Typically, this is the time of year when we hear the term "immune system" come up quite a bit. That's because, as the temperatures start to drop and the weather becomes more inclement as it relates to harsh winds, sleet and snow, it can start to take a toll on our health. Not to mention the fact that flu season (which usually runs between October thru April) is on the horizon as well.
Yet what actually does our immunity consist of? Well, white blood cells, antibodies, our lymphatic system, spleen, thymus and bone marrow all play a direct role in fighting off germs, viruses, bacteria and anything else that could cause us to catch an infection or get really sick. That's why, it's imperative that we never take our immune system for granted; that we do all that we can to keep it strong and healthy, so that it can combat anything that may try and come our way this fall and winter season. Are you ready to learn 10 relatively easy ways to do just that?
1. Up Your Vitamin C Intake
Let's start with something that actually might be pretty obvious to most of y'all. The reason why I say that is because, probably ever since you were a little girl, your mama (or grandma or auntie) talked about how Vitamin C helps to fight colds. And she would be right.
Something that's interesting about this particular vitamin is your body is unable to produce it; this means that you need to either take it in supplement form or via your diet. It's important that you not skip out on getting Vitamin C into your system because it's an antioxidant that helps to build up your body's defenses, manages your blood pressure, helps to keep your iron levels balanced and, it also helps to increase your white blood cells so that your body is better equipped to fight off infections.
So, how much Vitamin C do you need? Around 90 mg a day is cool. If you feel a cold coming on, you can consume as much as 1,000-2,000 mg before side effects like diarrhea, nausea and abdominal cramping set in. However, it should go on record that close-to-overdosing on Vitamin C, thinking that it will help you, doesn't really do much good. For one thing, you will urinate out what your system doesn't need and, it's not a vitamin that prevents the onset of a cold so much as it speeds up the recovery process once you already have one. As far as the foods that are high in Vitamin C—citrus fruits, broccoli, red and green peppers, tomatoes, white and sweet potatoes, berries and kale and spinach are just some that can give your body a healthy dose of this must-have nutrient.
2. Consume Whole Plant Foods
If you want your immune system to remain uncompromised, you definitely need antioxidants; ones that are able to keep harmful pathogens (bacterium and viruses that trigger disease) at bay while also fighting off free radicals (which damage cells and even DNA) in the process. Something that is loaded with the antioxidants that you need in order to combat both of these health-related issues are whole plant foods. They're the kinds of fruits and vegetables that are considered "whole" because they include very minimal processing. While whole plant eating shouldn't be confused with veganism or vegetarianism, individuals who follow a whole plant diet, typically eat less meat in comparison to their produce intake.
By the way, if you especially make sure to eat fruits and veggies that are high in fiber, that can help to remove toxins out of your system while also providing your gut (which is where 80 percent of your immune system resides) with good bacteria. If eating more whole plant foods is what you're interested in doing, click here for a list of fruits and veggies that are in season during the fall and wintertime.
3. Lay Off of Grain-Based Foods
While inflammation is a topic that deserves its own article, the short version is, it's a natural defense to an injury or illness. While a short-term amount of inflammation is OK, if your body remains in a high state of alert where inflammation-related chemicals continue to flow throughout your system, that can negatively impact your organs and tissues. And guess what can actually trigger an inflammatory response in your body? Grain-based foods. What exactly fits into this category? Bread, pasta, cereal, tortillas and even grits. Listen, I'm not saying you can't eat these things. All I'm saying is if you do and you start to feel a little less than great, cutting back on those types of things could prove to be beneficial. Try it and see.
4. Cook with More Garlic
As far as natural remedies to fight off illnesses go, I'm not sure if there are too many things that top garlic. Since it's a plant that's a part of the Allium (onion) family, this means that garlic has its fair share of sulfur (33 sulfur compounds, to be exact); this is relevant because sulfur is proven to increase your body's resistance to viruses. Garlic is also high in the kind of antioxidants that reduce the amount of oxidative stress that your body produces. It also helps to detoxify heavy metals out of your system, lower your cholesterol levels and cut the time you're sitting with a cold or the flu by as much as 61 percent! Impressive indeed.
5. Drink Some Echinacea Tea
The fall and winter seasons are definitely the time of year when a warm cup of tea (with honey) sounds pretty amazing. If you're trying to figure out which tea you should add to your collection, how about some echinacea? It's actually the kind of tea that is popular for both preventing and shortening the lifespan of a common cold. Plus, it's something that can help to increase the production of your white blood cells so that you are able to ward off infections before they set into your system. Just keep in mind that if you're someone who has an allergic reaction to any flower in the daisy family (ragweed, chrysanthemums, etc.), you might want to pass on this particular tip. Echinacea is a flowering plant that is a part of that family too.
