Recharge Your Immune System

Autumn is a beautiful season, with crisp clean air, sunny days, changing colours, and a slower pace to our day to day lives. Unfortunately, along with colourful leaves comes the inevitable cold and flu season. These nasty bugs start popping up with more regularity in October, with the flu typically peaking twice, in December and February, though not really tapering off until March. A flu vaccine is offered every year, but whether you choose to get the flu vaccine or not, you are still vulnerable to all of the other viruses circulating around and so may want to consider getting your immune system in tip top shape to ward off other types of infections. Though your immune system can use a boost at any time of year, this is a great time to consider a more intense recharge to arm yourself with your best defence against this year’s bugs. Here are some tips to get your immune system fired up:

  1. Avoid alcohol and sugar - Alcohol and sugar both depress the immune system, making it more difficult for it to battle infections in your body. Limiting both alcohol and sugar will enable your immune system to function optimally, keeping you healthy or at least reducing the length and severity of your cold.
  2. Exercise - Mild to moderate exercise boosts your immune system and allows it to work more efficiently. As we head into winter, ensure that you have a plan for getting in exercise to keep yourself strong and healthy. Additionally, severe exercise actually has the opposite effect so if you feel like you are beginning to come down with the cold or flu and you are exercising heavily, slow things down a bit to stimulate your immune system rather than suppress it and allow yourself to get healthy again before returning to your training program.
  3. Sleep - Sleep is such an important time for our bodies. It’s when most of our recovery and repair happens, and you’d better believe that the same rule applies to your immune system. I believe that in general we need more sleep during the darker winter months, so have a little more awareness and intention around establishing good sleep hygiene and catching all of those magical zzzz’s.
  4. Hydrotherapy - Stimulate an immune response by doing a little hydrotherapy. Two of my favourite methods include alternating hot and cold in the shower (3 minutes of hot followed by 30 seconds of cold), always ending with cold and ensuring that you have a dry towel and warm clothes to put on afterwards. You could also try putting wet cotton socks in the freezer and putting them on your feet, with a thick wool pair of socks overtop, before you get into bed. You will be amazed by how quickly your body warms them up.
  5. Supplements - It’s important that you have a regular source of essential nutrients at any time of year and this is especially true during cold and flu season. Try to incorporate a multivitamin into your regime, as well as extra vitamin C and vitamin D. Keep your cupboard stocked with elderberry syrup, zinc lozenges, and echinacea to take at the first sign of illness.
  6. Hygiene - If you can do one thing to prevent you and your family from getting sick from the cold or flu, it’s practicing good hygiene. Wash your hands every time you come home, before you eat anything, after tending to your sick little ones - all the time.
  7. Heal Your Gut - A large part of our immune system is located in the tissues in our gastrointestinal system so good gut health is imperative to a properly functioning immune system. Keep up with those probiotics and/or incorporate a daily source of fermented food into your diet. This can include sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir or kombucha (amongst others). Try to avoid foods that you know are inflammatory for you.

Despite doing everything right, you still might come down with a bug this winter and, if you do, stay home and look after yourself to protect both yourself and everyone around you. No one benefits when someone tries to show up for work sick. A few days of recuperation at home may mean returning to your normal activities sooner than you might if you try to just push through.

Have a healthy winter!