Support Immune Health Naturally
We use the term “winter” loosely here in sunny Central Florida, but it is still important to take extra care of our immune system in the cooler months.
Holiday stress and overindulgence take a toll on our health and immune functioning, as does the lack of vitamin D from sunlight in the winter season. This combination can make anyone feel run down, and can negatively impact our immune system, making it more difficult for your body’s natural defenses to work against intruders like the cold or flu.
So what can you do to optimize your immune system and better protect yourself? Vitamins and nutrients!
Probiotics - Gut health is a vital part of immune function. It is estimated that 70-80% of our immune system is based in the gut wall, which means that cultivating a healthy microbiome should be a top priority when it comes to our health. Something to keep in mind is that different strains of probiotics have different benefits and functions, from mood and anxiety, to women’s health - to immune health. In particular, certain probiotics have been found to help the body identify and target harmful pathogens, promote the production of natural antibodies, and support immune cells. Studies have found that specific strains of probiotics are “effective for fighting the common cold and influenza-like respiratory infections. This includes Lactobacillus paracasei, Lactobacillus paracasei, and Lactobacillus fermentum.
Bone Broth - Bone broth supports digestive health and immune function as well as provides essential amino acids, collagen, and other important nutrients to promote health.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids -Studies have found that omega-3 fatty acids may enhance the function of immune cells. If that’s not reason enough to include this essential nutrient in your diet, it also improves overall health in other ways. Omega-3 fatty acids have been found to benefit brain and eye health, metabolic syndrome, inflammation, autoimmune diseases, depression, and anxiety.
Antibacterial/Antiviral Foods - A great way to support immune health is to incorporate antibacterial and antiviral foods into your diet. Some of our favorites include garlic, turmeric, onions, and ginger.
B Vitamins - B vitamins work together to help boost the body’s immune system, as well as keep energy levels optimal.
Vitamin C - Studies have found that vitamin C may help decrease the duration and symptoms of the bronchitis, respiratory infections, and the common cold. Some delicious ways to get your vitamin C include strawberries, oranges, kiwi, peppers, asparagus, and broccoli.
Vitamin D - This is one of the most vital immune system-strengthening nutrients. It plays a vital role in protecting us against cold, flu, and respiratory tract infections. Research has also found that vitamin D deficiency is associated with higher rates of mortality from COVID-19, as well as increased severity. Sunlight and nutrition are the best sources of vitamin D, including red meat, liver, egg yolks, and oil fish. When food and sunlight aren’t enough, high quality supplements can make up the difference, especially in the winter months.
Vitamin E - This beneficial nutrient plays an important role in keeping the immune system strong against bacteria and virus. Vitamin E is also involved in the production of immune cells and red blood cells. Get these benefits plus powerful antioxidant protection with yummy sources of vitamin E like Atlantic salmon, rainbow trout, avocado, hazelnuts, and almonds.
N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC) - NAC is a great addition to your immune system arsenal for many reasons. It acts as a protective shield during cold and flu season, and helps the body break down excess mucus. NAC is also a precursor to the super antioxidant glutathione; together they support the body’s immune health and are involved in detoxification, fighting cellular damage, and other essential functions in the body.
Trace Minerals - Copper, selenium, and zinc have been shown to be vital to immune system functioning. In particular, zinc may help reduce the symptoms and duration of the common cold. Food sources of zinc include lean red meat, oysters, egg yolks, turkey, cashews, and almonds.
Alcohol - Drinking excess alcohol deprives the body of important immune boosting nutrients, as they end up being used by the liver for detoxification instead. While you can enjoy alcohol in moderation, it is important not to overdue it. Also be sure to stay hydrated, and take in lots of good nutrients before and after drinking.
In addition to nutrition, lifestyle also plays a role in our immune system functioning. Here are our top lifestyle tips to support your immune and overall health:
Get 7-8 hours of sleep a night
Engage in moderate exercise a few days a week
Avoid smoking, vaping, and tobacco
Research has found that acupuncture increases the amount of your immune cells in the body. This includes red and white blood cells, and T-cells.
Bonus Recipe: Immune-Boosting Smoothie
1 organic carrot, washed, peeled, and chopped into 5-6 pieces
1 banana, peeled and chopped
1 whole clementine, peeled and segmented
1” knob fresh ginger, peeled and grated
6 to 8 pz freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
⅛ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp turmeric powder
⅓ cup plain yogurt
1 cup ice
Optional: 1 tbsp raw honey
Add all ingredients to a high powered blender and process until smooth.