Wintertime coughs, colds and flu – who needs them? And who gets ’em? Just about anybody who’s not prepped for the onslaught – but this year, you don’t have to be one of them. Start taking steps today to winterize your body, strengthen its defenses and get it ready for the season. By making smart food, supplement and lifestyle choices now you’ll boost immunity – giving your body exactly it needs to stay well straight on through till spring. Here are 16 healthy ways to do it:
Eat for Immunity
1. Eat Your Greens
Dark leafy greens are loaded with energy-boosting phytonutrients that feed the good belly bacteria responsible for keeping your immune system strong and well-equipped to repel debilitating winter bugs. To get more leafies on your plate, make room for greenery at every meal. Add spinach into your breakfast smoothie, toss chopped kale into egg dishes, bulk up lunches with big side salads, and add steamed greens to soups, stews and sauces. Think of each meal as an opportunity feed your good gut bacteria!
2. Drink Your Greens
Work in an office where everyone’s got the sniffles? Then keep a supply of high quality greens powder in your fridge, and mix up a green drink to sip instead of coffee to keep energy levels high. You can also add greens powder into your morning protein shake to start the day fully fortified. If you travel frequently, take a long a few Be Well Greens packets to help your good gut bacteria flourish when you’re on the road.
3. Add Garlic!
Roasted or raw, garlic is loaded with anti-viral, antibacterial and antifungal substances that help strengthen your body’s defenses against the bad bugs of winter. Though raw garlic packs a slightly more powerful nutritional punch, roasted garlic is arguably the more delectable way to enjoy those immunity-enhancing compounds, so feel free to indulge!
4. Have a Side of Sauerkraut
Feed your good gut bacteria by adding fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi to your diet. Fermented foods contain healthy, friendly bacteria (probiotics) that help keep gut flora balanced and immunity high. As the gut is home to roughly 70% of your immune system, one that’s well fed and well balanced will be less vulnerable to every sniffle that sweeps through the office.
5. Dish Out Some Saturated Fat
Adding coconut oil to your diet is a great way to get a daily dose of immunity-boosting lauric acid. So, how to put it to use? Try cooking with coconut oil, or add it to your morning yoghurt or smoothie, lunchtime soup or cup of tea. Freaked out by the fat? Don’t be. The body quickly converts coconut oil’s medium-chain fatty acids into ready-to-burn energy.
6. Dump Sugar…Now!
Sugar is a double-whammy toxin that dramatically decreases immune function by killing your gut’s good bacteria while it feeds the bad! The result? A gut that’s out of balance, with the bad guys running amuck, and bacterial defenses weakened and overwhelmed. You’re left with an immune system poorly equipped to fight off seasonal ills. Bottom line: Lay off the sweet stuff to keep gut defenses strong.
7. Junk All Processed Foods
Another reason to steer clear of processed foods: they weaken the immune system! Most processed foods are so nutrient-deficient and sugar-packed, they wind up over-feeding the bad gut bacteria and starving good – and that’s the recipe for compromised immunity.
Supplement for Immunity
Supplements won’t undo the effects of a bad diet but they will maximize the benefits of a good one – so eat for optimal nutrition and consider adding a few key supplements to your winter immunity plan:
1. Power Up With a Probiotic
To help the immune system repel invaders, fortify your good bacteria with a daily probiotic, in capsule or powder form. Look for one that contains at least 10-20 billion viable organisms, and several types of good bacteria, including lactobacillus and bifidobacteria, two of the most well-researched and commonly used types of healthy bacteria.
2. Do Take Vitamin D
Adequate levels of Vitamin D are essential for optimal immune function, and several studies have shown D to be an effective flu fighter. With wintertime sunshine in short supply, the work-around is to boost your levels by taking a Vitamin D3 supplement. How much do you need? It varies from person to person, so it’s important to have your doctor check your levels – which should be between 50 and 70ng/ml. Here are some guidelines on how to supplement your levels.
3. Harness the Power of Herbs
Antiviral herbs contain thousands of medicinal compounds that attack viruses. My favorite antivirals are andrographis, olive leaf extract, grapefruit seed extract and elderberry extract. Use one or several in combination as a prophylactic measure, particularly if you spend time in high-traffic areas such as airports, offices, theaters, etc. Another herbal to have in your immunity arsenal: oil of oregano. It’s anti-microbial, anti-fungal and anti-bacterial and is amazing for boosting the immune system. If you feel something coming on, add a drop in a glass of water – it can work wonders!
4. Add this Nutrient
My favorite supplement to boost immunity is glutathione, the single most powerful antioxidant produced naturally in the body. But our body’s natural production drops by roughly 10% per decade, so as we age, our need for supplementation increases. When purchasing, make sure you’re getting S-Acetyl Glutathione to ensure bioavailability – and reap maximum benefit.
5. Consider a Myer’s Cocktail
The liquid vitamin and nutrient therapy drip, known as the Myer’s cocktail, is for many people, myself included, a powerful winter-time must. Packed with micronutirents, as well as B and C vitamins (and often glutathione), Myer’s cocktail intravenous drips are a wonderful immunity-boosting tool for frequent travelers, parents of school-aged children or anyone who is regularly exposed to large numbers of people – and viruses.
Lifestyle Immunity Tips
Staying well goes hand-in-hand with treating your body well, so in winter, give it a little extra TLC by attending to the fundamentals of good health:
1. Sleep More
During cold and flu season, being run-down compromises immunity, making it easier for opportunistic viral infections to take hold. A strong immune system is one that’s had enough time to restore and repair itself while the rest of you snoozes – so don’t cut corners. Shoot for 7 – 8 hours a night and when sleep’s elusive, don’t reach for a prescription. Instead, get a little healthy support from our Sleep Formula.
2. Work Out
Adequate exercise helps keep the immune system robust, so keep moving throughout the winter (but don’t overdo it which can overtax your system). By staying active, you’ll also keep weight, stress and winter blues at bay – all of which will contribute to overall well-being as well as the health of your immune system.
3. Chill Out
Remember to dial down stress, particularly during flu season. Set aside at least a few minutes every day. Meditation, breathing exercises & yoga, massage, a few minutes in a sauna, or even knitting are all great ways to release tension’s tight grip, boost immunity and enhance physical and mental resilience.
4. Get Dirty
Ditch antibacterial soaps and hand sanitizers, which are loaded with toxins that over-dry and crack the skin, creating perfect conditions for viral transmission. Instead, wash hands with the classics – hot water and chemical-free soap, or try a few drops of lavender essential oil to naturally sanitize hands.
5. Stay Wet
As in stay hydrated. Hours spent baking your body in overheated homes and offices dries out the nose, mouth and lips, all of which need moisture to help protect against viral invaders. Fight back by drinking water throughout the day; keep pans of fresh water on top of radiators to add moisture to the air; and hydrate nasal passages with a saline spray or neti pot treatments.
Keep these tips in mind, put them into action and stay well this winter.
*Image of “woman” via Shutterstock