It’s that time of year again. The leaves are changing, the temperature is dropping, and the
annual pumpkin spice craze is in full effect. With cold and flu season just around the corner
there’s no better time to get your immune system in check. Stay healthy this year by
following these simple tips:
Clean up your diet. It’s true that a healthy diet sets the stage for proper immune
function. When it comes to food, the more variety (and colour!) the better. Opt for whole
foods that are packed full of nutrients instead of processed or prepared items. Make an
effort to limit your intake of refined sugars as much as possible, as they prevent your white
blood cells from adequately targeting and fighting off any invaders that enter your system.
Aim for about 2L of water per day to stay hydrated and deter the bugs from adhering to the
lining of your respiratory tract. For extra defense, stock up on foods that have immune
enhancing or antimicrobial properties, including garlic, ginger, bone broth, citrus, onions,
mushrooms, and oregano.
Replenish those nutrients! Sometimes dietary measures aren’t enough and additional
supplementation is needed. In this case, up your game with nutrients that are vital for
proper immune function, including vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin D, selenium, and zinc. If you
haven’t already, ask your doctor about measuring your vitamin D level (the “sunshine
vitamin”). Studies consistently show that individuals with low or insufficient levels of vitamin
D are more prone to a number of illnesses. Given the widespread deficiency of vitamin D in
Canada, this nutrient should not be overlooked. Visit your doctor to determine what types of
nutrients are most appropriate for you.
Keep your gut happy. Since 70% of your immune system resides within your gut, it is
imperative that your digestion is optimal. Your gut lining serves as a barrier between your
bloodstream and the outside world. Ideally the cells that make up this lining should adhere
closely to one another and allow only select molecules to pass freely into circulation. With
regular exposure to irritating foods, stress, toxins, and pathogens the cells can become
‘leaky’ and permit the passage of larger substances into the bloodstream, including the
bugs that make you sick. Support the functioning of these cells and keep your immune
system strong by removing the foods that you are sensitive to, drinking homemade bone
broth (a great source of glutamine), and supplementing with a quality probiotic.
Battle with botanicals. A number of immune boosting herbs exist in nature, each with
their own set of medicinal actions that can be used to prevent and treat those nasty cold
and flu viruses. Botanicals such as elderberry, echinacea, astragalus, licorice,
andrographis, goldenseal, garlic, ginger, and ginseng can be combined to strengthen your
immune system and fight off infection. Be sure to speak to your doctor about what ones
may be most appropriate for you. Feeling adventurous? Make up a warm pot of Change of
Season Soup. Change of Season Soup is used traditionally in Chinese medicine and is
made from a blend of herbs that serve to tonify your immune system as you go through the
change of seasons. Kits can be found in most Asian supermarkets.
Catch some Zzzzzz’s. There’s no question that sleep deprivation compromises immune
function. Countless studies have shown that people who don’t get enough sleep are more
likely to get sick when exposed to a virus. Their ability to clear the infection is also
weakened, resulting in a longer time to recovery from the illness. So what does this mean?
Listen to your body when you are feeling run down and be sure to take some time to rest. It
will only help you in the end!
Manage stress. Doesn’t it seem like colds and flus always seem to strike whenever you
are feeling stressed and overworked? That isn’t a coincidence! Under heightened periods of
stress the body releases large amounts of cortisol, which is meant to help you “fight” or
“flee” from the threatening situation. During this time several of your body’s day-to-day
functions become halted, including your immune function. If the stressor is ongoing the
immune system will not work as it should, making you more vulnerable to infections. While
it’s not possible to eliminate all stressors that come your way, there are definitely ways to
help you control your response to it and the overall effect it has on your body.
Do you need some help preparing for the upcoming cold and flu season? To schedule an
appointment with Dr. Geil, please call the office at 905-892-1318 or click the following link:
Dr. Jessica Geil, HBSc, ND
Health Over All