BOOST YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM FOR THE WINTER!
By Rani Louise – Nutritional Therapist and Vitality Coach
How wonderful! Sunshine at last!
I find the sunshine so much more inviting to get out there and breathe in lungfuls of fresh sea air, and move my body to get my circulation pumping – both of these will do wonders for your immune system and keep you in tip-top shape for the winter!
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF HAVING A TIP-TOP IMMUNE SYSTEM?
- Overcome and recover from illnesses, injuries and surgery quickly and effectively
- Improved wellbeing and enjoyment of life
- Fewer allergies and intolerances
- Less likelihood of developing auto-immune disorders
- Less likelihood of developing chronic degenerative conditions such as diabetes, cancer and arthritis
- Being ill less often
- Less time at the doctor surgery or hospital
- More time and energy to to the things we love and enjoy!
BUT WHAT IS OUR IMMUNE SYSTEM?
Our immune system is a system of biological processes and structures that protect us against disease. It is a finely balanced system that adapts extremely well under all sorts of stresses, and has the ability to detect a wide variety of agents, known as pathogens, and distinguish them from our own healthy tissue. A pathogen is any substance that causes disease – eg, bacteria, viruses, parasitic worms, fungus, etc.
Although it is a robust and highly adaptable system, it is not indestructible (especially in today’s stressful modern world), and we therefore need to treat it with respect and be aware of how we can best support it.
Briefly, our body’s defence against pathogens can be thought of as consisting of two lines of defence:
- Non-specific barriers (skin, digestive tract, mucus membranes)
- The immune system (blood, lymph system, leukocytes, antibodies)
The details of these systems is beyond the scope of this article, but we can see that in order to optimally support our immune system, we want to keep our digestive tract, blood and lymph systems as healthy, nourished and oxygenated as possible.
SO WHAT ARE SOME OF THE THINGS WE CAN DO TO SUPPORT THESE BODY SYSTEMS?*
- Get regular, good quality sleep – to allow your body systems to rebuild and regenerate
- Drink chicken (or other bone) broth – heals the gut, thins the mucus, hydrates, warms, lowers inflammation – great for maintenance and prevention, and especially good when you do get ill
- Eat real food – fresh vegetables that are in season – packed full of nutrients to feed your immune system. Make them into warming soups and add natural anti-inflammatories – ginger, turmeric, cayenne, cinnamon, rosemary – perfect for winter!
- Eat a good protein-rich breakfast – helps stabilise blood sugar, which in turn stabilises energy levels, reduces stress and supports all body systems to function optimally
- Cut down on stressful foods that cause inflammation – sugar, gluten, damaged fats, processed foods. Sugar feeds cancer cells and bacteria – research has shown it lowers the function of leukocytes, increases inflammation (from fermentation toxins such as lactic acid which attach to proteins in the blood and increasing stress), so constantly triggering the immune system to excess
- Relaxation and stress management – eg, mindfulness, meditation, yoga, walking in nature, massage – lower those stress hormones that down-regulate the immune system
- Laughter and positive thoughts and emotions – helps engage our parasympathetic system that supports our maintenance body systems such as the immune system, digestion and hormones
- Deep breathing – brings immune-building, energy-giving oxygen into our trillions of cells to give them the power to generate energy. Also strengthens and invigorates the lungs, the seat of our vitality!
- Maintain healthy levels of bowel flora to keep the intestines in the best shape to keep out unwanted invaders
- Bounce on a trampoline or rebounder – helps keep our lymph and blood systems flowing effectively, as well as energising all the cells in our body, especially our immune system’s white blood cells
- Dry skin brushing – helps keep our lymph system flowing and keeps our skin in great shape to allow toxins to pass out through it
- Regular physical activity, especially in the fresh air – produces endorphins, destresses, moves your lymph, detoxes, helps sleep, increases energy-giving oxygen to all cells in the body
- Drink 2 litres of good quality water per day (no more than 1 litre in 1 hour) – to keep all body systems hydrated and allow for the flow of nutrients into the cells and toxins out of the cells
- Vitamin C – shown to boost immunity and support the adrenal glands – found in broccoli, brussels sprouts, cherries, red & green peppers, green leafy veggies, asparagus, citrus fruits
- Zinc – shown to boost immunity – found in fish and shellfish, lean meats, pumpkin seeds, brazil nuts, ginger root, raw chocolate
- Magnesium – essential nutrient for all body systems – found in almonds, walnuts, brazil nuts, green leafy veggies, avocado, mackerel, salmon, raw chocolate
*If you have any chronic conditions or are under a doctor’s supervision/medication, please check with them as to the suitability of starting physical activities or taking supplements.
When you do get a cold, it’s best to allow the symptoms to express themselves rather than suppressing with medication (unless life-threatening or excessively uncomfortable or painful). You can soothe the symptoms and help unblock the mucus by supporting your immune system with such things as bone broth, plenty of fluids, Vitamin C, Zinc and Magnesium, fresh vegetables, warming soups, warming spices and other ideas listed above.
I recently gave a talk at the Brighton Health and Wellbeing Centre, where I was explaining that it’s normal and healthy to have one or two colds per year. This is because it’s your body’s way of having a big toxin clear-out, and when your immune system is in good shape it will get you through the illness in the most effective, timely fashion, allowing all that mucus and build-up to exit your body efficiently.
The best thing you can do is to allow the natural flow, try as much as possible not to suppress the symptoms (unless life-threatening or extremely uncomfortable), and then when you come out the other end, you will feel refreshed and re-invigorated!
HAVE A WONDERFUL WINTER!
So, use the above tips to power your immune system and the trillion cells in your body with nutrient-dense real food, oxygen, laughter, fun and enjoyable physical activities – and have a happy, healthy vibrant winter!