What if you didn’t have to avoid your sniffly neighbor or that co-worker that refuses to take sick days for fear that you might get whatever they’re suffering from? As we move into the winter months our potential for getting sick increases, but there’s a lot we can do to protect ourselves from it beyond washing our hands and eating vitamin C. The body’s ability to fight off sickness can be significantly enhanced by incorporating certain foods and avoiding things that deplete our wellbeing. Here are some tips on ways to strengthen your immune system and ensure that you’ll be well protected from getting sick.
1. Support your gut health
With nearly three quarters of our immune systems living in the digestive tract, our intestines contain more immune cells than the entire rest of our body. Having a healthy gut means so much more than just avoiding indigestion or bloating, as our ability to properly absorb key nutrients and flush toxins, microbes, and allergens is determined by the health of our guts.
One of the key tools our immune system has is intestinal microflora. Microflora prevents the growth of potentially harmful bacteria and creates a barrier to stop unwanted germs from entering the blood and lymph systems. When our microflora balance is off, we become more susceptible to illness. This can happen from overuse of medications that damage the gut, a nutrient-poor diet of overly processed foods and sugar, undetected allergies, and stress. The microbes in our stomachs play such a massive role in taking care of our health, and we can either help them thrive or destroy them through our lifestyle and food choices.
Tips to improve gut health:
- Cut back on refined sugars and grains, and eat whole, fiber-rich foods
- Try eating foods packed with omega 3s like avocados, walnuts, fish oil, and flax seeds. They help reduce inflammation, which increases the likelihood for sickness
- Take a high quality probiotic to help healthy bacteria to flourish, and try eating fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi or kombucha, which also help good bacteria grow
- Pay attention to your food allergies. If you find yourself with abdominal discomfort, headaches or poor energy after certain meals, you’re probably allergic to something you’re eating. Big allergens are gluten, dairy, corn, soy, yeast and eggs. Try cutting them out for a week and see how your body reacts.
2. Actively eliminate toxins
We all know that drinking lots of water helps flush the system of toxins, but there are certain foods and activities we can do that will help expedite this process.
Eating foods rich in antioxidants, fiber, and vitamin C will aid your body in ridding toxins and reducing the inflammation that leads to illness. Some foods that are excellent in cleansing your organs and blood are beets, cabbage, and celery. They detoxify your cells and enhance liver and bladder function. Foods high in fiber like apple, kale, flax seeds, and grapefruit are key in latching onto toxins and escorting them out of our systems. Vitamin C is a crucial mineral for detoxification, so be sure to drink lots of water with organic lemons, and when in season organic strawberries are a great source too. Drinking juice is a wonderful way to cleanse too, as the nutrients are quickly absorbed and there is little to no work for the digestive system to break down the food.
Another effective way of ridding the body of toxins is through exercise, as this helps reduce tension and stress and strengthens your body. Various twisting poses in yoga can really help flush your system too. You can practice these at home, or talk to your instructor before class about incorporating twists that day. These poses help to ring out your organs of toxins that build up over time, and become more easily flushed out.
3. Develop an evening ritual
Sleep is the way our body heals and restores us from the stresses of daily life, so it’s imperative we get adequate rest. Sleep deprivation depresses immune function, activates the stress response, and increases levels of inflammatory chemicals – all things that increase our chances of illness. The body loves routine, so by creating a ritual before we go to bed we improve the likelihood of a solid and restful night of sleep, as it prepares our brains to shut down and reboot. This can be something as simple as drinking a cup of tea while writing down a small gratitude list, or taking five long deep breaths and reading for ten minutes. Find out what you enjoy and develop a ritual that works for you. It will add to the quality of your sleep and certainly strengthen your immune system.
In a time when none of us can afford to lose even a day to sickness, taking care of our health is the single most important thing we can do for ourselves. Not only does nourishing our immune systems help us in the short term, but it also reduces the risk for bigger and more threatening illnesses in the future. Take control and begin incorporating these tips into your life and you’ll notice the difference immediately.
If you really feel something coming on, try Counter Attack. It’s a heavy dose of antioxidants that flushes your system immediately and works really well to get whatever is making you feel unwell out as fast as possible. You can find it at your local health store, or online.
Photo credit: FitSugar.com