Boost Your Immune System

woman with a weak immune system

Boosting Your Immune System: The Most Unexpected Way to Beat Cold Season

There are lots of seasonal changes that mark the start of cold and flu season. The season where we need to focus on maintaining a strong immune system. There is a natural response to this change of season to change our diets to include more hearty root vegetables and satisfying ‘stick to your ribs’ meals.  Our focus moves inward to indoor activities. We bundle up to go out to enjoy the cool weather wearing warm scarves, hats, and warm socks to cover our vulnerable spots!

We take all kinds of precautions to avoid colds and flus. Because really, no-one wants to lay around with no energy, missing work and fun. Or endure the coughing, sneezing, sniffling, feverish annoyances that come with getting sick.

But what effect, if any, do these activities and changes have on safeguarding your immune system from the cold and flu viruses during cold weather months?

They’re all important, but it turns out that the most important thing you can do to boost your immune system comes from nourishing your gut!

What Does Your Gut Have to do with Your Immune System?

Believe it or not, your ability to combat viruses and bacteria are directly affected by your nutrition. So what better time than the start of cold and flu season to start building up a healthy meal plan for you and your family?

According to an Australian study, about 70-80% of your body’s immunity lives in your gut.

Wow! We know the expression “Mind over Matter” but in this case, it’s really “Gut over Matter”. The better care we take of our gut health, the more likely we will be to fortify our immune system and stave off potential sickness this season.

There are areas all along your small intestine called “Peyer’s Patches”. These are responsible for building up your immune system and developing the antibodies that fight off disease. These Peyer’s Patches also help to regulate good and bad gut flora which are the bacteria we house to maintain our health. You can see already why it’s so important to take good care of our gut to protect ourselves from illness!

So what can you do to build up your immunity this Fall and Winter? It can be as simple as adding a few of these into your diet every day:

Immune System Enhancing Foods:

Perhaps the most important nutrient for fighting off viruses and bacteria is zinc! This mineral is abundant and is easily found in multiple food sources including:

  • Red meat
  • Poultry
  • Oysters
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Egg yolks
  • Beans and nuts

If you choose to add supplements to your diet, it’s best to take them with a good amount of food to avoid stomach irritation. Zinc lozenges can provide immense relief from cold symptoms too, sometimes reducing the duration of your viral infection by 50%!

Too much zinc can, in fact, be too much of a good thing and can cause adverse effects particularly in pregnant women, those with zinc allergies, and those with HIV. If you are an existing patient, please give us a call if you’re considering increasing your zinc intake and we’ll be happy to consult with you on your ideal dose. If you are not an existing patient, we are legally required to see you in person and perform a full first assessment before we are allowed to provide any advice.

Other well-known immunity-boosting foods to add to your recipes this season include garlic, onions, mushrooms, and raw, unpasteurized honey.

Anti-Inflammatory Foods:

Foods that fight inflammation keep our tissues in virus-fighting shape. By choosing to eat plenty of these, you can help your immune system keep all kinds of infections at bay.  This can even help to calm down any inflammation that might be teetering on the brink of flaring up.  Inflamed tissue is weak and provides an easy entry for bacteria and viruses to cause infection.

Try omega-3 rich anti-inflammatory foods like:

  • Salmon
  • Tuna
  • Halibut
  • Herring
  • Mackerel
  • Oysters
  • Sardines
  • Trout

Leafy greens, berries, turmeric and green tea are known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, so be sure to include plenty of these too!

It’s easy to add these foods into your everyday menus in any meal of the day.

For breakfast, try oatmeal + flaxseed porridge sprinkled with walnuts, cinnamon and blueberries to get a boost of immunity-enhancing and anti-inflammatory foods at the start of your day.

A mug of green tea instead of coffee is a great way to warm up to the day ahead…

For lunch, how about sliced grilled chicken with sauteed spinach and mushrooms with some fresh garlic?

Or for dinner, why not baked salmon fillets with a red pepper stuffed with brown rice and broccoli florets?

And to wind down, try a mug of golden milk, chalk full of antioxidants! Check out our facebook page for our favourite recipe.

Other Immune System Measures:

Reduce Sugar:

While the relationship between sugar and viral/bacterial illness is still largely unknown, we do know that overconsumption of sugar has negative effects on gut health. For that reason, reducing your intake of sugar particularly during cold and flu season is a good idea because it will allow all of the positive steps you’re taking towards better gut health and immunity to shine through!

