As this article from the Harvard School of Public Health says; “Be Skeptical.” Boosting your immune system is not about targeting one part of your body, it needs to be a comprehensive and ongoing support of your overall health. Unfortunately this means you won’t find cold prevention in one convenient supplement.
Luckily your body has many systems in place that are always at work to prevent infection and toxin accumulation. The cleaner your diet and the healthier your environment, the more you support these natural defense mechanisms.
Here are some specific ways to boost immunity and stay healthy this season:
| Get a good night’s sleep. It might seem obvious that getting enough sleep is important for staying healthy. But just how important is it? Studies show that people who get less than seven hours of sleep on average are three times more likely to get a cold than those who snooze for eight hours or more. (Yep, you read that right.) So if you feel a cold or flu coming on, make sure you’re getting plenty of shut-eye
| Gut Health. Your gut is the front line to your immune system; in fact 70% of your immune system is directly connected to your digestion. Which means when it’s functioning optimally your gut can stop germs in their tracks. This makes it well worth the effort to keep your digestive system healthy and happy. Here's where to start:
- Take probiotics. According to research done at the Harvard Medical School “it is now known that certain bacteria in the gut influence the development of aspects of the immune system, such as correcting deficiencies and increasing the numbers of certain T cells.” If you don’t want to bother with supplements simply eat your probiotics which can be found in high quality fermented foods, miso, grass fed kefir, and fermented drinks such as kombucha.
| Eat multiple servings of colorful fruits and vegetables high in vitamins C, A, and phytonutrients that support the immune system. Choose more leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower), peppers, sweet potatoes, garlic, onions, mushrooms, and squashes. Aim for three to four servings of fruits and four or more servings of vegetables daily!
| Boost your Vitamin D3. Recent studies show that low D is linked with an increased risk of respiratory infections. Vitamin D is best for protecting against cold and flu by helping immune cells make antibodies. It’s best to get levels checked to determine optimal dosage, most often it will be in the range of 800-1000 IU per day.
| Include protein with each meal. Proteins are essential to the overall health of our body. They help to build and repair tissue and are the building blocks for enzymes, hormones, and vitamins. For best health you want the best quality protein possible; aim for organic, clean, and lean animal protein as well as plant-based (legumes, nuts/seeds). And remember the even though proteins are important to get with each meal and snack there is no evidence that high amounts of protein have any additional benefits for most people
| Avoid simple sugars as much as possible! This includes those sweet treats and desserts but also the white flour and refined grain products that turn into sugar quickly.
- Studies have shown that refined sugars can suppress your immune system for hours after ingested
- Deplete vitamins and minerals that support your immune system
- Decrease effectiveness of white blood cells
- Increases stress levels
| Bonus: If you want to keep it super simple and are craving just one solution for the whole cold and flu dilemma, then bone broth is your answer. It is perhaps the closest thing to a magic bullet for immune health. Check out this recipe at the Nourished Kitchen and start simmering!
I would love to hear your favorite, tried and true methods for keeping colds at bay. I invite you to add your comments and questions below!
Here’s to a healthy, happy, and cold-free winter season.