Natural ways of Boosting Immunity
Dr. Melissa, Naturopathic Specialist
The temperatures are dropping and inevitably we’re getting to the heart of cold and flu season. Have you heard the saying? The best medicine is the one you never have to take. Well it’s true! If you can prevent getting a cold or the flu, isn’t that better than getting sick, feeling miserable and having to take medications? Here are a few things you can do to help your body become more effective at resisting infections.
1. Get enough good quality sleep! Many of us do not enjoy the benefits of restful sleep. When we lack sleep our body is weak and so is our immune system. Studies show that people who get less than 7 hours of restful sleep are more susceptible to get a cold than those who sleep 8 hours or more. Make an effort to go to bed earlier and get the sleep your body needs to fight colds and flu’s.
2. Eat your fruits and veggies. Sounds pretty simple doesn’t it? Fruit is naturally eaten raw therefore it contains all the nutrients that are often lost in cooking. Immune boosting nutrients like Vitamin C are found in citrus fruits, kiwi and sweet potato. Another nutrient that is essential to good immune function is beta-carotene, it is found in fruits like cantaloupe and vegetables like carrots and squash. Aim for 6 to 10 servings a day.
3. Look for high quality protein and include it in each meal. Having enough protein in our diets is essential to proper immune function. Proteins are made of amino acids. We can think of amino acids as the building blocks of protein. Using these building blocks our body creates antibodies, which protect our body from infection. Good quality protein comes from vegetable sources such as nuts and seeds, legumes like soy, peas and lentils. Meat sources include lean options like poultry and fatty fish. Red meats like beef and lamb have too much saturated fat which is not good for our bodies; these should be eaten in moderation.
4. Pray and/or meditate. People who are under stress for long periods of time are more susceptible to infections and disease. There are many ways to manage stress, including doing moderate exercise such as walking, yoga or swimming. Another way is to meditate. Prayer is a form of meditation. If you have never meditated before, check online for simple exercises you can do in the comfort of your own home. Ideally we should set aside some time each day to meditate, even if only for a brief moment.
5. Enjoy natural yogurt. Plain, white yogurt with live bacterial cultures and without added sugars or flavours is excellent for boosting our immune system. Yogurt contains good bacteria that helps maintain a balanced ecosystem within our body. In other words, if you have enough of the good bacteria you can keep the bad bacteria out. Plus the friendly bacteria can actually destroy other microorganisms that can cause disease.
6.Talk to your naturopathic doctor about supplementing with Vitamin D. Many people, especially those living in more northern climates (like Beijing), don’t get enough sunlight in the winter months. Sunlight exposure on our skin is the way we naturally produce Vitamin D, which is essential for healthy immune system function. Recent studies demonstrate the effectiveness of Vitamin D in preventing the flu.
7. Take Astragalus.There are many herbs that can help improve our immunity. One excellent herb with a long history of use in China is Astragalus (黄芪,HuángQí).Not only does it strengthen the body’s own immune system, but it has antibacterial and antiviral properties as well. An excellent way to take it is by adding it to soups. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine it is a warming herb, perfect to combat the cold during the winter months.