What’s your plan of action when you feel a cold or other illness brewing? In our home, we take a multi-faceted approach to boost our immune system.
First, we have a mantra that we’ve said for years. It sounds a little hokey, but we use it whenever one of us is feeling run down and susceptible to illness: I am healthy, and I will remain healthy. This mindset shift works as a code to ourselves. And it’s a signal to each other, I’d better take care of myself.
It’s a cue that we need to get more sleep, take in more clear liquids, and tweak our diet.
What steps should we take, and why?
- Get More Sleep – People who sleep fewer than seven hours a night are nearly three times more likely to get a cold than those who average eight or more hours of sleep. That’s according to a 2009 study at Carnegie Mellon University.
- Try Light Exercise – a reduced-intensity workout such as a walk instead of a run, actually can benefit you if your symptoms are above the neck, according to the Mayo Clinic.
- Take in More Liquids – Decaf tea, water with lemon, and clear soups and bone broth are great fluids to work in. Avoid sugary drinks – even ginger ale – alcohol, and dairy. These can increase inflammation, suppress the immune system, and actually make your symptoms worse.
- Manage Stress – Mind-body practices such as journaling and meditation and focused breathing can help with stress management and support the immune system.
- Focus on Nutrition – Beyond drinking clear soup or bone broth, eating so-called “superfoods” can help boost your antioxidant intake. They also keep inflammation low. Green, leafy vegetables, blueberries, garlic, ginger, turmeric, and foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids also help. Make sure your meals are colorful; eat the rainbow!
If your diet is less than optimal, as is many Americans’, it can be important to supplement with plant-based nutrition and immune-system boosters, particularly vitamins C, D3 (with K2 to aid absorption), fish oil, and probiotics. Your doctor may have other recommendations.
Can We Boost Our Immune Systems?
According to immunologist AJ Lanigan, a healthy immune system typically operates with about a 30% capacity to respond to unhealthy invaders. But we can boost it to operate at 50% or even 70% efficiency, he says.
Many pieces go together to support and spur our immune system. How are your immune-boosting methods working? What steps are you willing to try next time you’re feeling a bit under the weather?