Boosting your immune system for the fall and winter seasons brings many new patients into my practice, as most people do not want to take drugs when they or their children come down with a cold virus. Some people choose to get a flu shot, but it does not guarantee protection from getting sick, nor does it improve your health. The recommendation I have to patients is to take care of a few key basics that will help strengthen their immune system so they are naturally better at fighting off infections.
1) Healthy Diet
The food you eat provides your body with key nutrients so that it can heal and prevent disease. Ask your family to help prepare meals and learn about healthy eating together. Aim for a diet with a variety of organic fruits, vegetables, whole grains and protein sources. Eat foods with low saturated fat and no trans fat. Good fats include avocado, extra virgin olive oil, almonds, and walnuts. Avoid processed or packaged foods as much as possible, as they are less nutritious than whole foods.
Some foods tend to promote mucous in the body, such as dairy. Milk and yogurt should be avoided if you have a productive cough, runny nose, or in general if you are prone to sinus infections.
Consuming high-glycemic foods, caffeine, alcohol and food sensitivities will make you more prone to getting an infection, so if you get colds or the flu, consider getting a blood test to discover your hidden food sensitivities. Also, take a high quality encapsulated multi-vitamin supplement without any non-medicinal ingredients for optimal health.
2) Filtered Water
Water is the foundation of the body’s ability function properly. By staying hydrated you are supporting the healing process as well as proper bowel function and elimination of toxins. Try drinking one cup of water every two hours throughout the day and do not drink two hours before going to bed.
3) Vitamin C
This vitamin is critical for immune function, and increasing your daily dosage to 3000-5000mg is ideal. Foods high in vitamin C include papaya, bell peppers, broccoli, brussel sprouts, strawberries, pineapple, oranges, and kiwifruit.
4) Vitamin D3
A daily dose of 1000IU of Vitamin D3 in a liquid form for optimal absorption is important to help keep up your immunity. As a baseline for my patients, I test their 25-hydroxy vitamin D blood status. This information tells me the appropriate amount of Vitamin D they should be taking in order to boost their immunity, as many of my patients are very deficient in this vitamin and need to take a higher dose for a few months until their levels are high enough to ward off infection.
Yogurt does not contain adequate amounts of probiotics to boost immunity. Look for a refrigerated brand that contains at least 50 billion active probiotics to take during the cold/flu season.
6) Proper Hygiene
Prevent the spread of germs by washing your hands regularly and thoroughly before and after food preparation, and after using the washroom. Sneeze into your sleeve, and wipe off your cell phone, computer, and purse. Avoid using alcohol-based hand sanitizers regularly as your skin has good bacteria designed to act as a first-line defense system.
The lining of your nose requires moisture in order to be an effective barrier to fight off germs. Check the humidity in your house and at work and use a humidifier if necessary, take warm showers and use steam inhalation or saline nasal sprays if your nose if very dry.
A restful night’s sleep for a minimum of six hours uninterrupted is your goal to help strengthen your body’s defenses. Melatonin, a hormone that is produced while you sleep is a powerful antioxidant that also has immune-boosting effects. Try going to bed at the same time every night, preferably by 10 p.m. and waking by 6 a.m.
9) Avoid Stress
Feeling constantly under stress will raise cortisol levels, which suppresses your ability to fight infections decreases your immune system. We all lead very busy lives with working and caring for our families, however it is vital to keep a balance and reduce stress in as many ways as you can. Exercise, read a good book, and find joy in your life in some way every day.
Try to avoid situations that evoke stress, as the cause of stress is different for everyone. Try thinking positive and make lists to organize your day so that you do not feel overwhelmed with tasks. Find outlets for stress such as spending time with pets, meditation and deep breathing.
10) Other Methods to Boosting Your Immune System
There are a large variety of naturopathic treatments I utilize with my patients in order to boost individual immunity, based on their symptoms and overall health. Homeopathic combination medicine, botanical medicine, Chinese medicine, dietary recommendations and acupuncture are effective tools at increasing immunity as well as treating a bacterial infection or cold virus.
For more health tips and more information about naturopathic medicine check out my website at www.vitalforcenaturopathic.ca.