Cold and flu season is (unfortunately!) just around the corner if it hasn’t already launched itself at you in full force. The immune system is a powerful player in our body – keeping it in tip-top shape takes a bit of work. Many people aren’t aware, but the functionality of our immune cells are very dependent on the health of our digestive tract; over 75% of our lymph nodes reside in and around our gut, protecting our body from any invaders sneaking across the intestinal wall into our blood stream.
Listed below are my top five tips on keeping the immune system strong and allowing your body to naturally resist catching a cold or a flu when it comes around.
- Sleep – the most important gift you can give your body. Most of our regeneration happens in the dark of night and sleep allows the immune cells to work at full capacity.
- Wash your hands – this probably doesn’t need any more explanation! Avoid purchasing soaps labeled “antimicrobial” (see previous blog post Germ-a-phobes) and instead wash frequently throughout the day – scrubbing with soap and hot water for 30 seconds.
- Decrease sugar and processed foods (including alcohol). Studies have shown 1 spoonful of sugar decreases immune system functioning for hours. Instead, eat a diet high in antioxidants – a diet filled with a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables will naturally provide these.
- Optimize your intestinal bacteria. You can do this by eating plain, preferably organic (!!), yogurt and supplementing with probiotics. These help regulate our natural flora, which ultimately plays a large role in strengthening our immune system.
- Vitamin C, vitamin A, zinc and selenium are my favorite vitamins and minerals to help support the immune cells during the cold and flu season. In high doses for short periods of time, these can stop a cold or flu in its tracks, but caution should be taken with high dosing – speak with your health care provider.
If you find yourself constantly sick or tend to catch whatever is going around, there are probably more issues at play. Schedule a consult with a naturopathic physician in order to address the root cause so that you too can stay healthy year-round!