5 ways to Boost your Immune Health Before the Upcoming Winter Months

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For many, the winter months, especially in Edmonton, can be that time of year where the immune system takes a hit. There are a number of therapies that can provide support by either avoiding immune issues altogether or helping restore the immune system quickly and easily. Naturopathic care focuses on supporting, NOT suppressing, your cold or flu, since it is your body’s way of telling you to SLOW DOWN. So start listening to what your body needs!

In the article today, I am specifically focusing on ways to boost immunity and prevent illness for you and your family. A strong immune system is not something you can acquire overnight, so practicing these recommendations now will help prevent illness and keep you optimally healthy throughout the year.

1) Eat and SLEEP well. Finally an excuse to be a cough potato! I did mention that listening to your body is incredibly important when you start to feel a sore throat or the chills. It is a warning signal, the body’s way of telling us that we may have come into contact with a virus or bacteria. Consequently, the immune system is triggered and starts to fight off whatever is causing your symptoms. Therefore, it is important to support your immune system at this time to ensure it will fight off the infection.

It is a known fact that sleep can directly affect your immune function.  Depriving yourself of sleep can decrease the production of cytokines (proteins that are released from the immune system to help your body overcome an infection). Getting adequate sleep every night is the first step towards a healthy immune system.

Focus on dietary changes that BOOST your immune system, NOT BUSTERS!
– Eat a whole foods diet, avoiding sugar and dairy, and maximize on these immune boosting foods:

  • Onions and garlic have both anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties.
  • Dark leafy greens and citrus fruits are great sources of Vitamin C, which is essential for maintaining a healthy immune function

2) Supplement with Vitamin D, Zinc and Vitamin C. They all play a role in immune health. Seek advice from our clinic for appropriate dosing; form and treatment plan for you and your family. Typically a good teen/adult multivitamin will contain all three ingredients.

3) Probiotics daily. Can strengthen the body’s immune system and prevent illness. For general health, you want a probiotic that contains both Lactobacillus and Bifidobacter strains. This can be extremely beneficial for children who attend daycare and who get sick often. Specific strains can help ward off specific complaints, therefore it is important to determine which probiotic is right for you. Probiotics come in formulas for infants, children and usually kids 12 and up can start taking adult doses.

4) Gentle Herbal Remedies. Great for all ages. Some examples are Echinacea, which is known to support the immune system and prevent the frequency of upper respiratory infections and bronchitis, and also prevent secondary infections. Andrographis is another herbal recommendation that is shown to boost immunity and help shorten the duration of an infection if you are in the acute stage (usually given at a higher dose). Herbal teas are also great to sip on every night to help strengthen the immune system and provide nutrients during a cold to help reduce the duration. Some examples are goldenseal, astragalus, ganoderma, rose hips or cat’s claw. Adding in a tbsp of honey can provide more anti-bacterial benefits (avoid in infants).

5) Stress Management. Chronic stress exposes your body to a steady stream of stress hormones that suppress the immune system. Implementing ways to help you cope with stress can have a direct affect on your overall immune health. Here, the main focus is a long-term plan that helps you cope with stress better and herbal adaptogens or mushrooms that help the body adjust to stress more effectively so the immune system doesn’t take such a hit. Other therapies, such as acupuncture, hydrotherapy, and supplements can help lower those stress hormones, allowing your immune system to do its thing!

These general recommendations are safe and gentle for preventing illness and can help avoid over-the-counter cold medications and any unnecessary antibiotics that come along with their own adverse effects.

Already caught a cold or flu? No problem! Call us today so we can support you through naturopathic care, acupuncture, herbs, and supplements to improve your symptoms, have a speedy recovery, and provide some insights into how we can boost your immune health! 

Recipe for Kadha (pronounced Ka-d-ha)

Is a traditional Indian herbal tea my mom used to make when I was feeling a bit under the weather. Works great to relieve flu like symptoms and the smell it gives off when simmering is just divine! You can double or triple the ingredients to store in the refrigerator for one week in an airtight container.

Makes 1.5 cups:
3 cups of boiling water
5 green cardamom ground up
8 black peppercorns coarsely ground
8 cloves ground up
3-4 cinnamon sticks
1tbsp of grated/sliced ginger (optional)

– Add all the ingredients to the 3 cups of boiling water. Reduce heat and simmer until the volume of the water reduces to about a half
– Strain and drink HOT. Can add in 1-2tsp of honey as a sweetener.

This is the traditional recipe but I like to put my naturopathic spin on everything so I typically add specific herbs in with the tea to help relieve some of those common cold symptoms. For example:

Coughing and sore throat

  • Add in herbs that help coat and soothe the throat.
  • Althea officinalis (marshmallow), glycyrrhiza glabra (licorice root), slippery elm powder.

Runny nose and mucus production

  • Add in herbs that help with lymphatic drainage, inflammation and to help fight off the infection (anti-microbials).
  • Propolis (add drops in your tea), echinacea, elderflower, cleavers, calendula.
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