fall immune healthOct 24, 2022
The days are getting shorter and the rainy season has begun. With less exposure to sunlight, our vitamin D levels naturally decrease, rendering us more susceptible to infections. Here are some of my favorite immune support tips to keep you healthy this fall & winter.
Disclaimer: This is for informational purposes only and not intended to serve as medical advice or diagnose or treat any disease - be sure to always consult with your personal healthcare provider.
Factors that harm the immune system:
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Excessive exercise
- Imbalanced gut microbiome
- Chronic stress
- Lack of sleep
- Inflammatory foods: gluten, sugar, processed foods
- Environmental toxins: mold, parabens, heavy metals
Eat the rainbow! A diet rich in colorful vegetables and fruits (emphasis on veggies, though) can boost the immune system. These brightly colored foods are loaded with antioxidants - compounds that can prevent damage to the immune cells themselves. These colorful foods also contain compounds like polyphenols & anthocyanidins that have tons of health-promoting properties. Eat organic as much as possible to minimize unnecessary toxin exposure. Refer to the Environmental Working Group's Clean 15 (okay to eat conventionally-grown because they are less likely to contain pesticide residue) & Dirty Dozen (always buy organic).
- Garlic: rich in sulfur-containing compounds called allicin, which may improve the disease-fighting response of white blood cells.
- Mushrooms: a source of vitamins B, C, D, and E, all of which can improve immune function. Bioactive polysaccharides in mushrooms have also been shown to enhance innate and adaptive immune responses. Additionally, mushrooms may positively influence the gut microbiota, improving protection against pathogens. Use caution with histamine issues.
- Fermented foods: 70% of our immune system is in the gut! Support gut health by adding beneficial pre- and probiotics. This can help inhibit the growth of pathogens, enhances the innate and adaptive immune response, and reduce the risk of respiratory infections (e.g., the common cold and flu). Examples of fermented foods include sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, unpasteurized pickled vegetables, miso, tempeh, yogurt. Use caution with histamine issues.
Moderate daily physical activity can boost the immune system by increasing infection-fighting white blood cells and antibodies, stimulating healthy circulation of blood and lymph, and decreasing stress hormones. Get outside! Spending 30 minutes in nature has been shown to increase natural killer cells, which are important disease-fighting cells of our immune system.
Optimal immune health requires a large amount of energy. Getting a sufficient amount of restorative sleep is a great way to support your immune system. Chronic sleep deprivation is associated with immunodeficiency, systemic inflammation, and an increased risk of infections (including the common cold).
- Aim to be in bed by 10 pm. Each hour of sleep you get before midnight is equivalent in quality to 2 hours of sleep you get after midnight.
- Make sure your bedroom is as cool, dark, and electronic-free as possible. Install blue-light blocking apps on all devices and use them after the sun has set. Blue light negatively affects our melatonin production & can disrupt our circadian rhythm and prevent the brain from detoxing properly. Avoid backlit screens for at least 30 minutes before bedtime
- How much sleep is enough? Listen to your body. Many people find they need an additional hour during the winter months.
The nervous system and the immune system are intimately linked. Emotional stress not only increases inflammation but can also decrease immune functioning. Cultivating a daily meditation practice is one of the best things you can do to support your nervous system (and therefore your immune system, too!). While 20 minutes of quiet reflection per day is a wonderful goal, even just taking 3 slow, deep belly breaths can help promote a feeling of relaxation.