In the midst of the current pandemic, people are more interested than ever in what we can do to stay well during this time.
This is a motivating experience for us as a global community. We can use this opportunity to focus on staying healthy during this time and maintaining optimal health long term.
A balanced immune system is one of the most important things affecting your ability to stay healthy. By removing physical and mental stressors, you will allow your body to cope and respond as appropriately as possible.
70-90% of your immune system lives in your gut, making good gut health the foundation for a well-balanced immune system. As you improve your gut health, you will become more resilient and better able to deal with pathogens and toxins that you come in contact with.
Nourishing the gut by feeding it nutrient-dense foods, staying hydrated, exercising, getting good quality sleep, and utilizing stress management strategies are all important pieces of the puzzle.
The same things that you need to stay well are the things required for great overall health. You will feel better, have more energy, and be able to function at a more optimal level when you’re nourishing your gut consistently in a variety of ways.
The good news is that there are many things that we can do preventatively to balance and prepare our immune systems.
Here are a few tips to stay strong and improve your immune function, and why not keep it up as we transition into spring and the rest of the year. Once you learn how good you can actually feel, you won’t want to go back!
1) Eat Nutrient-Dense Whole Foods
Include fruits, veggies, sea vegetables (dulse, kelp, seaweeds, etc.), nuts, seeds, healthy fats (olive, coconut, and avocado oils, grass-fed organic butter, nuts, seeds, and salmon), herbs, spices, and high-quality organic proteins (chicken, fish, eggs, beans, legumes, nuts) in your daily life. When you eat grains make sure they are whole grains.
2) Eat Anti-inflammatory Foods
Incorporate fresh ginger, turmeric (fresh or ground), and foods high in omega 3’s (walnuts, olive oil, and fatty fish are good examples) into your day. The less inflammation you have in your body, the more your immune system is able to focus on responding appropriately to pathogens.
3) Eat Foods High in Vitamin C
Include red peppers, citrus fruits, kiwi, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, strawberries, and cauliflower to strengthen your immune system.
4) Eat Antiviral Foods
Include raw garlic, ginger, onion, cinnamon, clove, thyme, oregano, and broccoli sprouts in your diet. Also, medicinal mushrooms such as reishi, cordyceps, and shiitake have both antiviral properties.
5) Remove Foods That Cause Inflammation and Weaken the Immune System
Avoid or minimize refined sugars, processed foods, hydrogenated and trans fats, alcohol, excessive amounts of dairy, and any food allergies and intolerances you may have. If you are unclear if you have food intolerances, you can start with removing gluten and/or dairy for a few weeks and see how you feel without it AND most important how you feel when you add it back in. Then move onto testing other foods such as eggs, soy, or corn.
6) Include Teas and Tonics
Elderberry Syrup is so yummy that my kids beg for more and it’s easy to make at home. Get my elderberry syrup recipe here.
Fresh ginger, lemon, and honey tea is another favorite option for our family and here is the recipe for this invigorating and delicious beverage.
Other teas that you may like to include are echinacea and stinging nettle, which both have antiviral benefits. Golden milk is another great option which is coconut or almond milk base with turmeric, cinnamon and a variety of other health-promoting ingredients based on the recipe you use.
If you are up for a challenge, my husband makes a “flu bomb” if either of us feels symptoms coming on which includes 1-2 crushed garlic cloves, 1 tsp fresh grated ginger, 1 lemon juiced, 1/8 tsp cayenne, 1 tsp of raw honey, and 1/2 – 3/4 cup hot water ~ mix it all together in a cup and get ready for a spicy ride! This is 1 intense concoction.
7) Get Good Quality Sleep
I can not emphasize enough the power of good quality sleep and the impact it has on your immune system. We need sleep to stay strong, repair, and get rid of toxins that otherwise continuously dampen our systems. The earlier hours in the night (the hours before midnight) have been shown to be significantly more reparative than the early morning hours. The earlier you can get to bed, the better.
Having consistency in your routine and a nighttime ritual can be highly beneficial so that your body knows what to expect and can help you by preparing for sleep once it adjusts to those natural rhythms.
8) Exercise Regularly
Movement and exercise are important in helping to bring balance to your body by inducing a beneficial type of stress on the body, known as hormesis. Make sure to get plenty of movement and exercise to keep your bodily systems functioning properly. Exercise is also extremely important for our mental health and ability to reduce and cope with stress. Stress is one of the most detrimental things to our balance physically, emotionally, and mentally. Anything you can do to reduce stress in these uncertain times is important and totally worth the time.
9) Take Cold Showers
Cold showers are another type of beneficial stress that have a wonderful effect of turning on the parasympathetic nervous system by stimulating the vagus nerve. Sometime during your shower turn the water down to cold for 30 sec to 2 minutes for an invigorating experience! I also use this tool if I want or need to wake up more after my shower.
10) Stress Management
Stress has a huge impact on our immune function and can be just as detrimental as not eating or sleeping well. All of these pieces connect and cycle into the other ~ the better you sleep the more likely you are to eat well and handle stress with more resilience.
Slow down and take time for yourself and although we are practicing social distancing, connect virtually or by phone with the people you love. Laughter is a fantastic tool to bring down stress. You can also utilize deep breathing, mediation, yoga, and so many other tools to improve your stress levels and your ability to handle stress as well.
11) Nature Time
Getting out in nature has many benefits for stress management. Getting fresh air and sunshine is priceless and so important to our physical, mental, and emotional health. While we are practicing social distancing this is an ideal time to get out in the forest or wherever you can to reconnect to nature and get some movement in.
Remember that we are whole, connected people, so anything you can do to improve the health of one system will impact the health of the others. Any small change, healthy habit or routine that you start to build in is beneficial for not only the system you are targeting but your being as a whole. And remember to chill out. The more you stress, the worse it is for your immune system balance. Take this as a time to connect with those you love, take impeccable care of your body, and get outside to connect with nature.
Much Love to You All!