The immune system becomes extra important at this time of year. As the seasons change and we move from summer to fall and winter we have more exposure and more vulnerability to viruses. As we come in from the outdoors and congregate together in close contact, we see lots of children getting sick and sharing with parents and caregivers who bring it to work and presto! Cold and flu season is upon us!
Most of us will get a couple colds throughout the year, but what about those of us who seem to get something every month or even every couple months? When frequently sick many people notice they have a particularly weak area – sinuses and lungs being the most common culprits. These are signs that you have a particular weak area that needs to be supported well before cold and flu season.
What can you do to strengthen your immune system during the fall?
Did you know that roughly 75% of your immune tissue is located in your digestive system? Amazing right?! To stay healthy, digestion needs to run smoothly. Try some of these ideas to support your digestive system:
- Eat more cooked, pureed or blended food
- Include bone broth in your diet
- Try a change of season soup: A herbal blend used as a base for soup to tonify the immune system (a practice from Traditional Chinese Medicine: Google it!)
- Add heat to your digestion with spices, herbs and teas such as: ginger, cayenne, cumin, garlic, cinnamon, black pepper, coriander, anise and mustard seed. Ayurvedic Medicine stresses the importance of adding heat through spices and cooking to improve the digestibility of our foods during the winter months when there is not as much warmth in our environment.
- Use a high quality multiple human strain probiotic or incorporate fermented foods
- Eat regular meals at consistent and predictable intervals. Don’t make your body guess when it might get food next, avoid ‘hibernation’ mode–storing fuel as fat. Give your body the energy it needs to strengthen your immune system.
Particular herbs can prevent you from getting sick during transitional seasons and when you’re under more stress than normal. It’s important to use herbs before, during and for at least 2 weeks after the season shifts for diminished stress. Immune support herbs include:
- siberian ginseng
Each herb has a particular benefit and can be used individually or in combination. Speak with a Naturopath for an individualized recommendation.
Have you ever noticed after a stressful time has passed you come down with a bad cold? It seems like the virus knows you are through and it’s time to feel awful, really awful. Our stress hormones (cortisol and adrenalin) offer some protection but when cortisol drops the virus takes over your very exhausted body. Here are tips to prevent burnout:
- Get plenty of Vitamin C. It is a potent antioxidant, naturally highest in the adrenal glands and essential to their function. Fruits and vegetables are an ideal source. If using a supplement ensure it’s professional quality, no fillers or preservatives and is a buffered product.
- Keep blood sugar stable. When blood sugar levels fall the adrenals are stimulated to release cortisol and adrenalin in order to boost blood sugar. Limit excessive cortisol release (overtime this depletes the adrenal gland) by maintaining your blood sugar through diet. Try these tips to regulate your blood sugar: reduce low fiber processed carbohydrates (eg. sweets, white bread), include protein, fat or fibre in every meal and reduce caffeine intake (especially coffee, as it causes a spike in cortisol levels).
- Consider a B complex. During stressful times, B vitamins are quickly used and can become depleted. Look for products that have activated versions of B vitamins or a whole food product.
Remember the old saw: “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”