Immune boosting Tips from your RDN
It’s that time of year…the cold/flu season! Viruses are going around like crazy. Kids are missing school for weeks at a time…If you’re like me, you already take the basic precautions (think copious amount of handwashing, eating well balanced meals and lots of talk with the little ones about sneezing into a tissue, or more likely, their sleeve:)
So WHY are we still getting sick?? Here’s a couple of things that deserve an honest evaluation, as most of these items can all too quickly get out of balance! When it comes to ways to improve our immune system function, there are many key components. Here are some that are worth our attention:
1. Sugar! Too much is never a good thing, but did you know that sugar has the potential to decrease immune system function by 75%, for up to 6 hours after consuming it?! Not only that, but it competes with Vitamin C in our cells. This means that if our system is saturated with glucose (aka sugar), Vitamin C will be displaced and sugar will rule the system function. My best advice is ditch ALL forms of added sugar (immediately if you are already sick).*Don’t stress out if this seems hard, in my practice, we often take a “baby steps” approach to conquering the sugar monster!
2. Immune Boosting Foods! We’ve always heard, “eat more Vitamin C to fight off colds” and that advice still holds true! We also need increased amounts of Vitamin A and E as well as other key minerals that come mostly from fruits and veggies! The increase in ability to fight off viruses, bacteria and other nasty bugs can be achieved by eating a more colorful diet. Great sources for a variety of colors means making sure your grocery cart contains a rainbow…Think red or dark pink fruits and veggies such as grapefruit, strawberries, watermelon and sweet bell peppers; orange fruits and veggies such as carrots, yams, oranges and peppers; or the very important dark green veggies such as spinach, kale, chard, broccoli and Brussels. The variety of colors means a variety of vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and antioxidants, all of which help our immune system function!
3. Gut Health! The health of our gut is paramount for immune system function, as 80% of our immune function is located in this area. If we have issues with digestion or absorption, we can have impaired immune system function. The good bugs (aka PROBIOTICS) in our gut matter A LOT. There are many food sources of probiotics, such as fermented foods like kim chi, sauerkraut, kefir, miso and (my favorite) kombucha. There are also quality supplements available to help restore good bacteria into the gut and with that, we can better ward off the bad organisms. The gut can be a very complicated piece of our health puzzle, so if chronic issues like bloating, gas, belching, pain or discomfort (just to name a few) trouble us, we need to seek help, as this is NOT NORMAL. *If you need help and want to better understand your gut issues, please reach out to me, it makes me so happy to remove the word “chronic” from anything unpleasant in your life.
Hydration! Hopefully by now we all understand the importance of carrying around a water bottle. Purchasing a nice one, which keeps things cold (or hot) will be an investment you won’t regrets. THE GOAL? Half of our body weight in ounces, as a minimum is a great starting goal. (If we weight 200#, then we would need 100 ounces daily). We’ll need more water if we exercise, live in warm climates and or if we are fighting an illness or infection, drink alcohol or caffeinated beverages, etc. Throughout our day, we can set goals to work towards our daily total (my goal is to finish half of my daily needs before lunch). There are also reminder apps that encourage water consumption and send gentle reminders throughout the day. Bottom line, if our lips and/or skin are dry, we likely need more water!
*Add-ins can make hydrating WAY more fun. Start with half of an organic lemon squeezed into warm water in the morning, aim for 16-20 ounces. Then swap some of that dehydrating coffee (it’s a diuretic) and drink some herbal tea instead. My personal favorite right now is Throat Coat (yes, I too am fighting the virus) by Traditional Medicinals.
4. Sleep! Confession: as I type this important section, I cringe just a little! We all have heard the research. Sleep is key. Without it, we might as well share toothbrushes with the sickest person in the house and prepare for the worst! The majority of us need a minimum of 7-8 hours to be our healthiest. Many need more, especially our kids, those that are sick or that deal with chronic illness or autoimmune issues and the athletes who are training hard most all days of the week. Setting a schedule for bedtime and wake time can help our system work at a more optimal ability.
There are TONS of other ways to improve immune system function, but it is already past my bedtime and my goal of 8 hours sleep is no longer a reality so I should wrap up here. My encouragement is this: Challenge yourself. Challenge your kiddos. Remove junk food from the house. Let each family member pick out a new fruit and veggie at the store each week. Pick an accountability buddy and work on your hydration goal together. Establish a family bedtime and make it something you celebrate with wind-down foot rubs, stories, and recaps of the day…and then pray for good sleep!!
***If the struggle is real, I can help. Schedule a complimentary 30 minute free nutrition consult and we can talk about your goals and establish a plan of action that will help improve your health.
***Please note: If you have underlying health conditions or are on prescription drugs, please consult with your doctor before taking recommendations mentioned.