Strategies for Staying Healthy and Enhancing Your Immune System
With winter upon us, in full force in almost every part of the Northern Hemisphere, we are not just surrounded by cold weather, but by the consequences as well. Flues and colds are more prevalent to this time of year. Therefore, it is of the utmost importance, that we strengthen our immune system. Immunity is not just a defense against sickness, but it goes hand and hand with overall health. A healthy immune system means you heal faster from injuries. If you have an under active immune system you run the risk of contracting non contagious diseases. You are at greater risk of getting cancer.
On the other hand, if you have an over active immune system, you run the risk of developing an autoimmune disorder such as diabetes, lupus and even rheumatoid arthritis. Over active immune systems are also responsible for allergies. Therefore, it is important to keep your immune system balanced, and for this to be possible we need to consider the importance of having a healthy immune system.
Six Strategies to Achieving a Healthy Immune System
In Delicious Living Magazine, in their article titled “Natural Immunity” are listed six strategies for a healthier immune system. The six strategies are: exercise, prioritize happiness, adding color to your plate, avoiding cool and raw foods during colder months, favor aromatic herbs, and to get enough sleep. Let’s look at each of these in detail.
- Exercise: Physical activity helps to support the work of the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is a series of vessels and glands that transport immune cells and collect waste products from the body. Unlike the cardio vascular system that pumps blood, the lymphatic system does not have an internal pump and relies on physical motion to aid it in transporting immune cells and collecting bodily waste. Another point to consider is the lymphatic system does most of its work during the body’s elimination cycle. The elimination cycle takes place between 4AM and 12 PM and in order for your lymphatic system to work unhindered, it is wise to eat lightly at that time, and fruits are an ideal choice. Eating lightly will help you to not compromise the work of the lymphatic system with a heavy digestion.
- Think Happy Thoughts: Immunity has a very strong connection with the mind. In fact there is even a field of medicine that is devoted to this called psychoneuroimmunology. What this long word means is that there is a branch of medicine devoted to the connection between the mind and immunity. Stress and depression are known to lower immunity. It is important that when one feels overwhelmed to learn to comfort ones self with comfort phrases, or employing some relaxation techniques. My favorite suggestion, would be to read a few good jokes; I have found that during the times, when I have felt at a low, a little humor does lighten the burden.
- Add More Colorful Veggies to Every Meal: Believe it or not, plants have their own immune system, known as photochemicals. Photochemicals are what give fruits and vegetables their rich colors. The more of colored fruits and veggies you eat, the greater the broad spectrum immunity boost your body receives. Good choices of colorful fruits and vegetables are tomatoes, watermelon, grapefruit, grapes, pomegranates, blueberries, carrots, squash, and sweet potatoes. If you want a complete listing of fruits and vegetables as well as their benefits, I highly recommend Gillian McKeith’s book, You are What You Eat. Another added benefit to eating more colorful fruits and vegetables is that you will be more successful in winning the battle of the bulge.
- In Colder Months Avoid Raw and Cool Foods: According to traditional Chinese Medicine, it is advisable to eat as little raw or cold food during colder month as possible. This is because raw foods are harder to break down. I, personally, do not agree with that, because raw vegetables also provide the body with enzymes which aid in digestion. On the other hand, this principle is based on the theory that eating raw or cold food puts a strain on the digestive tract and compromises the immune system. It is suggested that you skip such foods as ice cream, smoothies and salads and instead eat warm oatmeal, soup, and lightly sautéed vegetables. I do recommend, that if you are only going to eat only cooked foods, do take an enzyme supplement to help with digestion.
- Favor Aromatic Herbs: According to traditional Chinese Medicine aromatic herbs strengthen your body’s chee energy. Aromatic herbs are garlic, ginger, and scallions. These herbs aid in opening up sinuses and they cause light perspiration which helps you sweat out any flu. A great menu suggestion is soup made with garlic, scallions and ginger. When cooking try not to overcook your herbs, since this will kill the enzymes in the herbs needed for digestion and healing.
- Get Enough Sleep: Last but not least, get your needed zzzzz’s. Sleep is especially important because it is during your sleep time that your body devotes itself to detox, repair and healing. If you have trouble falling asleep there are many herbal supplements you can take to achieve a good night’s sleep. A few I recommend would be Tryptophan, Valerian Root, L Theanine, Lemon Balm and Chamomile tea.
There are also some herbs you can take to ward of flues this winter. The most popular are Andrographis, which is a bitter plant, native to Asia. Andrographis has antibacterial and immune stimulating properties that help fight flues and colds. It also contributes to lessening the congestion that often accompanies colds and flues. Another beneficial herb is Elderberry. The sugars of this berry promote the production of infection fighting immune cells. Elderberry aids in a quick recovery from flues.
North American Ginseng is great for boosting stamina and immunity; it is especially helpful in warding of upper-respiratory infections. Let us not forget to take our vitamins, Vitamin D help to lessen reparatory illnesses; Vitamin C is also very effective in getting rid of infections.
Your immune system can be your body’s best friend or worse foe. Therefore it is very important to keep yours healthy and balanced. If you exercise and watch your diet as well as take certain supplements for your immune support, you should be on your way to having a healthy and productive winter.
If you would like more information on how to take care of your immune system, I highly recommend reading quality health magazines such as Delicious Living and Energy Times. I also recommend a book by Prevention Magazine, which I also recommend; the book is titled The Immune Advantage. I also suggest that you either go online, or visit your local health food retailer for quality supplements, that can help you cope with flue season. May you all have a healthy and productive winter.