When it comes to supporting the immune system, the most important lifestyle tips are actually quite simple; adequate rest, whole foods, gentle movement, supplementation and stress management. Proper sleep and nutrition, along with stress management can set you up for success when it comes to building a healthy immune system as we head into the colder months of the year. Listed below are lifestyle suggestions to support your immune system this season.
» Nutrition: Consuming whole foods on a regular basis and including plenty of bright vegetables and fruits, varied proteins, and healthy fats will support a strong immune system. Make sure to consume plenty of water every day as staying hydrated helps to flush toxins out of the body.
The vitamins and minerals listed below are key to supporting the immune system, here are some of our favourite food sources of these immune building nutrients:
Vitamin C: Bell peppers, citrus fruits, papaya, kiwi, broccoli, berries, dark leafy greens, tomatoes, potatoes.
Vitamin D: Eggs, wild salmon, sardines, tuna, cod liver oil. We recommend also supplementing with vitamin D during the winter months if you live in the Northern hemisphere, a deficiency in this vitamin is associated with many different illnesses.
Zinc: Pumpkin seeds, oysters, red meat, poultry, beans, nuts, whole grains.
Vitamin A: Liver, carrots, squash, sweet potato, red bell pepper, salmon.
» Sleep: Sleep enhances immune defence, and prolonged sleep deprivation has been shown to cause chronic, low grade inflammation and immunodeficiency. Sleep can be negatively impacted by many lifestyle factors such as parenting, high stress, shift work, poor nutritional status, and stimulants such as caffeine. Developing a sleep-supportive routine at night to calm the nervous system, kick start melatonin production, and reduce stress can be a helpful practice to start if you regularly experience sleep disruption.
» Stress management: When cortisol is produced under acute stress, it suppresses the immune systems effectiveness by lowering white blood cells and interrupting communication between them. Find stress management techniques that work for you, whether that is exercise, spending time with family and friends, starting a mindfulness practice, journaling, or simply giving yourself permission to rest.
» Gentle Exercise: Gentle movement is a great way to move the lymph and blood throughout the body. Not only does this help to remove metabolic waste out of the body, it also improves overall circulation of immune cells. Going for a daily walk or a daily yoga practice can help support immune function.
Come visit us to talk with a holistic nutritionist or medical herbalist about immune health, we can work with you and your needs to create a custom herbal formula to support you throughout the cold and flu season. We also offer online and in person full Herbal Consults if you feel you need more customized support.
Written by Leah Schmutter
Medical Herbalist in Training
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