Cold and Flu season hit HARD this year-- and I don't think any of us were quite prepared. I like to think of the three of us as pretty darn healthy. We eat real foods, we stay active, and we don't get sick often-- until this year. Chalk it up to a kiddo in pre-school, gymnastics, dance and sunday school-- not to mention two busy parents, too, but it seemed like we were hit over and over in December and January, passing sickness between us in what felt like a never-ending loop. Until I wised up. We were focusing so hard on healing our various ailments, but we weren't taking the time in between to work on prevention. Sure, we were eating healthy, hitting up the gym and using natural remedies to ward off the coughs and sniffles- but we weren't exactly focusing hard on preventing them from happening in the first case. And when you live busy lives like us, and most of you I know do, too-- it's easy to just let life happen- and before we know it, we're knocked down, once again. The irony is- prevention really isn't hard. It's just about being proactive. It's more than just washing our hands. It's about boosting our immune system, from the inside out, so when sickness hits- our body fights it, harder and faster, and comes out stronger. So let's take a stand against colds and coughs this season, and focus on creating stronger immune systems, for our whole family. Here are my top 10 simple tips for boosting your family's immune system.
1. Focus on whole foods. Sounds simple, right? But with the busyness of life, I know this can be easier said than done. We all want convenience, but our health depends on our bodies being strong- and our first line of defense is to fuel our bodies well. The easiest ways I have found to focus on whole foods are to choose simple recipes, meal plan and meal prep so healthy food is always on hand.
2. Get to bed. Inadequate sleep sets our body up for illness. When we don't get adequate rest, our bodies simply don't work at optimum levels- and that includes our immune system. 3. Keep your gut healthy. Up to 70% of the body's immune defenses are housed in the gut- making a healthy gut essential for a healthy immune system. Studies have shown and increasing link between healthy gut microbiota (bacteria) and a strong immune system; even protective mechanisms against autoimmune diseases. Keep your gut healthy by taking probiotics, eating probiotic rich foods like yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut and other pickled foods; and consuming collagen and collagen-rich foods like bone broth, on the regular. Next month we will be spending the whole month discussing gut health-- so stay tuned! (Join us in the Healthy Mama Life Facebook community for a Give it to the Gut- a free course in gut health)
4. Get some sunshine. Vitamin D is a key factor in immune health, and the best way we get it is directly through our skin- from the sun's rays. Spending 15-20 minutes in the sunshine each day (yes, even in the winter- though you should be out there longer, then) will help boost Vitamin D stores (taking a liquid Vitamin D supplement helps, too- especially for those in Northern climates).
5. Decrease [added] sugar intake. Sugar has especially detrimental effects on the immune system; most notably the refined variety. In the 1970′s Dr. Linus Pauling (one of the greatest researchers in the field of microbiology) discovered that vitamin C helps the body to combat the common cold. As part of the same research, Dr. Pauling found that sugar severely slows down this same process. [source] Choose naturally sweet foods like fruit, or use honey in baked goods. Honey, especially local, raw honey has proven benefits for the immune system.
6. Load up on protein. We don't need to be at bodybuilder-level, here, but getting adequate protein with each meal is essential for fighting foreign invaders-- protein makes up the building blocks of our cells, and that includes immune-fighting agents such as leukocytes [white blood cells] as well as our gut mucosa. 7. Spice up your foods. Think of herbs and spices as little immune powerhouses. The stronger the flavor, most likely, the stronger the immune-boosting effect. Curcumin in turmeric root has been shown to have powerful immune modulating effects, as has oregano, thyme, garlic, cayenne pepper and ginger. Including a variety of immune-boosting herbs and spices in foods regularly can help your body naturally fight disease (and your kids will never know you're helping them get healthier!).
8. Get moving (but don't over-do it). We all know how important physical activity is for our overall health, and that includes our immune system. Daily activity is important for our health and wellbeing-- even if it's just a short walk on our lunchbreak or a quick trip to the park for the kids. The key here, is to not overdo it. In our constantly harried, go-go-go lives, too much activity, in the form of stressful activities like rushing to the gym to squeeze in a workout- can have the opposite effect on our immune system. So listen to your body- get in activity when you can, but don't let it become a stressor! 9. Pass the fish. They're good for your heart and brain, but Omega-3 fats have also been shown to enhance the function of certain immune cells (immune-B cells). Another reason to enjoy salmon, tuna and other fatty fish on a weekly basis. Kids don't care for fish? Try these simple salmon cakes- they're kid-approved!
10. Eat the rainbow. Back to that general nutrition, again! There really isn't much more powerful you can do than focus on eating real, whole foods to boost your family's immune system and overall health. Foods that are colorful contain a variety of immune-enhancing phytochemicals and antioxidants. A diet abundant in a variety of colorful foods is not only fun, but boosts your family's health and immune system, too. Try blue and red berries, bright leafy greens, purple eggplant and cabbage, red, orange and yellow bell peppers, bright multicolor carrots, healthy fat filled black hemp and chia seeds and more. Choose at least 3 colors each time you go to the grocery store-- and let your kids pick, too! Do you have favorite tips for boosting your family's immune system? Share with us!