It’s cold and flu season! It’s a time for runny noses and a greater need for sleep and good food. Unfortunately, many of us are more stressed than ever with the impacts of “that which shall not be named”. Also – if you’re like me – any sniffle or cough means time away from work to get tested and heal up in the case you’ve got something more than just a cold going on. Who’s got time for that? Well, there are some simple things you can do to make sure your immune system is functioning its best to keep you rolling.
Nutrition Is Key To A Strong Immune System
Your immune system needs all of the fighting potential it can get to be swift and effective. It’s like an army that does best when it has the equipment it needs, and isn’t distracted by tasks that aren’t necessary. That equipment is nutrition, in the form of Vitamins and Minerals. Noteworthy here are the antioxidants Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Selenium, and Zinc. We can’t forget the wonderful plant molecules like polyphenols and flavonoids (like quercetin) that help these work better.
You’ll get a gamut of all of these if you’re eating fresh, whole foods. As much as you won’t want to hear it, organ meats, like liver, will round out what you might not get enough of from plants — things like the active forms of Vitamin A and trace minerals. If you even do some of this, and cut out inflammatory foods (like fried foods, and refined sugars) you’ll be doing an awful lot of good for your immune system.
Sleep Keeps Your Immune System Fighting Fit
What doesn’t get worse if you’re not sleeping well? It’s paramount to good health, performance, and sense of well-being. There is a large body of research that supports the idea that sleep helps regulate our immune systems, and that adequate sleep and circadian rhythm can lead to better outcomes of getting, or recovering from being sick. Turns out that parts of a healthy sleep cycle help our immune systems respond to infections properly, through both B and T-cell mediated responses. Long story short: get on a regular sleep cycle to support your system!
Low Stress Levels Help Immune System Strength
Much like sleep, what doesn’t stress make worse? The previous study I referenced mentions how Cortisol suppresses certain aspects of your immune system, and can blunt responses to infections. Well, I’m certain that you can put two-and-two together if I told you that acute stress raises your cortisol acutely, and chronic stress raises your cortisol more chronically. Being in a constant performance (fight-or-flight) state can prevent your immune system from responding to infection the way it’s supposed to. Practicing mindfulness, and taking time to unplug from things that hold your focus might sound fluffy and new-aged, but it can work, and it only costs you 10-30 minutes a day.
These things can work, but you always want to check with a doctor to make sure supplements or foods are safe for you, and to get some extra help in fixing your sleep or give you tools to manage your stress. We’re here at True Potential Health Services to do exactly that.
By Dr. Kahlen Pihowich, ND