Build your immune system now for optimal winter health! But heck, if you’ve got kids going back to school, it’s almost too late. By the third or fourth week of school absences spike as both students and teachers get hit with bouts of cold and coughs. Everyone’s been outside, enjoying summer, getting sun and exercise and not in cramped, stuffy classrooms – a breeding ground for germs.
Are you the type of person that gets sick every winter, possibly even with recurring infections requiring antibiotics? There a lot of potential immune building supplements and foods that can be of great help. However, building your immune system does not happen over night, or even a few weeks. Depending on your current health it can take months to build a strong immune system, resistant to colds, flu and bacterial infections.
The gross over-prescription of antibiotics has created a dangerous situation for us moving forward. While there are still only around 200 common cold viruses, these are not the same viruses from 30 years ago, let alone last cold season. Viruses mutate and change constantly, and getting prescribed antibiotics (which work against bacteria) for a viral infection does not help in the least. The antibiotics wipe out all the bacteria in your gut, even the good bacteria. Some scientists, myself included, feel that overall health begins in the gut. If you do not have good digestion, it effects almost every aspect of your health, possibly contributing to illness, cancer, skin conditions, irritable bowel syndrome, aches/pains, weakness, low energy, brain fog and much more.
Here are a few simple things you can start doing now to ensure you stay healthier over the winter.
- Get sunlight – start building your Vitamin D stores now. Get as much sun (within moderation) on a regular and consistent basis. Make a concerted effort to get into the sun and fresh air every single day.
- Get 7-9 – get 7-9 hours of sleep a night. Not only is sleep extremely restorative, it is anti-aging. It actually makes you look and feel younger. If you’ve got children, they need more sleep than you. Parents that keep their kids on an adult schedule (bed after 9pm) are not doing their child any favors. Not only does it weaken their immune system, it delays them developmentally.
- Eat your veggies – load up on the best seasonal fruits and veggies now when you can get them fresh. Aim to eat the equivalent of a huge, heaping plate of veggies and fruit every single day. Note – if you have weight issues, focus more on veggies than fruit.
- Manage your stress – take time each day for yourself to manage your stress. Meditation, Yoga, TaiChi, QiGong, journaling, and Progressive Muscle Relaxation are all great ways to manage your stress. It does not have to be a lot, but consistency is important here. Make it a priority.
- Exercise – regular, consistent exercise is a fantastic way to build the immune system. It does this mainly by working the lymphatic system – our drainage system in the body.
- Cold Showers – it’s been about 5 months and counting for me. I’ve had one hot shower in that time. The rest of the time it starts cool, and gets colder every few seconds as I crank the water colder. Cold showers are an amazing (albeit uncomfortable at first) way to build the immune system.
- Take a multi – take a multivitamin. Ensure it has Zinc, and if you don’t get sun every day take an extra Vitamin D as well. Vitamin D is very important to our health.
- Ingest Probiotics – fermented foods are a great way to populate the gut with healthy bacteria. Sauerkraut, Kimchi, pickled foods, Kombucha, kefir, and quality grass-fed yogurt are becoming readily available. I also add a soil based probiotic to my smoothies, since we have lost our connection to the earth we once had (farmers and gardeners would not need to take this).
- Breathe – a focused breathing practice can actually alter your physiology. New research is coming out all the time, pioneered by the maverick Wim Hoff who has a special breathing practice called the Wim Hoff method. It’s basically deep breathing, which anyone can do. Take a very deep breath, then passive/relaxed exhale for 30 reps. Do these 30 breaths for 3 rounds as often as you can…just not while driving, operating machinery or swimming.
- Wash your hands – but do not use antibacterial soap. It’s just not necessary and the ingredients are hormone disruptors and harmful to the environment. Wash especially before eating. A simple soap with hot water is enough to remove most 99% of germs.
- Cut the crap – avoid foods which are known to compromise the immune system like sugar, vegetable oils, processed foods and artificial ingredients. Cutting out sugar alone would have a tremendous impact on your overall health.
- Use a neti-pot – I am not kidding when I say this may change your life. If you suffer from allergies, chronic nasal infections or frequent colds, this a must. It’s just pouring saline water through your nose. I use the sinus rinse squeeze bottle, as I find it more effective. Here is a detailed explanation: Daniel Vitalis
In a future post I will discuss some supplements which can have an immune modulating affect. We have gone well beyond Echinacea (which does very little) in terms of supplements that can help fight colds and flu.
Unabashedly educating you on how you can win in life with your fitness, sleep, diet, and stress management.