Updated: Sep 19, 2019
As the days get shorter and darker there are less opportunities for things like Vitamin D exposure, fresh air and for some of us, perhaps even less exercise as well.
To add to this, the holiday season is just around the corner and with it comes plenty of social opportunities to partake in immune-suppressing indulgences like candy and sweets which leaves us susceptible to infections.
This is why fall is a great time to begin priming your immune system for the darker months ahead. Here are my top 5 go-to tips for supporting my family's immunity during the colder months:
1. Greatly reduce sugar
I'm talking refined foods and baked goods as well as high-glycemic fruits. The metabolism of white sugars and refined carbohydrates robs our bodies stores of nutrients and paralyzes white blood cells making it harder for us to fight infections. They promote inflammation stressing our adrenal glands and deplete our guts of beneficial bacteria. Keeping your gut nourished is an important step in maintaining immunity, so taking a good quality probiotic can help keep your gut happy and your immune system supported. High-glycemic fruits like melons, bananas, and grapes are meant to cool the body down during hotter weather, so limiting these during the colder months is wise for keeping the body warm. Eat seasonally!
2. Vitamins to emphasize
Including more immune supportive nutrients during this time of year can greatly reduce your chances of coming down with something and even shorten the duration of illness. Vitamins D, E, C and A, minerals zinc and selenium, protein and essential fatty acids all support your immunity. So try to incorporate foods such as organic eggs, seeds, nuts, dark leafy greens, orange and red vegetables, salmon, and onions and garlic into your diet each day. We love cod liver oil as it provides a nice dose of vitamins A and D and DHA.
I know it can be harder to get exercise this time of year with the days getting shorter, but this really isn't the time to drop your workout routine. The lymphatic system depends on cardiovascular activity in order to function well, so without movement your immune system won't work optimally. Doing things indoors like online workout videos, apps, joining a gym or fitness class are something worth doing 3-4 times a week to help keep the body resistant to viruses. A rebounder (mini trampoline) is a cheap and effective way to support your lymphatic system.
Getting plenty of rest in essential for keeping the immune system strong. Make sure to listen to your body and rest when you need it, even if that means going to bed early a couple times a week. Avoid eating before bed so the body's energy isn't spent digesting instead of repairing while you sleep.
5. Practice self-care and stress management
Managing stress is important for staying healthy. Taking Epsom salt baths can help relax the mind and detoxify the body to help boost immunity. Limiting screen time can help reduce stress on the nervous system. One of my favorite and easy things to do to manage stress is diffusing essential oils. Lavender, stress away blend, frankincense, and orange oil are my households favorites. Sip some chamomile tea for it's calming and immune supportive properties.
Things that help assist the body when sick
1. Drink Apple kudzu:
Kudzu (Japanese arrowroot powder) is shown to boost the immune system and is used is Chinese medicine for various illnesses. Simmer 1/2 cup pure apple juice and 1/2 cup of water in a saucepan on the stove and gently stir in 1 tsp of kudzu until dissolved. Serve with a dash of cinnamon and enjoy!
2. Avoid cold foods
Emphasize warming foods such as soups and broths to keep the body warm and comforted and try to eat frequently to stay nourished. Include plenty of steamed vegetables, and a little protein at each meal or snack for immune support. Strictly limit sugars at this time.
Keep your environment relaxed and calm and let yourself be lazy. Again, essential oils are great for supporting a calm environment as well as our immunity. Eat lightly so your energy is reserved for healing instead of digesting.
Elderberry syrup is an excellent anti-viral choice and a supplement formula containing zinc, vitamin C, vitamin A and Echinacea will help support and boost your body's coping mechanisms.
Assist detoxification with Epsom salt baths (I like to add a little lavender or frankincense essential oils).
Cough and sore throat recipe:
Fresh lemon Juice
Grated Ginger Root
and a dash of ceylon cinnamon
Boil water and add to a mug with listed ingredients and sip during illness.
So there it is, my go-to tips for surviving the season and staying healthy.
Just know that simply by keeping your diet centered around whole foods with lots of vegetables will help keep your immune system strong all year. Things like limiting caffeine, sugar and refined and processed foods and managing stress helps to keep your gut healthy and happy all year long and since the immune system depends on a healthy gut, keeping digestion functioning optimally is a critical step for staying healthy and strong.