I’ve written articles here before on foods and supplements to take to improve immune health, but today I wanted to share some lifestyle factors that are important as well to keep your immune system strong throughout the winter months. We all know it’s important to eat a whole-foods based, nutrient dense diet full of colorful vegetables, lean proteins, berries, citrus, nuts/seeds and healthy fats, but it’s equally important to focus on these factors as well. Keep taking your Vitamin D, C, and zinc, but don’t forget these crucial lifestyle components:
1. Get good quality and quantity sleep. The quality of sleep and amount is very important to keep your resistance strong. Find your sweet spot – is it 7, 8 or even 9 hours of sleep each night? When you’re not sleeping well, our bodies are at lowered resistance to viruses and we experience an increase in ghrelin – the hunger hormone. If you do get sick, you need more sleep. So, turn off the TV, cell phone and laptops at night and decrease your exposure to evening blue light from electronics. Try reading or journaling in the evening and enjoy a cup of herbal tea with lemon balm or chamomile.
2. Keep moving your body. Regular, daily exercise helps flush out toxins from our lymphatic system. You are the pump for this important detoxification system and moving your body daily is crucial to move out the junk. Exercise, even walking, can decrease stress levels, lower inflammation and increase white blood cells, which help us fight colds.
3. Manage your stress response. Chronic stress can decrease the effectiveness of our immune systems. Find a way to quell your cortisol by yoga, meditation, breathing exercises, laughing with a friend or anything that brings you joy. I like using herbs called adaptogens to help manage stress levels. You may have heard of ashwagandha, rhodiola (my favorite) or holy basil.
4. Pass on the alcohol. We know from studies that alcohol reduces immunity and can damage the body’s dendritic cells, a vital component of the immune system. Plus, most alcoholic beverages contain a lot of sugar, which also lowers the body’s immune response. Try fizzy waters or a carbonated, flavored water instead of alcohol this season.
5. Stay connected. There is a definite connection between chronic disease and loneliness. Social isolation is a risk factor for a decline in brain health and a risk factor for chronic disease. Even though restrictions may be in place for gathering in some places, try to find a way to stay connected via video calls, social networking or meeting in person with the appropriate safety protocols. It’s really important to maintain your friendships and chat with them often to preserve your mental health.
6. Maybe don’t share right now. We all love sharing a delicious bite of food with one another, but let’s not do that right now. To avoid sharing germs, keep personal items separate from others. Things like hand towels, utensils, glasses, and toys should not be shared. Perhaps you can leave out a hand towel for each person in your home or use disposable cloths.
7. Stay hydrated. Our bodies are around 60% water. Current recommendations are that we need ½ of our body weight in ounces daily. Now, this may be too much for some and too little for those exercising a lot, so take that into consideration. But, drinking enough filtered, clean water daily is crucial for shuttling hormones throughout our blood, regulating body temperature, flushing toxins, transporting nutrients, moistens oxygen for easier breathing, enables cellular hydration and empowers the body’s natural healing process. Wow! Did you know how important water was? Make sure you are not drinking out of plastic, that your water is filtered and you are constantly drinking throughout the day and away from meals (so you don’t dilute your digestive enzymes).
Staying healthy is more than just taking a vitamin or eating a salad every now and then. It’s a concerted effort that involves consistent exercise, good sleep and stress management. Make sure you give your body the tools it needs to fight bacteria and viruses.
If you need more support in making therapeutic lifestyle changes, join my Nourish + Flow - 3-month program starting January 9. Visit www.UnlockBetterHealth.com to learn more.