Boost Your Immunity

 In News & Events, WOD
It’s not just the holidays that are in full swing: Cold and flu season is officially upon us. And while catching something at least once a year may sometimes seem inevitable, there is much we can do to boost our immune system and avoid getting sick.
We all know that viruses and bacteria cause colds and flus, and that we pick them up from other sick people. But the truth is, your body has to be a willing host.  To be honest, I used to think the role of our immune system in fighting off invaders was overrated. Then I started college full-time while I was still working full-time—and pretty much stopped sleeping. Sleep deprivation combined with stress over my workload (and a typical college diet of booze and convenience food) all lead me to become what I call a Sicky. You know, that person who is pretty much sick all winter, who picks up a cold just by looking at someone who sneezes, and who is constantly “fighting something off.” I would get cold sores every few months, was always run down, and had a chronic cough even though I am not a smoker. 

Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? Well, the good news is I graduated from college, started sleeping like a normal human being, and the stress in my life returned to a manageable level. Now, while I do still get sick sometimes, it’s much less frequently and my body heals faster. So while it’s unrealistic that we’ll never get sick, here are some of the things we can do to strengthen our body’s natural defenses: 

Sleep More

I’ve know I’m a broken record about this whole sleep issue, but I mention sleep over and over because I’m convinced of its restorative—and often underrated—health benefits. Scientists are only recently uncovering the myriad ways that quality sleep can positively affect our bodies and the many ways thatlack of sleep hinders it. As someone who is a bona fide night owl who sometimes struggles with insomnia, this subject is near and dear to me. Especially because I’ve experienced firsthand the positive benefits of getting the sleep my body needs. Since arranging my schedule to get up later, I’ve experienced a big boost in my immunity and energy.

Manage Stress

Even though I’ve always had a holistic mindset when it comes to health, I never really gave the mind-body connection the respect it deserves until I saw how immensely my mindset and emotions affected my physical health. After I finished school, I experienced a return to health that was immediate and significant. I didn’t catch a cold that winter, went years without a fever blister, and my chronic cough began to resolve. But when I was in school and constantly stressed, it was as if my immune system had propped a little sign up in the window that read, “Be back when conditions improve.” Of course, not all stress is avoidable, but if we want to be as healthy as possible, we simply have to find a way to manage the stress that is.

Eat Your Greens

We hear a lot about Vitamin C and its role in immunity, and we’ve been told for years that oranges are super high in it. But did you know that broccoli, kale, and cauliflower all have more Vitamin C per serving than an orange? Brussels sprouts may not beat oranges, but they come close—and all these veggies have far less sugar than fruit. Excess sugar has been shown to contribute to chronic inflammation which in turn lowers our body’s natural immunity. Do your immune system and your entire body a favor and include cruciferous vegetables and dark leafy greens in your daily diet. The best offense is a good defense!

Feed Your Gut

Probably the most important thing you can do to improve your immunity is to take steps to balance the bacteria in your gut. A startling seventy percent of your immune system resides in your gut, and this collection of bacteria is called your microbiome. The good bacteria that reside there are designed to protect your body from invaders, but years of antibiotic abuse, which knocks out all the good bacteria with the bad, have left many of us without the colony we need for protection. What’s more, a diet low in fiber starves the good bacteria that like to feed on it. So what can we do? To start, only take antibiotics when absolutely necessary. To repopulate your gut, eat a high fiber diet and include fermented foods like sauerkraut, which is incredibly high in probiotics. 

Even the healthiest of us may sometimes get sick. In fact, an occasional infection is what builds your body’s immune system. Still, debilitating seasonal colds and flus don’t have to be the status quo. Take steps now to strengthen your body’s defenses and you can make real improvements in your immune system—and get sick less.

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