Written By Melissa Furneaux, B.Sc., HHC, RHN
It’s that time of year again….decorating Christmas trees, shopping for presents for loved ones, baking cookies with the kids, and…colds and flus? Unfortunately, most of us know from experience that this could certainly put a damper on the holiday festivities. Don’t fret just yet, though…all is not lost! Luckily, there are a few simple diet and lifestyle tips that can keep your immune system going strong long after Santa has come and gone.
- While Christmas may not be the easiest time to reduce sugar intake, it is important to understand that refined white sugar seriously impairs the white blood cells of your immune system. As with anything, however, moderation is key. Now may be the perfect time to start experimenting with more wholesome, less refined sweeteners, such as blackstrap molasses, raw honey, or brown rice syrup. Decreasing your sugar intake just might be the most important thing you can do to boost your immune system!
- Get a good night’s rest; In addition to a healthy immune system, adequate sleep is linked to balanced hormone levels, clear thinking, improved mood, radiant skin, and weight management. While everyone is different, most people need about 8 hours per night. If this is unrealistic for you, focus on the quality rather than the quantity of your sleep by making your bedroom a tranquil environment and eliminating sources of light or using a sleep mask.
- Drink water! Staying hydrated is important year round, but particularly during this time of year, when there is a good chance that we are consuming more coffee and alcohol at social events, both of which dehydrate the body. In addition to staying hydrated, adequate water intake will promote balance within the body, help your liver and kidney’s to flush toxins, and decrease sugar cravings. While everyone is different, 8 glasses per day is a good goal to aim for. If this seems like a lot, try drinking one more glass per day than you are currently drinking, and increase the amount each week. And remember, by the time we feel thirsty, we are most likely already dehydrated.
- Garlic is particularly beneficial for the immune system, as it promotes warmth and moves energy throughout the body. Specifically, most of garlic’s benefits seem to be attributed to sulfur-containing compounds. To get the greatest benefits, try eating it lightly cooked, or raw if it is not too intense for you.
- Fermented foods have been an important part of traditional diets around the world, but are commonly lacking in North American diets. It is estimated that up to 80% of our immune system is in our G.I. tract. Foods like traditionally prepared yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha, kimchi , and miso contain probiotics that promote intestinal balance by allowing “good” bacteria to flourish.
- Try to take some time for yourself during this busy season, even if it’s only a few minutes each day. Pay attention to the first signs of a cold, and listen to your body. While short term stress is a very helpful adaptation, chronic stress (>2 weeks) decreases memory, lowers immune activity, and will lead to adrenal fatigue, among other things.
- Lemon and apple cider vinegar are both very cleansing and alkalizing, promoting a healthy pH balance within the body. This will also support the growth of healthy bacteria, as many problem-causing bacteria thrive in a more acidic environment created by stress or excess sugar and meat. Try drinking hot lemon water in the morning, incorporating either into dressings and sauces, or sipping on lemon water throughout the day.
- Ginger is antibacterial and stimulates the immune system to act against invaders. With its warming nature and pungent flavour, it has a particular affinity for benefiting the lungs and respiratory system. It is also an excellent remedy for nausea. Try making a simple tea from chopped, fresh ginger.
- Lets not forget the importance of exercise and fresh air, as poorly filtered office air is the perfect environment for spreading germs. Exercise releases mood-boosting endorphins, increases immune cell activity, circulation, and helps you excrete toxins via sweat.
- It is no surprise that including lots of fruits and vegetables in our day to day diet can keep us in top health year round. They are packed with tons of immune supporting nutrients such as vitamins C and E, bioflavenoids, carotenoids, and other antioxidants. Darker produce, such as berries and leafy greens tend to pack the most nutritional bang.
- Zinc is essential for many aspects of immune function, including infection-fighting T-cell, NK cell, and lymphocyte activity, as well as being directly involved in antibody production. It is found in oysters, shellfish, meats, eggs, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Pumpkin and squash seeds are especially good sources. As with everything, moderation is key, as too much zinc may actually decrease immune function.
- And last but not least remember to laugh! Every cell in our body is physiologically affected by how we feel! Finally, if you do find yourself feeling under the weather, only take antibiotics when absolutely necessary since they will lead to imbalances in your GI tract. Following a course of antibiotics with probiotics can also be extremely beneficial in rebalancing your system. There are also many herbs available to support the immune system, including Goldenseal, Echinacea, and Astragalus. Herbs are powerful and work synergistically; A professional herbalist can help you find the most appropriate combination to fit your needs. Hopefully you’re now feeling a bit more prepared to face the upcoming few months strong and healthy! Happy Holidays, everyone!
Melissa Furneaux, RHN (Registered Holistic Nutritionist) has a fascinating backgrounds, a blend of a Bachelor of Science in BioPsychology and Nutritional Science. Her unique interest is in the relationship between the foods we eat, and changes with mood and behavior. Melissa offers nutritional assessments, meal planning, recipes, grocery store tours and also provides guidance for food planning for families and during pregnancy. Her private practice is located at Alchemy & Elixir Health Group.
Until December 31, 2010 Melissa is offering the following promotions: $50 for an initial consult, or $125 for an initial consult plus 2 follow-up visits. Appointments can be booked at:firstname.lastname@example.org