Stay healthy. This message is everywhere these days but it takes more than a mask and hand sanitizer to keep your health in top shape.
Viruses, bacteria, EMF radiation, heavy metals, environmental toxins, antibiotics, and chronic stress are top threats to good health.
You have the power to really boost your immunity, too. Even if you’ve been struggling with low immunity, frequent illnesses or other health problems, with the right natural approach to boosting your immune system, you can drastically reduce your risk of illnesses.
I’m a huge proponent of boosting my immunity with all that I possibly can because, well, I do not like getting sick! And, the better my immunity is, the less likely I’ll get sick, so it’s totally a ‘win-win’ situation for me. I’ve weathered office cold virus breakouts and flu season so many times, I’ve totally lost count!
Here are some of my top tips to help boost your (and your loved ones’) immune system as we go into the colder weather. Because your chances of getting sick increase the more you’re indoors, too.
Tip 1 – Nutrition is King
The first line of defense against any illness is the right nutrition. There’s nothing else that will ever beat this.
Fill up on whole foods at least 80% of the time. Plant-based whole foods contain a wide array of nutrients – vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients – that are the best for building up a strong immune system. And for fighting off illnesses and toxins.
Your body will always use nutrients from whole foods so much more efficiently than from any non-food source, so fill your plate with lots of fresh vegetables, good quality protein and, of course, lots of healthy fats! (Healthy fats support a strong, resilient stress response too.)
Tip 2 – Love Your Gut
Did you know that approximately 75% of your immune system sits in your gut?
Yes, the gut microbiome, when healthy and balanced, plays a major role in your immunity. When you take antibiotics, you actually kill off a lot of this healthy immune support, so make sure you’re replenishing the health of your gut microbiome often.
The key food groups?
Fermented foods (and drinks) and fibre!
So, make sure you include dairy-free yogurt or kefir, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, kombucha, sugar-free pickles and even some dark chocolate (at least 70% cacao) each week. Aim for 4-6 servings per week.
And, of course, eat your vegetables.
Tip 3 – Reduce your Oxidative Stress
You’ve probably heard of oxidative stress in relation to cancer but keeping this problem at bay also helps improve your immunity.
Your body’s master antioxidant – glutathione – works with other antioxidants to calm oxidative stress and neutralize free radicals.
The thing about glutathione is that it must be regenerated and recycled by the body before it can help improve its health-boosting effects.
Glutathione is important for breaking the “stress / inflammation cycle”, the root cause of chronic fatigue and symptoms of adrenal dysfunction. This is because glutathione has anti-inflammatory properties.
This antioxidant is important for gut health because it can help repair leaky gut (a major contributor to autoimmune diseases and allergies); glutathione’s building block nutrients also help to nourish and rebuild intestinal wall cells, too!
The best way to increase your glutathione levels is to enjoy 3-5 servings of cruciferous vegetables every week. (Pro Tip – cruciferous vegetables also help reduce symptoms of PMS and menopause too.)
Eggs, grass-fed beef, and organic gluten-free whole grains contain abundant glutathione too.
Tip 4 – Ditch the refined sugar
And the artificial sweeteners too.
Sugar is basically a brake pedal on your immunity. Sugar pulls nutrients out of your body that are needed for a healthy, strong immune system.
Between sugar and artificial sweeteners, you have your #1 pro-inflammatory “food” group, too, which is not good for health.
Ever felt a cold coming on after you’ve had a bit too much sugar? That’s sugar depleting your immune system.
The average adult woman over 35 should not get more than 10% of her daily calories from refined sugar and artificial sweeteners…that’s 6 teaspoons per day.
Watch for hidden sugar in sauces, packaged foods, “healthy” snacks, and condiments.
Tip 5 – Get moving
Exercise is promoted as a great way to improve your health, right?
However, for busy, ambitious women over 35 living with chronic fatigue, the wrong types of exercise could cause their health to decline!
This is because exercise that is too intense, too long, or too often for your energy levels will spike your stress response, triggering inflammation. Hence, a lowered immune system.
Always do activities that align with your energy levels. This means anything from a 30-minute stretching session to a brisk walk to a HIIT class. You do you…as long as you move your body for 15-30 minutes a day (minimum) in a way that makes you feel good, you’ll be boosting immunity!
And, when you move, you help to stimulate the flow of lymph fluid, which is where toxins and bacteria and other bad stuff lives. This helps boost overall lymph detoxification.
Tip 6 – Drink your 3 Litres
Do you really need another reason to drink more water???
Dehydration will reduce your immunity and make you more susceptible to illnesses.
For women who follow a healthy, whole foods-based diet, 3 litres is a great goal to start.
The fewer carbs you eat (i.e. if you’re grain-free), the more water you’ll need to stay hydrated.
And if you’re struggling to feel hydrated even after 4+ litres, try adding in a sugar-free electrolyte drink once or twice a day (no, not Gatorade!).
Tip 7 – Make Sleep a Priority
Sleeping less than 6 hours a night is linked to a higher likelihood of coming down with a cold.
Lack of sleep promotes chronic stress, which leads to inflammation and poor immunity.
Plus, when you don’t get enough sleep, your hunger and fullness hormones get flipped and you battle sugar cravings way more!
Tip 8 – Take Time for Self-Care
For busy, ambitious women over 35, chronic stress is a very common health problem, one that most doctors overlook.
If you’ve had babies, changed jobs, moved across the country, gotten married (or divorced), dealt with difficult people, or lived through any of the huge number of ongoing stressors we face each day, then chances are your stress response is underfueled and overused.
Chronic stress is the main reason for chronic fatigue; when our stress response is always ‘on’, it triggers a low-grade inflammatory response.
Over time, chronic stress will suppress the immune system. Often women will live for years without getting sick, but then one day they’ll have a major cold or infection that lasts much longer than it should.
So, make sure you take some time every single day to relax, do something fun, and put your own health first. Seriously…this is important!
Step 9 – Supplement Wisely
I hear so many women take supplements based on a bunch of health articles or mainstream media advice, and they end up with a confusing, expensive collection that just aren’t necessary.
First of all, if you’re not already eating a healthy diet that supports your immune system, your stress response, your gut and your inflammatory response, don’t bother with supplements…you can’t supplement your way out of the wrong diet! It’s just a waste of money.
Second, make sure you talk with your doctor before starting supplements, especially if you’re on any kind of medication! There can be interactions that are unpleasant.
Third, know what you actually need. My clients fill out health assessment forms for me so that I know exactly what nutrients their bodies are missing. First we improve the diet, but if they need extra support, I know exactly which 2-3 supplements they should focus on.
But, if you just want a list of good immune system boosting supplements, here are my top suggestions:
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D3
- Essential Fatty Acids
You have so much power to help improve your health.
Staying healthy is especially important right now but it’s important all the time and this isn’t something to take lightly.
Our environments, lifestyles and dietary choices all contribute to the health of our immune system. You can control your diet (and your lifestyle to some extent too), so why not start doing your part to boost your immunity to stay your healthiest this winter…and for life!