Fortify your Immune System Before Winter

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Winter is coming...

...as the Starks from The Game of Thrones would say. Be prepared. While you're still glowing from summer river runs and backyard BBQs, take this healthy dose of vitality you've received from the summer sunshine and keep that momentum going into the next few months as you fortify your immune system for winter. Adapt to the change of seasons and keep those colds, flus and winter blues at bay!

Animals have their own way of adapting to the change of seasons. Which animal's strategy fits you?

  • I like to fill my red belly with worms, but I fly away south when the weather starts to turn.
  • I live high in the mountains eating berries and meat. I make a small den for my winter retreat.
  • In the summer I buzz around to make honey for my hive. When winter comes I stay in with my friends and we eat the honey to help keep us alive.
  • I am a round, spotted, red and black insect. I like to eat aphids before my long winter nap. When winter comes around I find thousands of friends and we cuddle up under logs and leaves on the ground.
  • I am the only mammal that can fly. I come out at night for insects moving by. I like to sleep through the winter with all of my furry friends around me. (By the way, does anyone else see a pattern here? )

If none of the above work for you, try these

top 5 human strategies to boost your immune system

from naturopathic physician Dr. Laura Wollman

1. Probiotics

70% of your immune system is in your gut. It would make sense to make sure it is in good working order to keep you healthy. Taking a probiotic is a good way to do this. In addition, probiotic rich foods such as yogurt or kefir, raw sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, tempeh, and beet kvass are great additions to your diet. If you suffer from chronic digestive issues it might be a good idea to consider visiting a naturopath, as the ecology in the gut and your ability to fight foreign invaders is likely being compromised.

2. Sleep

When we sleep our brains actually detoxify! We are always trying various things to detox; sweating, saunas, increasing fruits and veggies, exercise, and on and on. These are ALL great things, however, sleep may be one of the best natural detoxifiers. When we sleep the amount of cerebrospinal fluid increases and essentially washes all the gunk and waste products that have been released by brain cells as they go about their normal business. This cleaning is vitally important as these waste products can kill brain cells. This may be why you feel so groggy if you haven’t slept well. Scientific research is showing that not sleeping well might even be associated with various neurological illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease so make catching some zzz’s a priority!

Source: Xie, Lu et al. 2013. Sleep Drives Metabolite Clearance from the Adult Brain. Science 342 (6156), 373-377. DOI: 10.1126/science.1241224

3. Diet

Avoiding sugar, simple carbohydrates, and trans fats are particularly important during the winter months when our immune systems need to be in top form. Sugar both has the ability to inhibit immune cells that help fight infections while at the same time feeding bacteria and viruses that cause them. When the weather starts to turn, look to soups, stews, and stir-fries with lots of fresh herbs such as oregano and thyme, mushrooms, and garlic are highly beneficial. Brightly colored fruits and veggies also contain many antioxidant compounds that can help our body’s function their best.

4. Movement

The best kind of daily movement to do is the kind that you enjoy. Exercise increases blood flow to tissues throughout our body and increases the flow of lymph. The result is an increase in white blood cells and antibodies in circulation, which is helpful if we have an exposure. Our bodies are then ready and primed to fight off foreign invaders. In addition, exercise, as long as you are not over exercising, reduces stress, which also protects against illnesses.

5. Herbal Support

Medicinal Mushrooms contain many compounds that not only support and boost immunity, but also have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which means they can protect against development of cancers and other inflammatory diseases. My favorites are maitake, shitake, and reishi but there are many more to choose from. Talk to your doctor if you have an autoimmune disease or are on any medications before taking these as they might interfere.