As we're heading into cold and flu season, it's essential to start paying a little more attention to our body's natural ability to heal itself and stay well. Because the truth is that the degree to which you suffer...how sick you feel and for how long...is directly correlated with how prepared your body is to process and fight off the bugs.
Your immune system really is incredible, and it works hard on a daily basis to keep you well. There are some things we can do, particularly at this time of year, to give it a little helping hand...
The food you eat contains all the fuel your body needs to complete every function within. This is why it is so important to put the right foods into our bodies.
When focussing on the immune system it is really important to include lots of organic fruits and vegetables (where possible). It is also important to focus on consuming whole foods (ones that don’t come in a packet).
When you do have sinus trouble or are showing signs of the common cold it is important to reduce your lactose (dairy) intake including milk and yoghurt as these can be inflammatory for your immune system.
Increase your intake of fresh garlic, ginger, turmeric, broccoli, red peppers, kiwifruit, coconut oil and dark green leafy vegetables to name a few. See below for foods containing vitamin C.
Reduce your intake of sugar, processed foods, alcohol and caffeine, especially when the immune system is working hard.
Vitamin C is not only great for your immune system, it is also good at taking some of the load off our adrenal glands (stress hormone-producing glands). Aim to increase the following foods that contain vitamin C on a day to day basis:
Top Vitamin C containing foods:
The first rule of nutritional support is a simple one that we all have access to. One of the most important keys to helping with healing and repair is to ensure you have optimal water and mineral balance.
Along with drinking water, it is just as important to consume more coloured salt (Himalayan, Celtic sea salt). This helps to transport the increased water around the body and into every cell. Make it the first thing you do in the morning, as soon as you get out of bed to have a large glass of water and then continue throughout the day.
Sleep is vital in supporting the body’s ability to heal and repair. Stress levels and lack of sleep have been shown to interfere with immune system function and have been found to increase our susceptibility to the common cold and even slow wound healing.
Ways to support healthy sleep:
This is important when showing any signs of a cold or sniffle coming on. When looking for an apple cider vinegar ensure it contains the “mother of vinegar”. Bragg’s is a great brand which you can find in your health food/ organic shop. This type of vinegar contains vitamins, minerals and enzymes which support your immune system.
Apple cider vinegar contains probiotics that are great for supporting the immune system. It is also great at reducing mucous that may build up with allergies or a cold and supports mucous drainage. It can help with a sore throat – take 1 tablespoon 3-4 times per day in water to ease your sore throat.
Try and have 1 tsp each morning, followed by a large glass of water to help to support your immune system. (If you have any gastrointestinal problems ask your practitioner before starting).
An overproduction of cortisol (one of our stress hormones) can suppress the immune system. This explains why common colds and the flu come on when you are tired or run down.
Stress relieving techniques can include meditation, breathing exercises, self – love, practicing mindfulness, yoga, pilates, and exercise. Social time is also really important to reduce stress hormones. Contact with others has been shown to help stimulate the brain and keep it active.
“Scientists are discovering that anger and hatred eat into our immune system, warm-heartedness and compassion are good for your health” - Dalai Lama.
20-30mins of exercise (to your tolerance) has been shown to slow down the release of stress hormones as mentioned earlier. A reduction in these helps to boost the immune system.
When you exercise you also allow the blood to flow around your body at a greater rate which helps the immune fighting cells to reach the areas of need at a greater pace.
When moulds and fungi are present within your home they can become airborne. When the spores that are airborne become ingested – either by inhalation or come in contact with the skin they can create health issues such as flu-like symptoms, chronic respiratory problems, allergic reactions, nausea and headaches.
This is particularly relevant for those who are already struggling with a weakened immune system, those with asthma, as well as small children and the elderly.
If you do notice mould growing in your home be very careful when cleaning it up. If you have a face mask at home use this, alternatively be mindful not to breathe in any as you clean.
Once it is cleaned it is important to dry out your house. Looking into better ventilation options (extractor fans, dehumidifiers), higher levels of insulation and adequate heating will help to prevent high humidity. Moulds live and thrive in conditions high in condensation and humidity.
Vitamin D has been shown to influence nearly every cell in your body and plays a major role in the immune system.
Getting bare skin into the sun is the best way to increase your vitamin D levels. This doesn’t mean staying out for long periods and potentially burning as it only takes around half the time it would for your skin to sunburn to increase your Vitamin D levels. For someone with fair skin this could be as little as ten minutes of sun exposure.
Alternatively taking a Vitamin D supplement daily can support the body’s needs. Unfortunately, there aren’t a great deal of foods that contain large amounts of vitamin D, but do work on incorporating more foods such as salmon, organ meat like liver, and egg yolks which can support Vitamin D levels.
The spine is the house of the nervous system. The brain sends messages to every cell, tissue and organ via your nervous system. The role of your Chiropractor is to remove any interference to this system.
It is important to get checked by your Chiropractor regularly and especially when your immune system is depleted. The main immune system organs include the thymus, bone marrow, spleen, tonsils, and lymphatics.
For optimal function, the spine and nervous system need to be free of interference to ensure all messages are being sent from the brain to these organs - allowing you to enjoy the best health possible!