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It’s that time of year again when everyone around you seems to be sniffling or complaining of being sick. Now, getting sick every now and then is inevitable. In fact, it’s good for you in that it’s how your body builds antibodies for future sickness. Your immune system is responsible for recognizing germs coming into your body, and works to neutralize and remove them before they even cause the first sniffle. Ideally, everything runs smoothly on its own, but just like any system, defenses can break down. However, there are some things you can do on your own to help your body’s natural defenses – aside from the age old plan of taking copious amounts of vitamin C!
Below are some ideas that may help boost your immune system. Please note that not all options are appropriate for pregnant women or those that have a compromised immune system (or are on immune suppressing medication). Additionally, a dosage for children would be different than that of an adult. As always, it can be a good idea to run any new ideas or supplements by your healthcare provider. So, if you’re cleared for some easy and holistic ways to strengthen your body’s immune system, check out the list below.
1.) Cut out sugar
Sugar weakens the immune system. It is considered an “anti-nutrient” meaning not only does it not add any nutrition (any benefit), but it also takes away from health, increasing stress on the body systems and reducing the body’s stress response. Additionally, studies have shown that sugar actually “feeds” some bacteria, therefore increasing the strength of these invaders. Plus, by eating sugary foods, the daily calories are being taken up by unhealthy foods instead of immune boosting fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains, eggs and other protein sources. Try to avoid sugary foods, especially candy, processed cereals, cookies, and cakes. (Source)
2.) Check out oregano oil
Oregano has long been considered a powerful herb as far as being antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial. In fact, many producers are using in the feed of chickens and possibly other animals to treat illness instead of using anti-biotics. It is also considered a “hot” oil, meaning it has the potential to burn the skin on direct contact. Be sure to use a reputable brand that also mixes with a carrier oil and follow the directions on the product. (Source) If you've just left a bunch of sneezy people and start to feel a tickle in your throat, oregano oil might be just the extra boost your immune system needs to fight the oncoming invaders!
3.) Eat your veggies
Plants are nature’s remedy and have immense nutrients, especially in their raw form.There are countless amounts of phyto-nutrients (think plant power) in addition to the power of traditional immune boosting vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, vitamin A (as beta-carotene), zinc and iron. Many vegetables, such as mushrooms, increase white cell (germ fighting cells) activity. (Source) Whenever we start to feel run down, I make sure to include a smoothie full of beta carotene and vitamin C, such as this Carrot Orange Tropical Smoothie. Additionally, whole grains add fiber which help keep the digestive system moving, clearing out toxins and undesirable bacteria.
photo credit: Wix
4.) Lightly exercise
There are some theories as to why exercise may help support a strong immune system. First, it is thought physical activity helps move germs along, flushing them out of the airways and bloodstream. Second, a slight rise in body temperature may prohibit bacteria from growing. And lastly, getting active helps slow the release of stress hormones, which when released, contribute to lowered immunity.
5.) Boost up probiotic intake
Probiotics are the good bacteria in your body. They help fight infections that are the result of “bad” bacteria overgrowth. Additionally, they help support the immune system. For a more in depth look at the benefits of probiotics, check out this article.
6.) Consider supplementing elderberry
An extract made from the elderberry has been known to boost the immune system. It can be found in a kid-friendly supplement as well as adult gummies, syrup or tincture. Often times it is combined with zinc, another immunity booster. (Source) This is one of those herbal supplements you do want to run by your healthcare provider. There may be some contraindications with pregnancy, and especially if you are taking medication that is meant to suppress your immune system.
7.) Get sleep!
Sleep is so crucial to your health, especially your immune system. When you sleep, your body regenerates and keeps everything functioning properly. Without sleep, your body begins to weaken and studies have shown that lack of sleep has similar effects as physical stress! (Source) So, as hard as it may be to go to bed with the kids, it might be just what you need to keep your immune system going strong during periods when illness is going around. Just think of all of the time you will save from not being ill in bed as a trade-off for an early night!
photo credit: Wix
Maybe laughter isn’t always the absolute best medicine, but studies show it’s right up there! Laughter lowers stress hormones and raises infection-fighting antibodies. Plus, it just makes life more enjoyable! (Source)