Boost Your Immunity

Now that cold and flu season is stalking us, it’s time to roll up the sleeves and get serious about boosting our immunity. Here are reminders of the basics we all know, yet need to hear again and again. Most of the people incorporating a significant number of these wise lifestyle choices into their daily lives simply don’t get sick. And when they do, it’s mild and short-lived.

Eliminate Added Sugar

Do you notice the pronounced increase in school absences the week after Halloween and on through the holiday season? Eating and drinking sugar (syrups, honey, fructose, high fructose corn syrup, table sugar) decreases the ability of the white blood cells to kill germs by 40%. Also, consuming sugar decreases the responsiveness of the key infection fighters of the immune system, the neutrophils.

Stress

Emotional stress predisposes us to viruses because it is harder to fight off germs. Finding ways to manage our reactions to circumstances beyond our control will contribute to a strong and resilient immune system.  Studies in mind-body research (psycho-neuro-immunology)  have found that all aspects of immunity are diminished with both short term and chronic stress. Many colleges bring in puppies during final exams to help students relax and thereby boost their immunity. Some of my favorite stress relievers? Baths, cooking, yoga, listening to music, nature walks, being with friends, 5 minute micro-rests throughout the day.

Exercise

30 minutes a day of daily exercise has been found to  increase resistance to illness. Regular, moderate exercise can reduce the risk for respiratory illness by flushing bacteria from the lungs.  However, over-exercising can actually place more stress on the body, which can suppress the immune system.  If you feel you are coming down with something, try going for a walk which may increase body temperature,  creating an unwelcome climate for viral invaders.

Sleep

For some, this is easier said than done, and can be influenced by many factors, including stress and worry, blood sugar regulation,  hormonal status, digestive issues. The most important part of sleep is getting to bed at a reasonable hour, and getting continuous and deep sleep. Not enough sleep weakens the immune system and sets the stage for a hostile take over by a virus.

Water

Get plenty of fresh, pure water. Water is essential for the optimal function of every system in your body. and will flush toxins from body

Laughter

Did you know that laughter, humor, and giggling can increase the function of our immune system and help ward off infections?  Remember Norman Cousins’ book,  Anatomy of an Illness, in which he checked himself out of the hospital after being diagnosed with a debilitating illness (ankylosing spondylitis), checked himself into a hotel, and watched funny movies and administered high dose vitamin C to himself? He credits this regimen to his healing. Laughter provides many of the stress relieving benefits of exercise – increased oxygen uptake, stimulating circulation, relaxing muscles, stimulating the brain to produce more endorphins, thereby decreasing feelings of pain.

Community and social life

Staying connected to friends and family helps to strengthen our immune system. A few close friends and staying connected to others has ben found to strengthen our immune system.

Some of My Favorite Natural Immune Boosters

Turmeric – can buy the root in natural food stores, and peel it like ginger root and add to your smoothies for its anti-inflammatory properties

Oregano Extract – micro-emulsified oil of oregano extract is found to improve gut flora, which in turn strengthens the immune system. Upwards of 70% of the immune system resides in the gastro-intestinal tract.

Garlic – Garlic supplementation is known to boost the function of the immune system. One study found that a daily garlic supplement reduced the number of colds by 63% (compared with the placebo group). Also, garlic supplementation reduced the average length of cold symptoms by 70%, from 5 days to just 1.5 days.  Another study found that a high dose of garlic extract (2.56 grams per day) can reduce the number of days sick with cold or flu by 61%. My favorite way to ‘take’ garlic (warning- this is not for everyone!) is to finely mince a clove of raw garlic, put it on a spoon, and take it as I would a supplement, swallowing with water. I take one diced clove in the morning and one at dinner time.

Raw fermented vegetables (a forkful a day keeps the doctor away)  have been found to increase the numbers of  friendly bacteria and to aid in the production of antibodies, both of which have a powerful, beneficial effect on your gut’s immune system, (the first line of defense against pathogens).

Tulsi or Holy Basil– can buy as tea (Organic India) or make your own from the fresh or dried herbs. Said to be one of the most sacred plants in India, holy basil is a powerful antioxidant with demonstrated antibacterial, anti-fungal, and anti-inflammatory properties. In Ayurvedic medicine, holy basil has been used to treat a variety of conditions – from the common cold to bronchitis to fever. Holy basil functions as an adaptogen, enhancing the body’s natural response to physical and emotional stress.

Homemade chicken soup – Scientists have concluded that chicken soup may have anti-inflammatory properties that help dampen cold symptoms. Chicken soup helps you to stay hydrated, which is key to immune health, as well as being packed with electrolytes that may help people drink and retain even more fluids than water or electrolyte fluids  (like coconut water). The soup’s salt, steam and heat can help thin mucus, making it easier to expel, and soothe irritated passageways in your nose and throat.

and saving the best for last:

If you’re looking for a dose of chicken soup, try my favorite recipe, which includes immunity-boosting ginger.

Most of the people incorporating a significant number of these wise lifestyle choices into their daily lives simply don’t get sick. And when they do, it’s mild and short-lived.

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