Finally, the season of runny noses, colds and flues has arrived! Children and adults with compromised immune systems have already been busy sneezing and coughing. Some people say that this is entirely normal behaviour for this time of the year, I, however, disagree with such an opinion. It is never “normal” for either our kids or us, adults, to be constantly sick and to have to see a doctor on a regular basis. We should aim for approx. 1 – 2 colds per year with a fleeting 2 – 3-day period of symptoms characteristic of being unwell, in order to allow our immune systems to boost their strength and train to fight potential infections. But, how can we prepare our immune system for the winter season, so that we all have a better defence mechanism and are able to recover painlessly and quickly?
Here is a list of appropriate measures to be put into place to effectively and safely boost our immune systems.
- Start with an “immune supporting diet”
This approach is based on good quality, home-made and diverse food. All additives, preservatives, and sugars deplete the body of its essential micronutrients, all the while simply adding stress and toxicity. In fact, research has shown that sugar can directly suppress the immune system! Furthermore, you must be aware of your food intolerances and allergies. In some cases, you may eat very healthy food, but which does not agree with your body and can cause an inflammation that weakens your immune system. Provide your body with plenty of vegetables, whole fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, eggs, fish and meat. Increase your dose of warm, cooked, comfort food that is easy to digest, such as soup. This will save you the energy your body needs for effective defence. Consume garlic, onions, ginger, turmeric, hot chilli, other very anti-inflammatory spices on a daily basis, and help your immune system grow stronger.
- Check the status of your microflora
Our microbiomes and digestive systems provide us with the first and tremendously important level of defence. They protect us from the majority of toxins, bacteria and viruses! 80% of our immune system is located in our gut, therefore, if you notice that you or your child are experiencing some indigestion (undigested food, mucus in the stool, bloating, gas, pain) or issues with stool (constipation, loose stool, diarrhoea), you should start addressing this immediately. General multi-strain probiotics can be used to support your gut and, of course, fermented food and drink like natural yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, tofu and many others, will make a huge positive difference once introduced into your life.
- Control the level of stress suppressing your immune system
Elevated levels of stress hormones are linked to low immunity. Any anxiety, extra pressure, lack of sleep cause not only poor concentration, focus and slow academic performance, but also lead to a weak immune system. Therefore, the balance between academic work and exercise, physical activity and quality time together with your kids and friends is essential to your health. Please, do not forget to create a “NO electronics zone” when you spend time with your kids!
- Sleep is essential for a healthy immune system
We all need sufficient amounts of sleep during which our body is detoxified, restored and healed, a topic we discussed in great detail in my last article (link). Throughout the winter we need to respect our body clock as much as possible and go to bed earlier. Setting up an evening routine to prepare your children and yourself for a good sleep is very important! Healthy warm drinks like non-dairy golden milk (add turmeric paste, cinnamon, honey etc. to a milk of your choice but preferably non-dairy) or stewed apples with honey and cinnamon can be a good snack before bed. Epsom salt baths, lavender oil in the bedroom, a nice book and a hug can provide lots of positive calming sensations for a good quality night’s rest. Remember to turn off all electronic devices and lights, particularly the blue ones, for the night!
- Note that, fever helps our bodies to fight infection
This means that, the moment you notice a small rise in your own or your children’s body temperature, you should not directly reach for medicine. Let us allow the body to do its job – fight infection! The immune system works more effectively at a high body temperature, meaning that by suppressing this effect, we prolong the period of illness. Only when you see that your temperature has grown higher than 38.5 C0, should you help your body cool down. It is better to do this by way of natural remedies like apple cider vinegar (ACV). Our grandparents always employed this approach to cool down our parents – soaking a soft cloth in water diluted ACV (1:2) and placing it over the patient’s forehead. If the body temperature is very high, you can create a wrap for the entire body; vinegar will “draw out” the heat. You can repeat this process a few times until the person in question is finally better. Drinking plenty of liquid, including chicken broth, infusions, teas and water, help control fevers as well.
- Supplements, herbs and essential oils can be life savers
Think about some food based, good quality supplements that may be necessary throughout the 2-3 months of winter: fish oil with vitamin D, Juice Plus, Elderberry and Echinacea Syrup. I would, however, recommend consulting a naturopath or a nutritional therapist about supplements as they need to be individually selected. Eucalyptus oil, tea tree, lemon, oregano, peppermint oils could all help with cold symptoms and generally support your immune system.
Plenty of approaches can be applied to help yourself and your child enjoy a fantastic, healthy winter season, full of joy and fun, rather than sick beds. Have a wonderful November!
I am looking forward to you feedback!