Strong Immune Systems Wanted!
Cold and flu season is right around the corner. Yes, right around the corner, even though it’s ONLY August. Here’s why- kids are back in school and with cooler weather coming, people are spending more time indoors sharing germs. And according to the CDC, while peak flu activity occurs between December and February, it starts as early as October. While most colds should resolve themselves in 7-8 days and influenza in 4-7, our perpetually weakened immune systems mean that once a bug gets in the door, it can be tricky to get it out.
I know the standard prevention advice is to get your flu shot and wash your hands, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say that something is missing from this. it seems that every year we see headlines that shout “WORST FLU SEASON IN YEARS!” In my opinion, the standard advice is more reactionary than preventative.
So, the question is “What can we do to build a strong foundation?”
In my humble opinion the best defense is a good offense. And the best offense to warding off sickness is building a strong foundation of an immune system right NOW.
A strong immune system should help keep you from getting sick. But if you do get sick, it should help keep the duration and severity under control. These 10 strategies will help you build a stronger immune system for when the bug comes knocking.
10 Ways to Build a Strong Immune System
- Sleep. While we’re sleeping, our body is busy repairing and rebuilding all of our major systems. This includes our immune system. Have you ever noticed that you seem to get sick when you’re short on sleep. I remember in college, I got sick after finals EVERY December. One should aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep.
- Hydrate. A 2002 study found that dehydrated cells caused a significant impairment to immune function. Even a level of just 3-5% de-hydration can cause a 40% decrease in system functionality. The goal should be at least half your body weight in ounces of water.
- Apple Cider Vinegar. A natural probiotic, Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) is one of the best immune boosting supplements. Be sure to buy a raw brand with a mother at the bottom of the jar, such as Bragg’s. 1-2 tablespoons a day is preferable, but work up to this. You can add ACV to any cold beverage or take it straight like a shot.
- Vitamin D. Research has shown that catching a cold can be a symptom of an underlying Vitamin D deficit. Vitamin D deficits are especially common during the winter months when access to sunshine is limited. Vitamin D is best synthesized by the sun, but can be found in foods such as cold water fish, egg yolks, and liver. If none of those foods sound appealing, grab a D3 supplement, such as Carlson’s. A note of caution, it is recommended to test Vitamin D levels before starting supplementation.
- Massage. While there is not a lot of research to show the direct impacts of massage on the cold and flu, antidotal evidence suggests a combination of stress reduction, recovery, and blood flow stimulation are the trifecta of a strong immune system. One per month should be plenty, but there is no law against more. Do you really need me to convince you to schedule a massage?
- Vitamin C. Vitamin C is a flu fighting superhero! This nutrient supports vital organs to our immune system, such as the adrenal glands and the liver. The problem with Vitamin C is that it’s water soluble, meaning it is metabolized very quickly. Therefore once or twice per day supplementation is preferable, but be wary of Vitamin C supplements full of sugar, artificial colors, and artificial flavors. Check your labels! If you’re looking get Vitamin C from a food source, the best options are lemons, limes, oranges, and berries.
- Moderate Exercise. Thirty to ninety minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week are shown to boost the immune system. You don’t need to go crazy to get immune supporting benefits! Moderate exercise includes walking, leisure bike rides, yoga, and swimming.
- Reduce processed sugar. Sugar is a well-known anti-nutrient. Meaning that due to the complex process of breaking down sugar, out bodies are unable to absorb other essential vitamins and minerals. I cannot think of a better reason to cut out processed sugar than to avoid a week (or more) of total misery.
- Bone Broth. Has there ever been a more perfect food than home-made bone broth? (Spoiler alert: NO!) This mineral rich liquid will support gut health (70% of our immune system is located there) due to the high levels of collagen and gelatin. You can make this in large batches and it will freeze beautifully. Add it to soups, stews, and chili OR drink it straight. Add some ginger, turmeric, or onions for even more flu fighting power! Need a recipe? Click here!
- Probiotic Supplement. I already touched on the benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar, but as far as an easy solution to immune support taking a probiotic is a big win. Our whole family takes probiotics- including our toddler. When purchasing a probiotic, get one that needs to be refrigerated. Since probiotics are a live bacteria, light and heat will kill the good guys.
These are MY top ten, but I know there are MANY more out there. Unfortunately, a top 37 list seems tedious! So let’s share more in the comments! How do you build a strong immune system?
Want to brainstorm more ideas? Come join my private Facebook group!