The kids are in school, it’s getting colder, and even if you and your littles haven’t caught a cold (or worse!) yet you can bet your immune system has been working overtime to keep you healthy. Whether you opt to get a flu shot or not (keeping in mind that it won’t protect you from colds, gastrointestinal illness, or even many strains of the flu itself), there are all kinds of things that you can do to ward off illness.
Start With Immune System Basics
First off, we all know that good, basic hygiene is your first line of defence against colds, flus and other infectious illnesses. You don’t need anything fancy either, just soap and water. In fact, you might want to consider staying away from products marketed as being antibacterial (as well as some, like toothpaste), because these products contain a chemical called Triclosan. Triclosan is an endocrine-disrupting hormone that can also affect thyroid hormone production. Recent research has shown that using antibacterial products is no more effective than proper hand washing when it comes to protecting us against illness, in fact, its use has been connected with the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Yikes!
While proper hand washing is a great place to start, there are many other ways that you can help keep your immune system at its best.
7 Tips To Boost Your Immune System
1. Avoid Sugar. Consuming sugar in any form suppresses your immune system for hours afterwards by reducing the ability of white blood cells to do their job. Sugar also robs your body of minerals to use for its own assimilation and will even steal from your personal stores if your nutritional intake isn’t enough.
2. Ensure Adequate Protein Intake. The importance of adequate protein intake to a healthy immune system has been detailed in many studies. Protein is the building block for the antibodies that fight infection. Aim to eat the highest quality protein you can afford. Good sources include eggs (the whole egg, please!), chicken, fish, beans, nuts (and butters), seeds, greek yoghurt, high-quality protein powders and tempeh.
3. A Healthy Lifestyle. Did you know that your immune system can be supported by more than just healthy food? The activity of natural killer (NK) cells is affected by how we live. Higher NK cell activity is associated with not smoking, increased intake of green vegetables, sleeping more than 7 hours per night, and regular exercise, amongst other things. Of all these, however, getting enough sleep is one of the most important things you can do to keep your body in top fighting form. Have you ever noticed that as soon as you start to feel run down you suddenly seem to get sick?
4. Eat More Garlic. Garlic gets its trademark smell from a phytochemical called allicin, which has been shown to be effective in fighting colds, the flu, stomach viruses and Candida yeast. It has a natural antibacterial property that makes it a powerful part of your natural medicine cabinet. When you crush or chop fresh garlic you activate the enzymatic process that activates the beneficial properties of allicin. Don’t bother with the pre-minced stuff as it won’t have the same effect as fresh.
5. Eat More Mushrooms. Don’t just pick the white button kind. Aim for variety – shiitake, cremini, dried varieties – in order to access the widest range of nutritional benefits. Apart from being a high source of selenium and one of the few nutritional sources of Vitamin D, mushrooms are also an excellent source of zinc. Zinc and selenium are powerful supporters of the immune system. Mushrooms are also a source of beta-glucan, a polysaccharide that can help prevent infections by regulating white blood cells activity.
6. Check Out Some Herbal Remedies. There are many herbs that have antibacterial, antiviral and immune stimulating effects. The two most popular immune-enhancing botanicals would have to be Echinacea and astragalus. Both of these herbs exert broad-spectrum effects on the immune system, making them excellent choices for the herbal medicine cabinet. Echinacea (coneflower) is available as either angustifolia or purpurea in root extract form, and both varieties have been shown to exert immune-enhancing effects. Astragalus root is used in Traditional Chinese Medicine to treat and prevent viral infections and the common cold. Check out your local health food store or herbal dispensary to find teas and tinctures that use these powerful herbs.
7. Eat A Wide Variety Of Whole Foods. Vitamin C, B Vitamins, Vitamin E, Carotenes, Zinc and Selenium are all important nutrients in supporting a healthy immune system. A marginal deficiency of any single nutrient may be enough to significantly impair the immune system. By choosing to eat whole, unprocessed foods, you will naturally increase your intake of these important nutrients.
If your little ones suffer from frequent colds, flus, or ear infections it might be time to work with a practitioner to address the underlying cause and help you get your immune systems back in fighting form.