The proverb “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” could not be more relevant than during cold-flu season. With the winter almost upon us, now is the best time to implement immune boosting techniques to keep yourself well - or at least shorten the duration and severity of symptoms when you come into contact with cold or flu viruses.
Here are my top five naturopathic tips to support your immune function:
Warm, Cooked Beverages and Foods
Avoid raw and cold foods, like salads, iced or cold items directly out of the fridge. This is especially necessary if you live in a cold climate. In Traditional Chinese medicine, these foods make digestion more of a challenge, and thermally cool the body down. In the winter, we want to keep the body warm and the digestive fire strong. This is said to support a healthy immune system. Opt for mainly cooked foods and warm beverage. Soups and stews, bone broth, and herbal teas are staples in a winter diet.
Have your doctor test your vitamin D levels. It is a simple, inexpensive blood test that will allow you and your doctor to supplement you accordingly. Low vitamin D levels are associated with increased susceptibility to infection. When supplementing, choose a soft gel or liquid format for best absorption.
Orange and Green Vegetables
Consume one cup of dark leafy greens and one cup of orange vegetables daily. These veggies are high in beta carotene and vitamin A, nutrients that are necessary for a healthy immune system. Spinach, sweet potato, carrots, and squashes are all excellent choices.
Don’t skimp on shuteye! Sleep provides a reset for the system and allows the immune system to stay accurate and vigilant. Aim for 8 to 9 hours per night and a relatively consistent bed and wake time.
The holidays are often a time when many of us indulge more with alcohol, baked goods and other sweets. Processed sugar, sweeteners, and alcohol can increase inflammation and impact immune function for several hours after consumption. Limit these ingredients to allow your immune system to flourish.
Bonus tip: fast for three hours before going to sleep. Finish consuming dinner and all snacks three hours before your desired bedtime (unless otherwise advised by your doctor). Giving your body a break from digestion overnight is key. This energy can then be used to balance the immune system, detoxify cellular waste, and balance hormones as we sleep, all of which are necessary to staying well in the winter months and beyond.
As always, speak with your doctor who can provide you with individualised tips that are most supportive for your unique system.