By: Chelsea Pineiro
With every Cold and Flu season, we find ourselves scrambling to keep up our health and immunity. The immune system is not a single entity, it is a huge system that requires balance and harmony throughout. While supplements are great to provide those nutrients you are missing, here are some additional effective ways to ensure you stay in good health year round. In general, most people will feel better for implementing any of the 5 tips listed below.
Diet plays a big role in building up your antibodies to fight illness. This will not show after one or two meals, rather after building a habit of eating healthy for your body. For those following a diet that includes all food groups, increase your vegetables and fruits, and introduce a wide arrangement of colours and variety. Some immune-boosting foods include citrus fruits, ginger, broccoli, and other cruciferous vegetables, garlic, probiotic-rich foods like yogurt, and fermented foods. There are so many options, it’s just about finding what works best for you and your preferences.
Being stressed for long periods at a time can be detrimental to your health, as it can increase levels of cortisol in your body, but also leads to a plethora of other health risks, such as high blood pressure, the formation of artery-clogging deposits, brain changes like anxiety and depression. Meditation is a great way to lower stress and increase your resilience in times of illness, especially when practiced consistently. You can let thoughts flow in and out, just remember to come back to your breath. Psychological stress increases susceptibility to illness*, so it’s something you want to lower whenever possible. Stress is inevitable, but our body does not want to be in a constant state of Fight or Flight.
Exercise helps to lower cortisol and adrenaline, which are high states of stress for the body. Being physically active may help reduce the risk of chronic diseases that could further weaken your immune system, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity. Physical activity of any kind helps to flush bacteria from the lungs. Exercise can include things like a Bootcamp class, yoga, cycling, a home workout with resistance bands, dancing with others (or by yourself) or a walk to the park and back.
Research shows that a lack of sleep can leave you more susceptible to getting sick after being exposed to a virus. The same can be said for recovery once you are sick. Proteins, known as cytokines, get released by your immune system during sleep. Certain cytokines need to increase when you have an infection or inflammation. This includes times of stress. Sleep deprivation may decrease the production of these protective cytokines. When you don’t get enough sleep, infection-fighting antibodies and cells are reduced making it easier to catch a cold, the flu, or worse.
Just like the name implies, supplements are supplemental to your everyday lifestyle. While they shouldn't be a replacement for your everyday nutrients you receive from your diet, they are however helpful for some who is lacking in vitamins and minerals, or for those who are not absorbing nutrients from their food. When you know your food won’t provide all your nutrients, supplements can be extremely helpful. Some vitamins and minerals that can be helpful are Vitamin A, B6, C, D, E, and Fish Oil. Additionally, some immune-boosting supplements taken consistently have been shown to help strengthen your immune system and microbiome. These include Elderberry, Echinacea, and medicinal mushrooms.