Have you succumbed to any of the germs going around this winter trying to attack your health? Are you stressing out with all you have to do and thinking you don’t have time to be sick? While no time is a good time to be sick, the holiday season is one of the worst. You have plans to travel, entertain family, parties to go to, shopping to do and of course all the regular busy things our lives demand. Holiday time usually means some days off work too and who wants to spend those days off sick in bed instead of out having fun? Not me! If your immune system is overwhelmed and has let you down here are some ways to help get your immunity back in shape and help get you healthy again.
1. Probiotics to Boost Immunity
Did you know that 80% of your immune system involves the trillions of friendly bacteria in the intestines? Adding probiotics to the diet through fermented foods or supplementation is one way to boost the immune system. There is research reporting that adding to the friendly bacteria that lives in our intestines can reduce the risk of catching a cold or if you do get a cold, can reduce the number of days cold symptoms are present. One study done in the UK with children published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found those taking a probiotic supplement daily had less risk of catching a cold and of those that had a cold they showed 76% less time sneezing and 50% less time with a cough. The children taking the probiotic supplement also missed less school than those taking a placebo. Another study done at the University of Vienna in Austria with factory workers in Sweden found that supplementing the diet with Lactobacillus reuteri stimulated white blood cells and reduced loss of work due to sick days by 33%. Yogurt is a good way to get probiotics into your diet, but be sure to read the label and get one that has live, active cultures and a variety of cultures. Another way is to take high quality probiotic supplements such as acidophilus, bifidus and this full-spectrum probiotic supplement that has 12 key “good bacteria” as well as AFA bluegreen algae.
2. Interact With Others
The more we interact with others and have social relationships the more healthy we are. This has been shown through research studies including one that reported people with six or more social connections being four times more likely to resist the cold virus than people with less connections. According to researchers at UCLA our interactions don’t all have to be positive to give our immune systems a boost. They found couples positively and affectionately discussing marital problems to show the same physical reactions that benefit immunity that exercise does. The same did not hold true however for those couples using sarcasm, insults and other negative language. Those couples actually showed an increase in stress hormones and a decrease in killer cells. This shows that getting your problems out in the open and using positive problem solving skills is beneficial to health, but stay away from screaming matches if you want to keep your immune system in good shape.
3. Get Plenty of Z’s
Not getting enough good quality sleep can contribute to a weakened immune system. That opens the way for germs to attack and make you sick. If you are already sick, you need that extra sleep for the body to use all its energy for healing. A study at the University of Chicago reported men getting only four hours of sleep a night over a week period had 50% less antibodies that fight off the flu than the men who got between 7 ½ to 8 ½ hours of sleep. If you are getting your hours in, but still find yourself tired in the morning, it could be you aren’t getting good quality sleep. About an hour and a half after a person goes to sleep, they enter the REM (rapid eye movement) stage of sleep. When we talk about good quality sleep, this stage is important. This is the stage of sleep that restores the body and when dreams occur. If sleep is interrupted in this stage you may have trouble concentrating the next day, have a lack of energy and find yourself becoming drowsy during the day. Avoid exercise, caffeine, heavy meals or doing anything that can keep you wound up before bedtime. Find a relaxing before bedtime routine and find ways to reduce light and sound in your sleep area to increase your chances of getting a good night’s rest.
Stress… we all have it to some degree in our lives and it can have a definite negative effect on the immune system. When we feel stressed the body releases catecholemines which are hormones necessary for regulation of the immune system. According to Jeffrey Rossman, PhD, psychologist and director of life management at Canyon Ranch in Lenox, Massachusetts, the thymus gland that produces white blood cells shrinks in response to stress and telomeres needed for reproduction of immune cells are damaged by stress. Stress also causes a decrease in macrophage activity. In fighting off stress self help author Martha Beck advises dealing with stress in the moment by taking a break from the stressful situation, looking for patterns you engage in that create stress for you and then resolving to break those patterns. It is especially important to limit your activities and reduce your stress as soon as you start feeling the first symptoms of getting sick. Give yourself a break at that point and if you don’t get everything done on your list for the day or don’t get it done as perfect as you would wish, that’s OK. Congratulate yourself on just making it through the day with the most important things (like taking care of your health) done. For the future to keep your immune system healthy, find a way to help relieve your stress. What that is will be different for different people. It could involve meditation, a relaxing day at the spa, massage therapy or something more active like exercise, a hobby or a sport. Try out various things until you find what works for you as on outlet for stress.
5. Nutritional Solutions
When you start feeling run down and like you might be about to get a cold avoid alcohol, sugar and dairy. Instead drink lots of water and add lemon to it for some extra alkaline. Hot liquids like soups and teas can also be helpful by keeping your body warm and soothing a sore throat. Ginger, curry and turmeric spices are natural anti-inflammatory spices so add them into your soups. Chicken soup is a particularly good soup to add into your diet at these times with the broth being good at thinning mucus and the cooked chicken providing cysteine, an amino acid similar in chemical properties to acetylcysteine which is a drug for bronchitis. Zinc is a crucial mineral for boosting your immune system by helping in the production of white blood cells. Food sources for zinc include beef, oysters, fortified cereals, poultry, and miso. I know sometimes when sick you just don’t feel much like eating anything. You can get lots of good immune boosting nutrition at those times from supplementation. This supplement in particular gives you the nutrition of six of the most extensively researched mushrooms that show positive immune system support: reishi, cordyceps, maitake, shiitake, Turkey Tail, and Agaricus blazei, with astragalus, beta glucan and AFA bluegreen algae. Many varieties of mushrooms have been found useful in killing off bacteria, viruses, and yeast and increasing white blood cells.
Feel better already? Well, maybe not, but at least you have 5 solid tips to get you on your way there. Give these a try and get back to good health and enjoying life.
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