Top Tips to Boost Immune Function
Why do we get sick?
Sickness occurs when our immune system is compromised due to an increased amount of stress. Stressors might include lack of physical activity, exposure to fresh air, poor dietary choices, a weak gut microbiome, or lack of proper rest and sleep.
Sickness is more prevalent over the winter months because of these stressors on our bodies. As the seasons and weather change, we get outside less and spend more time indoors. We get less fresh air and less physical activity.
Fall and winter months also bring holidays (such as Halloween and Christmas). As a result, we consume more sugar and inflammatory foods during this time. Holidays can also increase mental & emotional stress with family events, gift shopping, travel etc.
All of these different types of stress create the perfect storm to get sick. When our nervous system is stressed, our immune system’s natural response to fight off germs is lowered.
When our nervous system is stressed, our immune system’s natural response to fight off germs is lowered.
So how can we combat the “cold and flu season”?
Here are my top 10 tips to avoid getting sick and stay healthy… all year round.
1. Prioritize Rest. Our bodies need proper sleep every day for recovery of every system in our body. When we don’t sleep enough, our energy and brain function decreases, metabolism slows, muscle and tissue repair is impaired and our immune system is weakened.
Adults need between 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night! Need to improve your sleep? Check out our articles on Sleep Health under our Health & Wellness articles tab.
2. Avoid Sugar.Sugar can be known as an anti-nutrient. Our immune system is actually suppressed for up to 4-6 hours after consuming sugar! Eating foods high in sugar, especially those found in refined and processed foods, increases inflammation, feeds the unhealthy gut bacteria & lowers immune functioning. A high sugar diet has been linked to an increased risk of metabolic syndrome, diabetes, heart disease, cancer and Alzheimers.
So, what should I eat? Consume a diet rich in colorful vegetables, lean quality protein, and healthy fats such as nuts, seeds, avocado etc. These foods will provide nutrients, fuel for the body and actually BOOST your immune system. Avoid all processed grain and products such as breads, pastas, candy, baked goods etc. Reach for fruit and complex carbs like squashes or sweet potatoes if you want something sweet.
3. Nurture your Gut. Over two-thirds of our immune system is found in our GUT! The bacteria in our gut is known as microbiome. Probiotics are strains of bacteria that make up the gut flora. Probiotics are responsible for proper digestion, immune function, neurotransmitter production, mood regulation, metabolism and more!
Supplementing with a quality probiotic will boost your immune function & aid in improving your overall health. A great place to start would be a probiotic containing 15-30 total colony forming units (CFUs) to populate the gut with the healthy bacteria.
4. Increase Movement.Daily physical activity is another “essential nutrient” our bodies require. We were meant to move! Movement increases blood flow, oxygen and circulation to the entire body & brain. It improves energy, cognitive functioning, metabolism, mobility and flexibility. Exercise and sweating has been shown to initiate the lymphatic system, supports detoxification & fights foreign toxins. Increase your daily activity (walks, stretching, etc) and schedule in exercise to ward off sickness.
5. Get outside. When we have colder temperatures we tend to go outside less. Lack of fresh air can mean the re-circulation of toxins and germs inside. It can also lower levels of Vitamin D, a nutrient crucial to immune functioning. Aim to get outdoors for at least 10 minutes a day in the winter. Bundle up and try a winter sport or just go for a simple walk. Nature has a calming effect on our bodies as well which can lower your overall stress load.
6. Take Vitamin D. Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient that acts as hormone in the body. It is needed for bone health, nervous system functioning, mood regulation and our immune systems. Feel tired and a little sad in the winter? It might be because of the lack of sun exposure and being deficient in Vitamin D.
It is recommended to supplement with Vitamin D since daily full body exposure to sunlight can be difficult. Optimal levels of Vitamin D should be 60-100 ng/ml.
7. Manage your Stress Load.The more stress you subject yourself to, the weaker your immune system becomes. When our body is under stress we produce more cortisol and sends our body into the “fight or flight” state. In this state our body cannot rest, repair, digest or have a healthy immune system.
Acknowledge the stressors you have and reduce them as much as you can. Incorporate stress-relieving techniques such as deep breathing, guided meditation, yoga, reading or exercise into your routine. Find what works for you!
8. Cultivate Kindness.Studies have shown that caring for others and acts of kindness boosts immune cells! Connecting (and caring) for others stimulates positive emotions & lowers stress. It stimulates the immune system of ourselves AND others. A happier, positive outlook has been shown to increase healing in the body and improve overall well-being. Your mind DOES control it all!
9. Schedule regular chiropractic visits.Your nervous system (brain and spine) controls every cell, tissue, organ, and organ system within your body. The key here is to be sure that your spine is in its proper alignment so it can send out clear signals to the rest of your body. Chiropractic adjustments help to remove subluxations and stress within our nervous system. An adjustment can boost your immune system by 200%!
10. Consider Natural Remedies.Many herbs and plants have been used for centuries as ways to fight off infections and boost immunity. Botanicals including echinachea, marjoram, turmeric, astragulas, elderberry, calendula, thyme and medicinal mushrooms are useful in aiding the body’s immune system and fighting off germs. Garlic and oregano both have antibiotic and antiviral properties.
Essential Oils can be a great way to incorporate these herbs into your routine. Doterra and Young Living are the top highest quality brands and the only companies who’s oils passed the CPTG (certified pure therapeutic grade) testing. Some favorite oils for immune function are: Frankincense, clove, lemon, melaluca and oregano.