Did you know your hair can hurt? I learned this last year when I got the flu.
It. Was. HORRIBLE.
I literally laid in bed with my mouth half open, staring at nothing for 2 days with EVERYTHING hurting.
The worst part about getting sick as an adult, besides the hurting hair, is that life doesn’t stop. We still have to work. Take care of our families. All of the adulting things. Basically, ain’t nobody got time for that!
Our immune system has a powerful army in place to knock out germs and disease, but it can take a hit if we aren’t prioritizing our health and providing it with the correct nutrients.
When I got sick, I wasn’t practicing what I preach and I paid the price.
I vowed that this would never happen again and I have been amping up my immune system hardcore all year.
Here are some simple things you can start today to help improve your immune system and avoid getting sick.
If you haven’t noticed, I mention sleep as a top tip for pretty much every health concern. What can I say? It works!!! Sleep is your body’s time to detox and replenish. (1) When you sleep the body releases cytokines, which are one of the fighters in your body’s immunity army. These are needed to fight virus, bacteria and infection and if they are lacking you are opening up your susceptibility to getting sick.
NURTURE YOUR GUT
First off- let’s clarify what the gut is since I’ll be using that word a LOT. The gut is the mothership of all things related to digestion, immunity, and mental health. It is made up of the mouth, esophagus, stomach, small intestine, large intestine, and anus which are a series of organs joined in a long, twisting tube. All along this tube are trillions of bacteria, fungus, parasite, algae which make up your microbiome.
A healthy gut = a healthy body…and mind. More and more research is showing the link between our immunity and our gut health. Did you know that about 90% of our bodies’ immune system is located in our gut?
Keep your healthy gut flora thriving with probiotic foods such as raw sauerkraut, kimchi, yogurt, and kombucha (look for ones with 5 grams of sugar or less). For an extra boost take a probiotic supplement.
I love Megaspore probiotics because they don’t have to be refrigerated so they are perfect for traveling. You can get those here! (2)
FILL UP ON FIBER
Prebiotic fiber is healthy gut bacteria’s favorite food. When bacteria ferment prebiotics, short chain fatty acids are released in our gut which act as immuno-modulators and increase the production of T-regulatory cells. These help regulate our bodies’ immune response. (3)
Some great prebiotic food sources are asparagus, artichokes, sunchokes, onion, garlic, unripe bananas, and jicama.
HAVE A SPOONFUL OF ELDERBERRY SYRUP
Elderberries are a rich in vitamins A and C, and bioflavonoids which are crucial in helping the body maintain optimal health. Elderberry syrup reduces mucous secretions and fights the swelling of respiratory passages which helps soothe a cough and makes breathing easier. (4)
GET THOSE RAYS OR AT LEAST SUPPLEMENT WITH VITAMIN D
Get at least 15 minutes of SPF free exposure to the sun daily to make sure you are producing vitamin D. Since it’s also the time of early darkness, I suggest taking a supplement as well. Have you noticed how it’s rare to get sick in the summer? That’s because we get a lot more sun and as a result produce a lot more vitamin D.
Research shows that vitamin D plays a role in the activation of several types of immune cells and people who have low levels of vitamin D are more likely to get sick. (5).
Vitamin D rich food sources include fatty fish like salmon, sardines, anchovies as well as cod liver oil (which I recommend getting in capsules because dear lord that stuff is fishy).
EAT FOODS HIGH IN VITAMIN C
Eat lots of vitamin C rich foods like brussels sprouts, broccoli, spinach and strawberries or take a Vitamin C supplement made from fruit. (6)
DON’T FORGET YOUR ZINC
Zinc is involved in more enzymatic reactions in your body than any other mineral. Zinc increases your production of white blood cells and helps them fight infection more effectively. It also increases killer cells that combat cancer, helps your immune system release more antibodies, and supports wound healing. (7)
Some food sources of zinc include meat, shellfish, seeds, nuts and eggs.
EAT FRESH, RAW GARLIC.
Garlic is high in allicin which is the pungent oily liquid that gives garlic its distinctive smell and also has antibacterial properties. Garlic also has sulfuric compounds which helps your body absorb the trace element zinc, which is an immunity booster. Garlic has also been shown to boost the body’s virus fighting T-cells which matters since colds and the flu are caused by viruses. (8)
ALSO EAT ONIONS, HONEY, COCONUT OIL, OREGANO/OREGANO OIL.
These all contain immune boosting properties like anti-fungals, anti-microbials, and anti-bacterial.
DON’T FORGET YOUR SHROOMS
Mushrooms have beta-glucans molecules that activate white blood cells boosting your immune response. Shitake, maitake and reishi are the most potent. Eat them sautéed, in soups or get the powdered or capsule form here.
Laughing, having an overall positive mood and expressing gratitude, lowers stress levels and can promote sleep- both of which are essential for a thriving immune system. (10)
DECREASE YOUR SUGAR INTAKE.
Sugar wears the body down and we want it to be at full capacity to tackle those germs. According to a 1973 study done by Loma Linda University, when you eat 100 grams of sugar, about as much sugar as you find in a 1-liter bottle of soda, your white blood cells are 40 percent less effective at killing germs.
You can cripple your immune system for up to 5 hours after eating sugar! Glucose, fructose and sucrose all significantly decreased the activity of neutrophils to engulf bacteria! (Neutrophils are the “first responders” of white blood cells when there are invading microbes.) (9)
Need help breaking up with sugar? Get on the waitlist for my next RESTART program where we go through this process together and leave with the tools to manage cravings for the rest of our lives.
AVOID (or at least limit) THESE OTHER IMMUNITY-INHIBITING FOODS AS WELL
Gluten- many studies are showing that gluten loosens gut-lining junctions, making you more susceptible to leaky gut and immune reactions. Even if you don’t get the bloating and stomach aches that some people experience, it is weakening your body’s immune power.
Some other foods that cause leaky gut are dairy, soy, corn, peanuts, and eggs.
(Find all of my favorite immune boosting supplements in my Fullscript pharmacy under the Dispensary Categories button. This is a trusted site where I know supplements are stored properly.)
(4) The Journal of International Medical Research (2004; 32: 132 140)
(9) Sanchez, A., et al. Role of Sugars in Human Neutrophilic Phagocytosis. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Nov 1973;261:1180_1184