Health is everything. This was emphasised last year with the pandemic. Now more than ever we need to make sure our health is in check so that we can get through winter. As a mom, it is tough looking after a sick child or children, but it is truly next level to be sick and to look after children. We often martyr ourselves and I see a lot of moms, “trying to push through” when they have flu and end up getting something like bronchitis through a secondary infection. When I say I see moms? It is me; I do this constantly. Hopefully, this year I will manage to keep my immune system in check and if the dreaded flu or worse arrives, I ask for help so that I can recover.
Here are my ten ways to boost your and your family’s immune system this winter.
- Sleep: Are you not getting enough? Recommended sleep is 7-9 hours per night. I know, I know, that seems like a funny joke for most moms but our immune system is designed to protect us and if we are not getting enough sleep our immune systems are unable to work and we are then susceptible to colds and flu.
- Avoid stimulants: Smoking depresses anti-bodies which affect the immune system; they also reduce the amount of oxygen in the brain, muscles and heart. So cut them down as much as possible, even better cut them out completely for the best results. Keep the alcoholic drinks down to a minimum too. Excess alcohol can reduce the ability of white blood cells to kill germs. Stick to 1 drink per day or less to keep your immune system working well.
- Clean Eating: Limit your sugar intake (and no I am not the sugar police, if you want a little here and there, I get it, but it really does affect your immune system), yes that means your “white” refined carbs too as these are broken down to glucose. Eat a variety of fresh fruit and veg. The goal should really be to avoid processed food as much as possible. If you have the time, try make things from scratch. HINT there are many hidden sugars in most processed foods and sauces. Slow cookers are great for this. For more info on the evils of sugar then check this website: www. thatsugarfilm.com.
- Manage stress levels: When we are stressed our brain sends signals to our endocrine system. Certain hormones are then released. As our body adapts for “fight or Flight” our normal activities are put on hold. This is ok every now and then and is body is designed to cope with these emergency situations. The problem comes in when we are in a constant state of stress. This is called often called distress and can suppress our immune function. Psychology today.com says “Some experts claim that stress is responsible for as much as 90% of all illnesses and diseases, including cancer and heart disease. The way it does this is by triggering chemical reactions and flooding the body with cortisol that, among other things, decreases inflammation, decreases white blood cells and NK cells (special cells that kill cancer), increases tumour development and growth, and increases the rate of infection and tissue damage.”
- Echinacea: So what is Echinacea? It is a flowering plant that grows in the US. The scientific results on this one are really varied. Some claim that this natural remedy is wonderful to use, while others claim it has had no results. I have tried it myself when feeling a bit under the weather and it really seemed to help me. Remember to consult a professional like a Homeopath for side effects and dosage. (I am not a doctor and am just passing on what works for me and my family)
- Garlic: Garlic has been known for centuries for its antiseptic, antifungal and nutritive properties. It is suggested that we eat it in its raw form to get the best results. So no, we cannot go eat a done of garlic bread smothered in cheese and hope for the best (unfortunately). You can however find it in some multi-vitamin/immune boosters.
- Sunshine: Vitamin D helps us absorb calcium, which is needed for development of bones and teeth, but it also helps to normalise our immune systems. Try taking a quick walk outside or eating your lunch in the sunshine. 15 minutes a day is all you need.
- Regular moderate exercise: Exercise reduces the levels of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. It also stimulates the production of endorphins (body’s natural pain killers and mood elevator’s) and promotes production of neurohormones like norepinephrine, associated with cognitive function and learning. Exercise can also affect behavioural aspects like strength and stamina increasing.
- Pro-biotics: We all need “good bacteria” in our gut to assist with digestion. They are found in fermented dairy products like natural unsweetened yoghurt and kefir.
- Zinc: Zinc is a mineral that is very important for the body. It supports growth and helps heal wounds. You can find zinc in beans, nuts, and red meat.
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