Top Tips for Boosting Your Immune System
This is the time of year when colds, flu, and other viruses are making their rounds and it is no fun to try to manage everyday life with congestion, fatigue, etc. So, I have some tips for you to give your immune system a boost this season.
While all vitamins and minerals are important for immunity (being deficient in any nutrient will compromise your immune system to some degree) Vitamin C is probably the most researched vitamin when it comes to immunity. It works by increasing the production of infection-fighting white blood cells and antibodies and increases levels of interferon, the antibody that coats cell surfaces, preventing the entry of viruses. But, you don’t necessarily need a supplement. Fruits and vegetables contain lots of Vitamin C. Try focusing on these 7 fruits which are the fruits highest in Vitamin C:
Elderberry has long been used to support the body’s natural defense. Clinical trials conducted within the past fifteen years have supported the traditional use of Elderberry for reducing the duration and severity of fever, headache, muscle ache, mucus production, and nasal congestion associated with colds and flu2. Many flavonoid compounds contribute to the immune action of elderberry, blocking the virus from attaching to the host cells3 thus reducing the virus’s ability to reproduce and flourish within the body. The use of elderberry as part of a daily immune support plan during cold and flu season also helps to reduce oxidative stress.
Probably the best part of elderberry is that is tastes absolutely delicious! I really enjoy Gaia Herbs Elderberry Syrup (which you can find at Whole Foods or through a health professional (like myself), often at a discount). In addition to elderberries, it also includes natural Vitamin C from Acerola cherries, contains no artificial flavors or colors, no preservatives, and no high fructose corn syrup. And, it is organic. Adults take just 1-2 teaspoons/day for immune support and children. Note: in syrup form, this supplement contains sugar but it is minimal. Contact me if you are interested in another form that does not contain any sugar.
Safety: Only trained experts should handle raw, elderberry fruit because unripened elderberries can be toxic however elderberry supplements are very safe to take for most people including children. I even recommend it during pregnancy, a time when the immune system definitely needs some extra support! The only individuals who should avoid elderberry, just to be extra safe, are those with autoimmune conditions and/or those who are taking immunosuppressants.
zinc deficiency is quite common among adults, especially among vegetarians and those that limit red meat consumption. It is one of the deficiencies that you really can “feel” because you’ll be run down, and lack energy. Zinc is important in the development of our white blood cells, which are a critical part of our immune system as they help attack foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses. Some of the top food sources of zinc include:
- Red meat
- Dark-meat turkey
- Lentils, black-eyed peas
- Leafy greens
Tip: Combine Vitamin C rich foods with Zinc rich foods to increase absorption of zinc! Example:oysters with a squeeze of lemon or a spinach salad with sliced oranges.
We need the good bugs to be healthy and thriving in our bodies! They play a huge part of our immune system from the nasal passageways all the way to our gut. Make sure you are including yogurt, kefir, and fermented veggies including sauerkraut, pickles, carrots, etc. I love to make my own fermented veggies because it is really easy but you can find great options in the refrigerated section as the grocery store. Avoid the canned varieties sitting on the aisle shelves that have been pasteurized. That kills the good bacteria and defeats the purpose.
A critical part of the picture! If you’ve met with me, you’ve heard me say that sleep affects your hormones, metabolism, hunger/satiety cues and ability to manage stress. It is not difficult to see how your immune system is also compromised by lack of sleep right? Lack of sleep makes you more susceptible to infections and causes chronic inflammation in the body. And 6 hours is just not enough, even if you think you are functioning OK (that’s the sleep deprivation talking!). 8 hours is the ideal amount. I work with my clients on a variety of strategies to improve their sleep because all of the rest of our nutrition work will be pretty much pointless without addressing sleep. Make sure to consider your sleep hygiene (ex. exposure to bright light including screens at night really messes with your body’s ability to properly produce melatonin and regulate your circadian rhythm). And check out Brain Wave, an interesting App that I’ve personally found helpful for sleep. Also consider ending your day with a soothing Epsom Salt bath. Add 2 cups to a hot bath and maybe a few drops of lavender essential oil. You can thank me later 🙂
There are certainly a number of additional ways to support your immune system but these are a few of the things that I believe will give you the biggest bang for your buck. Stay healthy friends!