By: Dr. Rachel Vong
Naturopathic Doctor, Acupuncture Provider
Shorter days and colder temperatures mark the beginning of the ever-dreadful cold and flu season. Even if people around you have succumbed to it, there are things you can do to make it through the season unscathed. Here are 7 ways to boost your immune system naturally:
1) Load up on Vitamin C!
This antioxidant supports your immune system and can help to reduce the incidence and severity of cold and flu symptoms. Foods high in vitamin C include citrus fruits, bell peppers, dark leafy greens, berries, tomatoes, broccoli, and a ton of other fruits and veggies! You can also opt to take a vitamin C supplement. Consult a Naturopathic Doctor to discuss the right dose for you.
2) Prioritize your sleep.
Sleep is a crucial time for your body to rest and heal. Your body does a great job at fighting infections and healing on it’s own, but you need to give it a chance to do so. If you’re feeling under the weather, it’s a sign from your body that you need to rest!
3) Stock up on botanicals.
Many plants and spices have anti-microbial properties that can help to protect your body from offending organisms. Incorporate garlic, onions, oregano, ginger, and thyme to your daily diet for the most immune support. Upon the first signs of infection, look to certain botanicals, such as Echinacea, Licorice Root (caution if on anti-hypertensives), Elderberry, Andrographis, and Goldenseal for anti-microbial support and to help speed up recovery. Always consult a Naturopathic Doctor first before taking botanicals, especially if on medications or if you are pregnant.
4) Keep moving!
Regular physical activity can help to reduce the frequency and severity of colds and flus. Doing 20-30 minutes of activity each day can help to improve your circulation, which in turn will help to flush out viruses and bacteria from the body. Exercise can also produce favourable changes to antibody and white blood cell count, boosting the function of your immune system.
5) Soak up some rays.
Vitamin D is very important for immune health, especially through the Winter months when most Canadians are deficient in vitamin D. Taking a vitamin D supplement can not only boost your immune system, but also prevent the Winter Blues. Once again, consult a Naturopathic Doctor to discuss what dose is best for you.
6) Take care of your gut flora.
More and more research has emerged on the beneficial role that our gut bacteria (flora) play on our overall health and immune status. Supplementing with an appropriate probiotic can ensure optimal amounts and types of bacteria to keep your immune and digestive system strong. Since there are so many different types of probiotics out there with different health benefits, it is advised that you speak to a Naturopathic Doctor first before purchasing a probiotic.
7) Keep your stress levels low!
When your body is constantly under a state of stress, cortisol, which is our primary stress hormone, is released in large amounts. This suppresses several functions in our body, including our immune system. This is why you often find that those who are chronically stressed experience more bouts of colds and flus than the average person. It is important that you take this time to work on your stress management techniques. A Naturopathic Doctor can help to provide you with resources and supportive strategies to help you manage your stress and make your body more resilient to the effects of long-term stress.
Above all, always remember to practice good personal hygiene to protect you and those around you.
If you are interested in learning more about how you can boost your immune system with an individualized treatment plan, consult a Naturopathic Doctor today!