Get a Natural Immune System Boost this Fall
Summer is wrapping up and autumn is just around the corner. That means a shift in temperatures, time, and other seasonal changes. Unfortunately it also means the start of flu season, which typically begins around mid-October, so now is the time to prepare. When it comes to cold and flu viruses, preparation is prevention.
There are many ways to support your body’s immune defense army. First it’s important to know what positively impacts your immune system function, and what harms it. Poor diet and lifestyle habits, such as alcohol and poor sleep give opportunistic pathogens and invaders an advantage. No one wants to be caught with a compromised immune system, especially in the middle of the cold and flu season. So we’ve gathered the top holistic tips to guide you through to a healthy immune system this season.
Believe it or not, the way you eat and even the way you think can contribute to either sickness or health. That’s why it’s important to know what to look for in foods and what to avoid. Too many processed foods in the daily diet can be detrimental to your overall health. That’s because processed foods are mostly devoid of many crucial nutrients that boost the immune system. These foods are also often stuffed with trans fats, sugars, sodium, and artificial ingredients. Start becoming mindful of your food choices and consider keeping a food diary if that helps you quantify and track what you are choosing to eat at this time of year. Try setting aside time each week to food prep and shop. An hour or two on Sunday is a good time to set your week up for success.
While you’re writing out your shopping list, keep in mind that foods highest in calcium, magnesium, folate, vitamin D, zinc, and iron are best for strong immune function. Unprocessed foods don’t often come with nutrition facts labels, so here’s a list of a few foods that contain the vital building blocks of healthy immune systems.
Almonds are an easy food to add to your diet. They can be tossed into sweet or savory dishes and eaten as a snack on their own. They are rich in calcium, magnesium, iron, and zinc, making them a great food to incorporate as the temperatures change.
A vibrant green bouquet of broccoli is the symbol of health. Broccoli’s high magnesium, folate, and iron content arms your body with the tools it needs to fight infection. If your digestive system can’t quite handle raw veggies yet, try gently steaming your broccoli. A little squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of sea salt on top seals the deal with this yummy superfood.
Try to imagine the ultimate comforting, immune-boosting food. If you pictured a bowl of kale and lentil soup, we’re on the same track! Kale and lentils are both good sources of calcium, folate, and magnesium. The kale also provides iron, while lentils give you a dose of zinc. Try adding the kale in right before serving to help preserve some of those beneficial enzymes.
Avocados are a wonderful immune-boosting food that is both delicious and healthy. Magnesium, zinc, and folate all inhabit this popular fruit. Avocados are also so versatile — enjoy it on its own, in a salad, or in a sandwich. If you’re feeling bold, try tossing some in your morning smoothie for an extra creamy texture, and to keep you full for longer.
You can’t go wrong with dark leafy greens like turnip greens. They’re chock full of magnesium, folate, and calcium. Incorporating these into your day can be as easy as gently sautéing them with olive oil. Serve it with sea salt and you have an immune-boosting side dish.
If you’re a meat eater, add some wild salmon to your diet for another source of magnesium, folate, and zinc. Wild salmon not only provides vitamins and minerals crucial to healthy immune function, it also boasts high levels of omega fatty acids.
Herbs can be added to your food or taken in capsule form or in teas. Echinacea and elderberry are synonymous with immune support, but you should also add ginger to your immune arsenal! Ginger can be grated and steeped fresh or added to just about any dish for a burst of flavor. Ginger contains antioxidants that fight free radicals to prevent oxidative stress on your cells and contains anti-inflammatory properties. There is also ongoing research into ginger’s three potential anti-cancer compounds: gingerols, shogaol, and paradols.
The spice Turmeric, (or more accurately the active compound inside turmeric called curcumin) is high on the immune-boosting list too. This super ingredient is important for immune health because it reduces inflammation in your body. A recent study published in the journal Cell Division explores how curcumin can activate immune function. Curcumin also contains antioxidant properties and antiseptic activities. Inflammation, free radicals, and pathogens directly impact your immune system, so curcumin acts as an all-in-one immune-supporting herb.
Reduce Stress for Maximum Immune Function
Have you ever noticed a tickle in your throat a day or two after a stressful event at work, school, or even after traveling? We often start feeling sick when we experience stress, especially high levels of chronic stress, because our immune function is compromised. Stress diverts energy from supplying our immune cells with what they need to fight off illness. It’s important, especially during cold and flu season, to focus on relaxation techniques and find ways to eliminate stress in your life, where possible. One way to combat the “fight or flight” sympathetic nervous system response we experience during stressful situations is diaphragmatic breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing activates the “rest and digest” parasympathetic nervous system response, which also gives your immune system an extra boost. Who knew breathing exercises were so powerful?
Walking and other forms of gentle movement can help manage stress, too. Without overthinking it, simply find what’s accessible to you and start moving! Those endorphins and that extra blood flow will also give you an energy boost in addition to a boost to your immune system. Sometimes all we need to do is ask a friend out on a walk. The social time filled with laughter and love is the cherry on top of your stress-free walk. On your walk, be sure to check out any local park or forest trails to get some relaxing and healing exposure to nature.
Practicing yoga is a great way to improve the health of your immune system. An added benefit to stretching and yoga is the effect it can have on your lymphatic system. Good lymphatic circulation is hugely important for immune health.
Did you know that you can absorb magnesium through your skin? Add some magnesium salts (Epsom salts) to your bath for the dual benefit of transdermal absorption of magnesium and a relaxing warm soak. Diffuse some lavender essential oils or drop a few drops into the bath to seal the deal.
Lastly, consider keeping a gratitude journal and practice giving thanks. Gratitude can melt stress away by shifting gears from panic, agitation, and anger toward thankfulness. When you start focusing on what’s going right in your life, you start training your brain to look for gratitude instead of stress.
These are some of the top ways to holistically boost your immune system this season to best prevent the flu. Just incorporating a few of the tips mentioned above will give you a leg up in the fight against foreign invaders trying to squash your immune system. Try it, and find out!