Keeping Your Immune System Strong During Uncertain Times.
Keeping your immune system robust and vital is always important, but within the context of everything that's going on currently, focusing on supporting and enhancing our immune system seems even more important.
I want to share some tips with you to help you maintain healthy immunity.
Please be aware that this article is intended for those without pre-existing health conditions. It is also not meant to replace individualized medical advice by a licensed practitioner.
THE BASICS OF GOOD IMMUNE HEALTH
I always tell my patients that when it comes to healing and maintaining good health, we need to start with a solid foundation. Whether you're optimizing your health, preventing illness, or healing from an illness, these recommendations apply to everyone.Think of these as the foundations of your home. You can't build anything reliable on top until these foundations are rock solid. Some of these may take time to implement on a regular basis so if this list seems overwhelming please don't feel discouraged. When I started my own health journey it took several years for these things to get to where they are now. Some of them are still a work in progress. Small, consistent steps over time really do add up. These items can be applied to adults and children.
Work to reduce and ideally eliminate sugar. The maximum amount of sugar that any non-diabetic adult should consume daily is about 20g, which really isn't much at all if you start reading labels. Children shouldn't consume sugar at all. If you require sugar for some reason use things like raw honey (safe for anyone over 12 months old), maple syrup, or monk fruit. Sugar suppresses the immune system for up to 3 days so it's best to avoid it completely, especially if you've been around someone who is/has been sick, or if you yourself aren't feeling your best.
Ensure adequate sleep. When we sleep our body has a chance to heal and repair itself. Ideally you should be aiming for 7-8 hours of undisturbed sleep between 10pm and 6am.
Eat a balanced, ideally organic, whole-foods diet. This includes plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, protein, and lots of good healthy fat (including olive oil, salmon, trout, avocado, coconut oil, ghee, nuts, seeds, etc).
Move! Whatever kind of movement your body enjoys most, do more of that! Whether cycling, swimming, walking, yoga, climbing, soccer, or any other form of movement, the important thing is to move. When we move our lymphatic system is engaged and our body has a chance to get rid of any debris or other toxins that it doesn't need.
Drink plenty of clean, purified water. I could write an entire separate article on water quality but at the very minimum, please invest in some kind of filtered water, and avoid storing or filtering your water in plastic. Plastic as it relates to your health could also be a separate article but I hope that we can all agree that plastic does not enhance anyone's state of health, and many studies demonstrate that it can harm it quite significantly. My top recommendations include either local spring water (in glass bottles), or the more economical option for most people is a one-time investment in a Berkey. I have no professional affiliation with Berkey, but I use one and love it.
Identify and eliminate any food sensitivities. Most people I work with are sensitive to at least one or two of the foods that they consume on a regular basis. To help the body function at its best, identifying and removing those food items can be an important step toward better health. When the body isn't busy trying to integrate and break down foods that aren't inherently good for it, it has more energy to focus on repair and defence.
Develop meaningful, deep and nourishing connections with yourself, family and/or friends, and Nature/God/Universe/whatever calls to you. As human beings, we need connection plain and simple.
Mind your stress. We know that there is an intimate connection between our physical health and our stress levels. Currently during these modern times I've seen many people who feel fearful, who are uncertain as to what will happen. It's important to speak openly and seek support for these and other difficult emotions that arise.
Get plenty of healthy sun exposure during the spring, summer and fall months. I wrote an article about healthy sun exposure here.
CLINICAL NUTRITION FOR OPTIMAL IMMUNE HEALTH
There are several key nutrients that can be added to your routine to help specifically support your immune system. Some of these include:
Vitamins A, C, E, D
Probiotics and/or fermented foods like kefir, plain yogurt, miso, sauerkraut, kimchi. If using a probiotic look for a professional brand (you'll pay more but when it comes to supplements you truly get what you pay for) that has at least 10 different strains of bacteria in it.
** Please speak to your health care provider about proper dosing**
HERBAL MEDICINE TO SUPPORT IMMUNE HEALTH
For the current situation my top recommendations are medicinal mushrooms and astragalus.
Mushrooms are incredible for supporting our immune health. My favourite mushroom and one that I consume several times a week is Chaga mushroom (Inonotus obliquus). Not only is it found locally, it is also mild in flavour and very versatile in the ways that it can be used. The one caution here is in terms of harvesting and sustainability. You want to be totally sure that you're sourcing it from a sustainable, ethical source.
The best way to work with Chaga is by brewing up a strong tea. If you're using a fine cut chaga, add about 1 tsp-1 tbs to 1L of water and let that simmer on low for about 30-60 minutes. The tea can be used as a base for rice, soups, or you can drink it all on its own. Up to 3 cups a day is safe. Children over 2 years old can consume chaga as well. I'd recommend no more than a cup daily.
Other mushrooms that you can use either as tinctures or as powders include:
** Please speak to your health care provider about proper dosing**
Astragalus (Astragalus membranaceus) is part of a massive genus of an estimated 3,000 species belonging to the legume family. It has been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years so we have a lot of information about the healing powers of this plant. I like it especially for current times because it has the ability to calm mental stress, and it also has a strong protective effect on the cardiovascular system and the lungs.
Traditionally this was taken as a tea and it can be made up in much the same way as Chaga, mentioned above. You can also add a few slices to soups, stews or rice while it cooks. The flavour is on the sweet side so you won't have any problem getting your little ones to drink it. For children over the age of 2, 1/2 cup daily is plenty. For adults 1 cup is enough.
The one thing to be aware of with astragalus is that it is only to be used when one is in good health. In other words, if you feel yourself coming down with something, discontinue using this plant for the duration of your cold or flu.
There are many more things that can be done to help our immune systems stay strong, but this is a great place to start. Please call the office to schedule an appointment for a customized plan to help your immune system function as optimally as it can.