I just love this time of year! The leaves turn to vibrant shades of red and gold, the weather gets cooler so I can wear my favorite sweaters and boots (you know, the important stuff), and hearty roasts and stews are back in our meal rotation.
One thing I don’t love though is the abundance of people getting sick! For some folks it seems to be a never ending battle that has them running for the over the counter meds that really only prolong their sickness. It can be so frustrating, but there is more you can do!
To help you fight back this season, here are my favorite tips for strengthening your immune system!
1. Love Your Guts!
Approximately 80% of your immune system resides in your gut. Yup, that’s right! With a percentage like that, you can imagine then that a healthy gut = a healthy body. When we consume foods that are detrimental to our gut health, it can overburden our immune system and make it pretty darn difficult to fight back against viruses and bacteria that can make us sick.
Avoid foods with refined flours, added sugars, and artificial ingredients that can irritate the gut, push our blood sugar through the roof and cause inflammation throughout the body.
Opt for nutrient rich foods like organic vegetables and fruits, pasture raised meats, healthy fats and fermented foods to give our body the ammo it needs for protection.
2. Slurp it up!
Soup can be incredibly healing, but not if you’re just turning to the boxed or canned soups and broth! Homemade bone broth is where it’s at when it comes to being a nutritional powerhouse! Bone broth provides nourishing gelatin that can heal and repair the lining of your gut as well as some essential minerals that fuel many functions in the body. A healthy, intact gut lining means that large food molecules can no longer pass through it, triggering our immune system to attack.
Last week I shared my recipe for Nutrient Dense Bone Broth. This is my favorite way to make broth and I find it’s so much more flavorful than any other broth I’ve had before! Be sure to check out my post to learn how to make your own bone broth and why it’s so nutritious!
3. Boost Zinc
The mineral Zinc is best known for it’s immune boosting powers. Zinc is necessary for keeping inflammation in check, responding to infections in the body and even aiding in the production of stomach acid (one of our front-line defenses against infection). Look for it in foods like oysters and other shellfish, grass-fed beef, pumpkin seeds and spinach, just to name a few.
How do you know if you might be zinc deficient? Here are a few signs to look for: decreased sense of taste or smell, poor memory, chronic diarrhea, and frequent infections. If this sounds like you, I recommend finding a practitioner that can work with you one on one to help resolve these symptoms.
Don’t underestimate the power of water!
Water makes up 98% of mucus, with the remaining 2% as the physical structure that traps water. Mucus lines your air pathways to trap potential allergens, dust and debris preventing them from entering your lungs. As you can imagine, when you’re dehydrated, that mucus can’t do it’s job effectively. Have you ever experienced getting sick after being on a long plane ride? If not, you probably know someone that has. The dry air in the plane can be dehydrating, so not only might you be thirsty, but you’ve been breathing in more than you were hoping for.
So, how much water is right? A good rule of thumb is to divide your body weight by 2 to get the number of ounces of water to drink. For example, a 140 lb person should get at least 70 oz of water each day.
5. Just Chill & Get Some Zzz’s
We all know that person that is a go-getter with the Type A personality that just never seems to get sick, right? That might even be you! These people are typically the most sick! When we are constantly on the go and dealing with stress, whether it’s from our lifestyle, emotions or what we eat, our immune system is more concerned about keeping us alive than dealing with a virus we may have picked up from a coworker. That virus can lay dormant inside of you until the immune system can actually deal with it.
If you see this trait in yourself, it might be time for you to evaluate the stressors in your life. Consider taking up meditation, finding time to do something you love, or learning to say ‘no’ to things that do not serve you.
Sleep is also critical for letting our bodies renew and recharge. Typically, adults should be getting somewhere between 7 and 8 hours of sleep each night. Some people do need more, however. (Raises hand…)
The average American is getting much less than 7 hours of sleep each night, which can lead to chronic health concerns. If you’re one of those people getting less than 7 hours of sleep, make it a priority to start getting into bed a little earlier each night. Make sure that your bedroom is dark and a little cooler than you might keep the rest of the house. It’s helpful to discontinue use of electronics at least 1-2 hours before bed. This will allow the body’s natural circadian rhythm to stay in sync. Keep it up and you’ll likely find increased energy and focus, as well as the ability to fight off sickness much more easily.
With all of that said, remember that getting a cold from time to time is perfectly natural. It’s also a great sign that your immune system is working! Every little step in the right direction can lead you to a healthier you. You’re totally worth it!