Self-Care Thrive

Family Winter Wellness

Written by Jolene Brighten

The crispness of fall signals the return of cold and flu season. As we move our activities indoors and turn up the heat, we create an environment that germs love. By getting a head start on supporting your immune system, you can help yourself and your family have the best illness-free winter yet!

Help your family thrive this cold and flu season by employing some of these immune boosting tips!

1. Get Happy
Elevate your mood and throw in some giggles while you’re at it. This is one of my most common written pre- scriptions for patients because when you are happy your immune system can get to work: T cells, antibodies and the NK killer cells all get a boost from your joy.

2. Bump the Bass
Your antibodies love upbeat music! Listen to music that makes you want to move your body for about an hour per day to stimulate antibodies.

3. Ditch Sugar
All of it is ideal, but at minimum, re- duce your consumption. Sugar makes it difficult for your immune system to respond properly. Avoid reaching for a glass of orange juice when you feel yourself getting sick. The sugar in juice will do more harm than good when trying to take care of your immune system.

4. Eat More Greens
Green vegetables offer many nu- trients that can help your immune system stay strong. Vitamin A is a key player in helping your immune system be at its best.

5. Recruit Gut Help
Aim for 10 billion CFUs per serving in
a probiotic supplement or better yet, look to food as a source. Kefir, sau- erkraut, coconut yogurt, water kefir, and yogurt can provide you with pro- biotics, which help create a stronger immune system.

6. Know Your Vitamin D Status
Winter months keep us from the greatest source of vitamin D: sun ex- posure. Low vitamin D is associated with increased seasonal illness. A blood level of 50 nmol/L total 25-hy- droxy vitamin D is the minimum level I recommend to patients to help main- tain overall health. Knowing where your levels are can help your provider determine if supplementation is nec- essary and the appropriate level.

7. Move Your Body
Engage in at least 30 minutes of phys- ical activity daily to encourage op- timal function of virus fighting T cells and antibodies.

8. Take Immune System Stimulating Showers
Before stepping out of that hot show- er, give yourself a rinse with cooler or cold water. Aim the stream of water at the back and chest to stimulate lymphatic flow (immune cell traffick- ing).

9. Drink More Water
It’s warm and toasty indoors this time of year. Unfortunately that means the air is dry and so are our mucus mem- branes (especially sinuses). Staying hydrated helps your immune cells function, aids in mucus secretion and keeps the mucus membranes moist so that viruses can’t breach that bar- rier. General recommendations are to drink half your body weight in water, however, speak with your medical provider to determine what amount is most appropriate for you. You may re- quire less or more depending on your current health.

10. Limit Your Alcohol
Maybe not the answer you wanted to hear, but alcohol suppresses the immune system all around. Alcohol consumption makes it easier for you to catch something nasty and hard- er for you fight off anything that may already be in your system.

11. Try Zinc
Oysters, crab and beef are significant source of zinc. If you do get sick, it is generally recommended that adults take 30 mg of zinc picolinate. Excess zinc can lead to a copper deficiency and other health conditions. Remem- ber to always discuss new supple- ments with your doctor before begin- ning them.

12. Reduce Stress
There is still a lot we do not under- stand about the way the immune system and our mood interact, but it seems that stress plays a role in reduc- ing the effectiveness of your immune system as a whole. On the other hand, laughter may boost major im- mune cells that help you defend your body from would be invaders.

13. Echinacea
Shown to increase white blood cells, Echinacea on its own or part of an herbal blend can help you move through symptoms quicker.

14. Get More Sleep
Sleep is where your body repairs, re- covers, and rejuvenates. Try to get at least 7 hours of sleep, with 8-9 hours per night being ideal. If you are feel- ing the onset of symptoms try to go to bed earlier, especially if you think you may be up dealing with those symp- toms. And remember, naps are never a bad idea to squeeze in a little more rest for your system.

15. Eat Mushrooms
Full of beta-glucan, mushrooms stim- ulate the immune system to fight in- vaders. Reishi, shiitake, and maitake make a tasty addition to soups and other dishes and will do wonders for your family’s immunity.

About the author

Jolene Brighten