refers to the billions of living bacteria in the gut, and they have MAJOR effects on overall health. It’s affected by a number of things including diet during infancy and adulthood, mode of delivery (babies born via C-section are exposed to different strains of bacteria as compared to babies born vaginally), antibiotic use, stress, genetics, etc. Bacteria taken in through the diet (or with supplements) can help support gut health. The Standard American Diet is associated with dysbiosis, a disruption in the gut bacterial profile when the “bad” bacteria outnumber the “good.” A combination of probiotics and prebiotics as part of a whole foods diet can help achieve the right balance of gut bacteria to support health and reduce inflammation. Some great sources of probiotics are cultured yogurt (find one that’s made with whole fat milk or milk substitute and no added sugar), kombucha, kefir, and sauerkraut. We also take a high-quality probiotic every night before bed. My husband and I use MegaFlora, Greta takes HMF Fit for School, and Oliver takes HMF Baby B.
3. LIMIT SUGAR
Oh, sugar. It’s added to EVERYTHING these days. Every other commercial on TV is promoting some sort of refined sugar-laden cereal or “food”. Diabetes is on the rise and we as a country are becoming sicker and sicker. Excess sugar hinders the immune system more than almost anything else. When bacteria, viruses, or fungi try to invade the body, the body responds by producing white blood cells called phagocytes. These cells are responsible for enveloping or at least neutralizing harmful cells, stopping the spread of infection. Refined sugar and artificial sweeteners reduce how well these white blood cells respond and perform.
This herbal supplement is also known as purple coneflower and contains alkylamides that actually stimulate the immune system. It can lower the chance of catching a cold by almost 60% and also reduces the duration. The powerful effects of Echinacea are due to water-soluble polysaccharides that sequester the attacks of different viruses and bacterias and allows for the body to heal itself. I drink this Echinacea tea when I’m feeling a little run down. **Echinacea should be avoided in people that have an autoimmune disease**
Elderberry has definitely become a popular cold and flu remedy over the past couple of years, and rightfully so. It is one of the safest yet most powerful herbs (in my opinion) and is a staple in our house during the winter months. Elderberries are high in Vitamin C and also contain Vitamin A and B6. The levels of anthocyanins in elderberry boost our production of cytokines which increase the effectiveness of our immune response. They also have antiviral components and their high potency of bioflavonoids are believed to deactivate viruses, stopping a cold or flu virus from replicating. We use black elder drops that I purchase from a local naturopath. They are basically all the plant’s energy concentrated in the bud so that I don’t have to dose as often or as much as I would with regular elderberry syrup. If you do prefer the syrup try to find one that doesn’t contain tons of sugar or added preservatives.
6. RAW HONEY
Any time I’m suffering from allergies or if my dad even hears me sneeze he will say, “Take some honey!” Growing up I despised the taste of honey, but now it is my most beloved kitchen essential. Raw honey hasn’t been pasteurized or processed so it still contains powerful antiviral and antimicrobial properties. Manuka honey is from the manuka tree in New Zealand and parts of Australia. This particular honey is a strong anti-inflammatory and is used as a topical treatment to help heal burns and wounds. It’s even believed to help stop the proliferation of cancer cells. Make sure when buying manuka honey that the brand has a UMF (Unique Manuka Factor) that indicates the level of antibacterial potency. Get one with an optimum level of 10+. It can be a bit pricey so if you’d rather stick to raw, local honey then you’re still doing great. We take a teaspoon of honey every morning and I give it to the kids when they have a cough.
Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurveda consider garlic a powerful treatment for colds, flu, and other infections. Garlic has the ability to fight different virus strains providing broader protection, unlike conventional antibiotics. It has antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial properties. It’s best to consume it raw as it loses some of the benefits upon heating. Try crushing a few cloves over a green salad or combine it with extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice for a dressing.
This super versatile citrus fruit is used in herbal medicine because it contains natural antibacterial and astringent properties. It has high levels of vitamin C, antioxidants, and flavonoids that help provide protection against viral and bacterial infections. Lemon is also great for digestion; the citric and ascorbic acids help balance the blood’s pH by alkalizing the body. I drink fresh lemon juice every morning with apple cider vinegar (find that recipe here). I also diffuse Young Living’s lemon essential oil during the day for added benefits.
9. THIEVES OIL
During my cancer treatment I wore a mixture of Thieves essential oil + coconut oil on my chest anytime I left the house (they now have a roll-on bottle and its super convenient). My immune system was extremely low so pneumonia or the flu was very dangerous for me. I needed all the help I could get. This blend is made up of clove, lemon, cinnamon bark, eucalyptus, and rosemary essential oils. I use this one from Young Living and their whole line of Thieves products is worth looking into (the toothpaste is my favorite).
This should actually be number one because it’s THAT important. Stress is terrible for our health, and it’s almost impossible for the body to heal itself if it’s in constant fight or flight mode. Try to control your breathing, connect to the earth, laugh more often and pray.
Oh and as a side note, DRINK MORE WATER! Proper hydration is critical to optimal health.