6. Take Some Krill Oil
If you're not familiar with what krill oil is, it's basically an oil that comes from animals like lobsters, crabs and krill (so, if you're allergic to shellfish, you should take a pass on this particular suggestion as well). It's an oil that is gaining traction in popularity because it's loaded with omega-3 fatty acids; in fact, it has a reputation for being more effective than fish oil (which is pretty bomb). The reason why it's a great way to boost your immunity is because krill oil fights bodily inflammation (which again, can lead to illness). As a bonus, krill oil is known to relieve PMS symptoms and soothe aching joints too. If this is something that you'd be interested in trying, click here to read a list of the best brands that are currently on the market.
7. Keep Some Clove Oil on Tap Too
Listen, if you've got a toothache, something that will nip it in the bud is clove oil. I mean, I have never encountered something that will significantly reduce oral pain like it can. OK, but this is about building up your immune system, so let me stay focused. Because cloves contain very potent antibacterial, antiviral, antimicrobial and antifungal properties, it's hailed as being an ultimate natural antiseptic. Whether you opt to put a couple of drops of the oil into your favorite tea to relieve nausea; mix it with a carrier oil like coconut or grapeseed, put it on a cotton ball and rub it on your forehead to open up your blood vessels and bring headache relief; you rub it on chest to break up congestion, or you cook with cloves to boost your immune system, cloves can bring immediate relief to cold-related symptoms in a way that few other all-natural remedies can. If you'd like to incorporate it more into your diet, apple butter, Blueberry Gluhwein (which is basically a fancy mulled wine) or Moroccan-Spiced Carrot Hummus are some creatively delicious DIY ways to get cloves into your system if they're not something that you're used to consuming on the regular.
8. Walk Outdoors
As it gets colder outside, sometimes we want to spend less time outdoors. But actually, it's during cold and flu season that you should be out more than usual. Just because the temperature may be lower, that doesn't make the sun any less effective and Vitamin D is something that we are able to get directly from sunlight. The more Vitamin D you have in your system, the better you'll be at fighting off viral infections including the flu and even COVID-19. In fact, many people who are susceptible to illness are oftentimes lower in Vitamin D than they should be.
And what about the days when it's simply too chilly to step out? No problem. Open up our window treatments. The natural light can get into your house—and body—that way too. What about Vitamin D supplements? You can certainly take those, but it tends to be more effective (on the potency tip) to get your Vitamin D via Mother Nature. (By the way, foods that are high in Vitamin D include cheese, egg yolks, salmon, tuna and mushrooms.)
9. Have Sex
If you follow my byline enough on this platform, you know that I'm gonna shout-out sex, just as much as I possibly can (check out "10 Things Couples Who (Consistently) Have Great Sex Do", "12 Absolutely Bomb Sex Techniques To Try Tonight" and "How About Having A 'Mindful Orgasm' Tonight?", for starters). The reason why sex makes the list for this article is because, believe it or not, it's another way to strengthen your immune system. For one thing, sex helps to increase the antibodies in your system that fight germs and viruses.
On the oral sex tip, check out "Do You Swallow? The Unexpected Health Benefits Of Sperm" to learn how sperm is basically like the ultimate multi-vitamin. There are also studies that couples who engage in coitus, no less than 1-2 times a week, end up producing more Immunoglobulin A (IgA) than those who don't. What the heck is that? Long story short, it's an antibody that helps your mucous membranes to stay in peak condition so that you get sick less often. Not to mention the fact that sex helps to decrease stress levels; the less stressed you are, the stronger your immune system will be. This brings me to my final point.
10. Reduce Your Stress Levels
If you want to make sure that you don't get sick in the upcoming months, you definitely need to do all that you can to prevent your stress levels from increasing. The reason why is because stress has the ability to literally suppress your immunity which makes you much more vulnerable to falling ill. So, make sure that you get no less than 6-8 hours of sleep, that you exercise at least 2-3 times a week, that you set healthy boundaries in your relationships, that you meditate, and that you drink lots of water (water helps to keep the natural stress hormone cortisol from elevating). And finally, chill out and relax. Do these things regularly, and it can help you to stay cold and flu-free and strengthen your immunity, from fall well through the spring.
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