Don’t know if you’ve heard … but we’re in a pandemic and we’re heading face first into flu season. That means we need to do all we can to support our immune system to keep us well in the months ahead.
But what is our immune system, anyway? It has several components like our white blood cells, bone marrow, the lymphatic system and various organs, including the spleen. They all work together as a team to fend off viruses and pathogens (i.e. viruses, bacteria, germs, etc.) that can make us sick.
In order for our immune system to work its best, we need to make sure our everyday habits are working for us, not against us.
Optimizing Your Diet
As temperatures drop, we often reach for richer comfort foods. (Just me?) But it’s crucial we maintain a balanced diet to keep us healthy. So if you’re somewhere that uses the phrase “hot dish,” put down that can of cream soup and back away slowly. There’s a better way. (PS: I love a hot dish).
We need to keep eating the entire rainbow and that means plenty of whole, vitamin-rich fruits (especially citrus) and vegetables. But that doesn’t mean giving up everything you enjoy about cooking during this time of year. Keep roasting away and stirring those stews, just make sure these meals are packed with veggies, grains, dark leafy greens and lean protein. Go easy on the dairy and add flavor with spices like cinnamon to keep your blood sugar in check and turmeric to fight inflammation. Baking? Consider better-for-you sweeteners like xylitol and raw manuka honey.
Adding Something Extra
A balanced diet will give you the vitamins and minerals your body needs on a daily basis. But during winter, let’s be honest: Some days, our meals are mainly Christmas cookies, spiked hot chocolate and sausage stuffing. This is where supplements come in.
Keep your bases covered with a multivitamin. When shopping, take the time to read labels and avoid anything with a super high dose of any particular vitamin (above 100% of your recommended daily allowance), unless directed by your doctor. Just be sure your chosen multivitamin includes vitamin D — a nutrient crucial for immunity we commonly lack while spending more time indoors.
A probiotic is another type of supplement for immunity. Probiotics are “good bacteria” that help balance out the “bad bacteria” in our bodies. They also support our immune system by helping us absorb all of those vital nutrients we’re consuming from food so we get the most out of our meals.
Lastly, you can choose to add a solo ingredient like vitamin C, echinacea or olive leaf or go for an immunity blend if you want some additional protection.
As always, have a chat with your doctor before adding any supplements to your routine. They can check your bloodwork, discuss your diet and determine what you really need.
Changing Bad Habits
Finally, our daily routines play a huge role in our immunity. I know whenever my healthy habits go off the rails, I start to feel like one of those ACME anvils has been dropped on me a few days later.
Here are some tips:
- Get at least eight hours of sleep per night. (Parents, I know.)
- Get at least 30 minutes of exercise each day.
- Reduce stress as much as possible. Your immune system is Superman. Stress is Kryptonite.
- Drink green tea, which provides antioxidants and caffeine without the crash of coffee.
- Consume those seasonal cocktails in moderation. One mule is probably enough.
What habits do you change to stay healthy during winter? Let me know how you look after your immune system in the comments.