Probiotics:

Taking a good probiotic is always a good idea, no matter what the season! But, it’s particularly important at this time of year when environmental changes and an increase of viruses and bacteria require us to be more vigilant about protecting our gut health. Remember too, that antibiotics can be necessary to cure some forms of infection, but a side effect is always reduced healthy gut flora. To combat this, remember that if you or a loved one does require antibiotics, to follow the prescribed course with a course of probiotics to bring your gut flora back up to tip-top shape.

So, this cold and flu season, keep up with your warm woolly knits, your cosy nesting habits, and your enjoyment of Fall’s outdoor activities! But remember to add the most unexpected way of beating cold and flu season – by upping how you nourish your gut!

We want to be a part of your personal care team. No question or curiosity is too small for us to address together. So don’t be shy to give us a call or shoot us an email! Our door is always open and your road to optimal health is just a phone call or email away.

Immune System Research:

1) Wu, E., and Wu, HJ (2012). The role of microbiota in immune homeostasis and autoimmunity. Gut Microbes 3 (1): 4-14.

Prevent Colds

woman trying to prevent colds and flus

How to Prevent Colds and Flus

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND

Looking to waltz through cold and flu season unscathed and prevent colds and flus?  Here are 5 tips to stay cold and flu free this year:

  1. Up your vitamin D intake.  This time of year you want to be taking more than your usual dose of vitamin D to make up for shorter days and very little exposed skin to sunlight. A trip south may also help increase your vitamin D but also help fend of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).  Personally, I can’t wait for March Break and some warmth and sunshine.
  2. Cut food sensitivities out of your diet.  How can your immune system fight off viruses if it’s busy fighting off your lunch?  If you know you have a dairy sensitivity, avoid dairy. Ok, well maybe after the holiday parties are over.
  3. Eat more ginger – Ginger helps protect against viruses by blocking viral attachment and internalization.  Ginger tea and curries are good ways to incorporate more ginger. There are lots of healthy ways to add some extra ginger to your diet on our recipe page: Gingerbread Cookie Tea, Apricot Ginger Chicken, and Ginger Pear Energy Bars are just a few.
  4. Reduce your intake of sugar sweetened beverages – pop, energy drinks, lattés, chocolate milk, fruit drinks, shakes, and anything else with added sugar. We know sugar suppresses the immune system for at least 3 hours after consumption.  Drink this Cinnamon Chai, Gingerbread Cookie Tea, or New Year’s Resolution Smoothie instead.
  5. Drink green tea. Green tea is the perfect immune system boosting drink. Green tea contains a substance called epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG. This substance can fight bacteria and prevent viruses from multiplying. Green Tea Cheesecake anyone?

Wanting more advice about how to prevent colds or flus, what to take or do if you get a cold or flu or what to do if you are feeling the first signs of a cold or flu?  See one of our licensed naturopathic doctors today.

Want to know when to see a doctor about a cold or flu?  Want to know what should be in your cold and flu prevention tool box? Download and save Dr. Pamela’s handy infographic here:

prevent colds and flu

 

Looking for even more information about colds and flus, natural remedies for colds and flus, tips to stay healthy, herbal remedies for colds and flus, quizzes and immune system assessments?  Purchase the full Cold and Flu ebook here: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/595481

 

Fever in Children

 

sick child with fever

Fever Guidelines in Children

As a parent, I always find the times that my son has a fever unnerving, even though logically I know that the fever is his immune system’s way of launching a full scale attack against a virus, bacteria or other infectious agent. The fact that he has something serious enough to warrant a fever is what unsettles me, but thankfully when he does have one, whatever the illness is resolves quickly and efficiently. Evidence of the effectiveness of a fever against a pathogen.

If you are unsure what to do about a fever, here are some guidelines:

Always seek an MD’s advice if:
1. Your child is under 6 months old
2. Your child is between 6 months and 3 years old and has a temperature of 102 or higher
3. Your child is over 3 years old and has a fever of 104 or higher that does not respond to fever control measures within 4 hours
4. You have a child of any age who is lethargic, listless, unusually sleepy, in pain, extremely irritable or complains of a stiff neck or is having difficultly breathing or if he/she just doesn’t seem right or has unusual or severe symptoms

Otherwise, keep your child comfortable with a tepid bath, a cool cloth, keep them hydrated but don’t force food, offer nurturing, cuddles and comfort.  If your child doesn’t need to see an MD based on the above criteria, but you want to do everything you can to help him/her recover more quickly, our naturopaths do treat children.  If your child gets ill frequently, or severely and you want to improve his/her immune system, our naturopathic doctors can help sort out why he/she gets sick so often and help reduce the frequency and severity of illness.  Herbal medicine, nutritional advice, vitamins and minerals can help support healthy immune system function in children.

By Dr. Pamela Frank, BSc(Hons), ND