Your immune system is your body’s defense mechanism against bacteria and germs that cause illness. With cold and flu season upon us, you might be thinking about what you can do to boost and support this important function. Fortunately, there are several simple things you can do. These natural strategies are good for your overall health and may help boost your immunity, too. Remember to always consult with your healthcare provider before making any significant changes in diet, supplements, vitamins, or exercise.
1. Get a good night’s sleep.
Sleep is important for our health for many reasons and not getting enough quality sleep has been linked to many different diseases, including heart disease. Lacking sleep could also impact our immune health by disrupting hormonal signals in the body. These hormones do many things throughout the body and some are linked with immune system function. Following a good bedtime routine and limiting screen time close to bedtime (e.g., TV, cell phone, computer) can help you to fall asleep easier.
2. Manage your stress.
Stress is something many people experience frequently. Stress can disrupt hormone signals in our body just like lack of sleep. If not managed well, it can be detrimental to our overall health and cause physical symptoms such as chronic headaches or upset stomach. Finding healthy ways to manage stress can help the immune system and help with overall well-being. Exercise, meditation and participating in hobbies/activities you enjoy are all good ways to manage stress naturally.
3. Ramp up your nutrition.
What we eat is fuel for the cells of our body. Eating foods like fruits and vegetables rich in Vitamin C and anti-oxidants can naturally boost our immune system. Citrus fruits, tomatoes, red bell peppers, broccoli and Brussels sprouts are good sources of Vitamin C. Some anti-oxidant rich foods are berries, chocolate, spices and herbs.
4. Protect your gut health.
Our digestive system, or gut, digests the food and beverages we consume to produce the fuel or energy for our body. Many health fields believe that gut health is vital to our overall health. A large part of our immune system is found in our gut so gut health is vital to the health of our immune system. Diet and eating small meals can help support our gut. Also pro-biotic supplements and pro-biotic rich foods (such as sauerkraut and yogurt) support the “good bacteria” that live in our gut and play a role in our immune system. Learn more about gut bacteria and keeping your gut healthy.
5. Consider vitamins and supplements.
After pursuing diet and lifestyle changes, the addition of vitamins and supplements can be a safe addition to your natural wellness routine when used appropriately. There are many vitamins and supplements widely available to support many health concerns. Check with your healthcare provider before deciding to start any vitamins or supplements. Here are a few examples of some vitamins and supplements that could be used for immune support:
Vitamin D is essential for our body to use calcium to support bone health. It has also recently been shown to support the immune system by supporting gut health.
Elderberry is a small dark berry rich in anti-oxidants. In research studies, elderberry has been shown to have anti-microbial fighting effects against bacteria and also the virus that causes Influenza A and Influenza B.
Chinese Herbal Therapy
Chinese herbal therapy involves the use of several natural substances such as plants to keep the immune system and overall body in balance.
Keep your immune system and body working efficiently this cold and flu season!
Kylie A. Study, M.Sc, MSTOM, Dipl.OM is a licensed acupuncturist and natural wellness practitioner at the ProMedica Natural Wellness Shop in Sylvania, Ohio.