During this time of year it can be especially challenging to stay healthy. Here are a few things I do that help me maintain my immune system throughout the year, and especially during cold/flu season. *Knock on wood* I haven’t had a cold in 2 years (compared to most of life where I spent most of the year being sick). This means I have learned a lot about maintain health throughout the process! This week I am reminded I am not invincible, as I feel the lingering of a cold trying to come on, and so I will practice what I preach and see if I can ward it off with the tips below.
I will rank them based on the importance I give them 🙂
#1: SLEEP! Sleep is the only time of day we completely relax our body, and is the only time of day we allow our body and immune system to regenerate and grow stronger. Without proper sleep and recovery our immune system will suffer. I don’t bargain on my sleep. I will put aside anything I have to do to get a few extra winks in. In the past when I used to cut myself off from 7-9 hours a night of sleep, and drink a ton of caffeine during the day I was ALWAYS sick, and I mean- ALWAYS. Not only would I get sick but I would be horribly sick, bed ridden, and it would last for weeks. Since I started sleeping/napping at least 7-9 hours a day, and even more when my body wants/needs it I have a much stronger immune system. Poor sleep is a sign of an imbalance in your body or potentially your life. I am not a sleep expert, but I do know that something might be off internally if you can’t fall asleep at night or don’t stay asleep. There may be a nutritional issue, stress issue, hormone issue, etc. Speak to a Naturopath or your preferred health practitioner for help on this one.
- If you want to read a recent book that was released about the importance of sleep from the found of the Huffington Post Arianna Huffington then check it out here: http://ariannahuffington.com/books/the-sleep-revolution-hc
#2: Stress! Stress can come from work, to- do lists, social anxieties, overwhelming fears, personal expectations etc. Stress is everywhere in our society. When stress accumulates in our body we produce hormones that are catabolic, inflammatory, and damaging to our systems. The times I get sick, are the times I am most stressed. By practicing some of the following stress management techniques you can start to decrease stress in your life, and boost your immunity:
- Meditation practice
- Breathing practice (being more away of proper breathing throughout the day)
- Journalling & Conversation
- Relaxing activities (art, music, dance, etc.).
- Managing boundaries and expectations
#3: Maintain a Healthy Gut. The research being done studying our gut is astounding. More studies are showing that our immune system starts in our gut, and by creating a healthy environment full of good bacteria we are healthier and better able to ward off disease. In my own life I know that for most of my life I ate a shitty diet and really suffered from bloating and GI discomfort. When I started filling my body with plants and whole foods I noticed first of all that my GI discomfort went away and I no longer get bloated, and also that it had a correlation on my ability to ward off illness.
How do I build a healthy gut? For me, by eliminating dairy from my diet I saw a drastic improvement in my gut, skin, and overall health. Next, by cutting out processed foods and junk foods I felt even better. Now that I focus mostly on eating as many whole foods as I can my gut is the healthiest it’s ever been. Start there and see how you feel. (oh- and remember, everything in moderation- you won’t get sick from having a few processed foods here and there).
#4: Oil of Oregano
Whenever I feel that tickle in my throat of illness I drop 6-8 drops of oil of oregano into water and down it back! It tastes disgusting, but it really does seem to help to ward off sickness. Oil of oregano has been shown to ward off infection and fight the immune system, yet human scientific studies are still lacking. You can read more about it on my favourite website for looking into supplements: https://examine.com/supplements/Origanum+vulgare/
#5: Lemon, Ginger, Turmeric, and Garlic
These are my illness fighting super foods! The first thing I do to ward off a cold is grate fresh ginger, lemon, and honey into a warm tea. Ginger has a HUGE list of notable benefits to the body (including decreasing inflammation ) you can read more here: https://examine.com/supplements/Ginger/. Lemon is hydrating and detoxifying to the body, and the honey adds a soothing touch**. Sometimes I will also add turmeric to the mix to boost up the inflammatory compounds https://examine.com/supplements/Turmeric/ .
This is a tea I made this week that simmers all the ingredients together (including turmeric) and it was surprisingly delicious! Check out the recipe and more information about turmeric here: http://www.meghantelpner.com/blog/tea-time-with-turmeric/
Next, I find ways to get as much garlic into my food as I can. My favourite way is to fry up a bunch of greens (covered with a lid) with my meals in numerous cloves of garlic and lemon juice. Garlic has antibacterial properties (among other medicinal uses) https://examine.com/supplements/Garlic/ (check out the evidence for garlic’s effect on our blood profiles).
So there you have it- these are all my ‘secret tips and tricks’. If you have any more to share feel free to post them below!
** In New Zealand I learned that their Manucka honey is an antibacterial agent that is used in hospitals and throughout the country for fighting infection, especially for people that are antibiotic resistance.