Our bodies are highly intelligent and designed to thrive on their own and heal naturally if given the right tools to support their capabilities. What we choose to fuel them with both physically and energetically makes all the difference in the world to our immune system, nervous system, and overall health. People have been focusing on health and immunity more than ever this year, so as we continue into cold + flu season I wanted to share with you some of my favorite methods of supporting the immune system. It’s also important to note that a lot of these things can easily be incorporated into regular routines all year and be used in a preventative way as opposed to waiting until you get sick (sometimes when it’s too late.)
Eating real, whole foods
As the vessels that carry us through this life, protecting our health starts with nourishing our bodies from the inside out. What we consume is the foundation of our natural immunity. Every time we eat or drink something is an opportunity to fuel our cells with immune-boosting support. That’s why one of the most important priorities we can set is cooking with real, whole foods whenever possible. One of my favorite easy ways to get a bunch of whole foods in during the winter is making large batches of soup, stew, or curry. I love doing this because not only does it save me time from having to cook every single night (they usually even taste a little better as leftovers once all the flavors have had a chance to mingle together overnight), but once I find a recipe I like, I can really just modify it with whatever I want in order to add variation based on whatever vegetables I have on hand.
Medicinal mushrooms have been shown to reduce inflammation and fight free radicals within the body as well as balance the immune system—meaning stimulating it when there’s something to fight, and calming it when it’s overactive. The main types known for these immune-enhancing effects are chaga, reishi, turkey tail, shiitake, maitake, lion’s mane and cordyceps. Most of us have heard of or seen shiitake and maitake in our local grocery stores, but not always, and it’s rare to find the others sold in stores in food form. For this reason, I like taking a daily immunity blend capsule, like this one from Host Defense. It contains all of these powerhouse mushrooms plus more, and is great for when my immune system needs a boost.
Daily Vitamin C
Because our bodies don’t produce or store vitamin C, it’s important to consume it in some form daily. When most people think of foods with vitamin C, they think of oranges—but did you know that there are a few foods that have just as much, if not more vitamin C than an orange? Some examples are: red bell peppers, leafy green vegetables, kiwis, papayas, and cauliflower. Incorporating these foods into your diet on a regular basis is a great way to help prevent sickness from occurring.
While I’m a firm believer that we can get our daily recommended amount of vitamin C through food every day, when I feel like my immune system needs a bit of extra support—for example, cold and flu season, traveling on an airplane, times of high stress or anxiety (let’s be real, 2020 in general), I take Camu Camu. It’s a berry that comes from the Amazon and although you can’t buy the actual fruit in North America, you can buy it in it’s powder form. Not only is it full of antioxidants and important amino acids, only one teaspoon of the powder has the same amount of vitamin C as SIX ORANGES!
Pineapples and their juice not only contain vitamin C and other nutrients, but it also contains bromelain, a group of enzymes that can help protect your immune system. I love the way the juice tastes, and usually only have up to 4 oz per serving due to the high sugar content. If you are on blood thinners, antibiotics, or have heartburn or acid reflux, definitely ask a doctor to make sure it’s ideal for you to consume.
Especially in the northern hemisphere and during winter, it’s crucial for our immune system that we are absorbing, enough vitamin D. It’s one of the most common deficiencies, and in clinical research, Vitamin D3 has been shown to be a potent antiviral, reducing colds and flu by 42 percent. It’s something worth getting tested for a couple times a year to keep track of your levels. The “normal” range is usually 30-100, and most MDs will tell you you’re fine if you’re hovering around 30. I typically see that people within the 50-60 range tend to have higher-functioning immune systems, as well as fewer other symptoms of low vitamin D, such as depression or autoimmune symptoms. Since vitamin D is fat-soluble, it’s important to take it with foods that contain healthy fat, such as avocados, nuts, etc.
Pau d’ Arco Tea
One of many benefits of this South American herbs is that it strengthens and protects the immune system. It has anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties, fights free radicals in the body, and supports the lymphatic system. I love including tea in my nighttime ritual, and this is the perfect one to drink during winter flu season for prevention, or anytime my immune system needs a little tune up. Traditional Medicinals is my favorite brand.
Sleep supports healthy immune function and studies have shown that people who either lack quantity or quality of sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus. A few of my favorite practices for getting enough sleep are:
- Turning off all technology at least 30 minutes before I get into bed (so no scrolling through my phone or watching any TV)
- Turning off the Bluetooth on my phone
- Having a night-time ritual that I enjoy and look forward to. (This could be reading a good book, taking a bath, making some relaxing tea, writing in a journal, meditating, etc…)
- Turning on a fan or sound machine. Everyone is different, and some people prefer silence to help them sleep better. I have always slept more peacefully with a fan, or a little white noise in the room to help drown out any outside noises.
- Wearing an eye mask. I actually didn’t start doing this one until a few months ago and, it does help my not wake up as early in the mornings when I want to be able to sleep in longer.
Hot Epsom Salt Baths
Baths are a soothing way to cleanse our body and our energy field. By raising the temperature of our body we’re allowing it detox support, and we’re also able to absorb the magnesium which helps us relax and de-stress.
Whether it’s workouts, yoga, going for walks, or stretching, moving our bodies every day is essential to increase blood flow and oxygen in the body, and support the lymph system.
Some of the things that can compromise your immune system are:
Processed foods, sugar, alcohol, stress, repressing emotions, environmental toxins, and staying stagnant.
This may look like a lot, but once I started to incorporate a couple things at a time, I realized how easy it was. I also think it’s helpful that I actually enjoy and look forward to a lot of these things, and like the way they make me feel. The key is to really experiment and find what feels good to you, make adjustments when needed, This will make it much easier for healing habits to become a regular part of your life, because you’ll be coming from a space of wanting to do them, rather than dreading them because you think you should.