Holistic nutritionist stella shares her top tips.
WRITTEN BY STELLA SPEIGEL
Cold & Flu season is upon us. Which probably means most people you know are either already sick, or are desperately dodging illness like the plague. Ha – literally!
Believe it or not, I used to be the type of person to get EVERY cold/flu that went around. You name it, I had it. Every time my roommates would get a cold my body would manage to turn it into strep throat. Scary. I know.
So, what changed?
Your immune system stems from your gut so the best thing you can do is work to build up a healthy microbiome all year long. It’s taken some time but with the use of probiotics, healthy living, exercise and so on I’ve managed to hack my immune system into building itself back up. In fact, I only had a MINOR cold this year and through these tips below it only lasted 2 days. So whether you are already sick or just want to take some preventative measures, this post is for you.
WHAT IS YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM?
Your immune system is your natural defence against bad bacteria, fungi and viruses. It works as a complex network of organs, cells and proteins that help distinguish between which cells are “self” and which cells are “non-self”. When your immune cells detect that something in your body is “non-self”, they react by recalling stored memories of past pathogens and defend your body by removing the “non-self” cells. AKA the “good guys” are able to remember how they reacted to bacteria/invaders in the past and therefore can quickly fight them off using these memories. Cool, huh?
The coolest part is that your immune system is CONSTANTLY working to better itself so that it can even fight bacteria / viruses that change overtime. Perfect examples include: the yearly common cold and flu. Even though their symptoms present in similar ways year to year, the viruses or infections themselves have changed. In order to get your body prepped to deal with these guys, here’s what you gotta know…
HOW TO HACK YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM: BEFORE YOU GET SICK
Your immune system stems from your gut! That is where tons of your immune cells are formed and get stronger by constantly fighting off bad bacteria in your GI tract. Taking probiotics regularly has been shown to help increase immunity overtime.
In the summer, our skin can produce plenty of Vitamin D from being in the sun (even for just 20 minutes!) During the colder months however, supplementing with Vitamin D can help with many things from immunity to mood disorders. In fact, people with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) can improve these symptoms by taking a daily dose of vitamin D. Vitamin D is a key player in your immune system and studies have shown that those who are deficient in vitamin D are more likely to contract the common cold / other illnesses (even UTIs!)
When you move/sweat, you stimulate your lymphatic system. Your lymphatic system is comprised of lymph fluid, lymph nodes, lymph vessels, the spleen and the thymus gland. The thymus gland is especially vital for the immune system as it is important for T-Cell maturation (T-Cells are huge players in your immune response). Other ways to stimulate your lymphatic system include dry brushing your skin, drinking lemon water or specified lymph drainage massages. Exercising regularly by doing things like yoga or even jumping on a trampoline have been studied to be very effective at stimulating the lymphatic system.
Another key player in your immune system’s response, vitamin C works to enhance all the cells/organs that help keep you healthy. Just one example is that it helps your T-Cells do their job well and efficiently. Deficiencies in vitamin C can result in a reduced resistance to certain bugs/viruses
A HEALTHY DIET
Surprise, surprise. Eating for immunity is REALLY important. Making sure that your body is nourished is the key to preventing disease all year long. I love to make big warming stews filled with tons of different colours of vegetables – it’s the best way to keep eating the rainbow even when it is cold! I also try to up my intake of things like chicken bone broth (which boosts immunity), eggs (which contain vitamin D) and dark leafy greens (high in many nutrients but especially vitamin C). I also try to consume raw garlic and ginger for their many anti-bacterial health effects.
LOWER YOUR SUGAR INTAKE
It has been proven that eating just 1 tsp of sugar can suppress your immune system for FIVE HOURS. Take that in. 5 freaking hours! Not to mention it wrecks havoc on your microbiome and is inflammatory (more inflammation = more sniffles/coughing)
HOW TO HACK YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM: ONCE YOU ARE SICK
OIL OF OREGANO
One of nature’s most potent antibiotics, oil of oregano is a powerful antiviral, anti-fungal antimicrobial and antibacterial substance. Not only does it work to kill off the pathogens inside your body, it also helps to fight inflammation which can ease the whole runny nosed/stuffy/coughing deal. Some people can’t stand the taste (myself included) but lemme tell ya this stuff WORKS. Just make sure you take it at least 4 hours away from your probiotic! If both of these hit your stomach at the same time, the oil of oregano will kill those good bacteria before they can reach your gut.
APPLE CIDER VINEGAR
Probably the superfood I am most obsessed with. It is basically the cure-all for digestion and immunity. First off, it is naturally anti-bacterial. It also helps to sterilize any pathogens by helping increase your stomach acid. Further, it helps your body to naturally produce more good bacteria in your gut and B vitamins – hooray for more energy!
Echinacea is a flower that has been used in herbal practices for over 400 years known for its powerful immune boosting and anti-inflammatory benefits. Nowadays, its most commonly known for preventing / reducing the severity of the common cold. Studies have shown that Echinacea cuts your chances of catching a common cold by 58%! Every time I feel a tickle in my throat, I have an Echinacea throat spray that I swear is my saviour. It also is a natural pain reliever which means less pain medication /cold medication – let your liver focus on detoxing the infection from your body instead of those drugs. You can take this prior to getting sick as well as once you are sick.
Both of these have crazy effective antibacterial/antiviral effects. For best results, consume garlic raw. I love making a tea out of ginger/lemon and sipping throughout the day. Plus, it’s super soothing to your throat. Ginger is especially effective because it helps break up toxins in your body and stimulates better circulation. Upping your intake of all of these foods will work wonders on your immune system.
Your grandma was right all along! When you simmer chicken/beef bones for a long period of time (20+ hours), you draw out all these incredible immune boosting properties from them! Bone broth contains all the essential amino acids in an extremely absorbable form to ensure your body is getting what it needs to heal. One important component of bone broth is the collagen which supports gut health and gut healing (which we now know is where a lot of your immune system comes from) Plus, it’s is anti-inflammatory!
TO SUM UP
These were just a FEW of my favourite immune-boosting examples but there are truly a million more incredible natural solutions for helping your body heal itself. Personally, I know that my mental attitude shift has made a large impact on my immune system. It’s important for us to remember that our bodies are on our side! Your body’s only job is to keep you healthy and safe. Knowing that, along with using these proven natural remedies, will get you on the road to healing so that you can get back to being your awesome self.