How many times have you heard someone say, “The flu is going around!” or “I just caught the cold my husband had!” I remember when the dreaded “cold season” used to be mainly in the fall and winter months, but now it seems like anytime of the year I know someone who is under the weather. But did you know that it’s NOT inevitable to get sick every time you’re exposed to someone who is? I’ve only had two “colds” in the past five years and I’ve worked in some of the most germ-infested places including heated yoga studios, gyms, preschools, daycare’s and a homeless shelter. How is that possible? Because each and every day I make it a point to build up a healthy immune system. It’s only when I neglect these important steps that I get sick.
Probiotics: Did you know that the majority of our immune system resides in our gut? If you have an unhealthy amount of “bad” bacteria residing in your intestines you are more likely to get sick. Unfortunately, when we consume antibiotics, prescription medications, are exposed to heavy metals or just have a diet filled with processed food, our intestinal flora is compromised. In order to restore a healthy balance of “good” bacteria, it’s important to take a daily probiotic supplement that contains several different strains of bacteria. I currently take Ultimate Flora Adult Probiotic. This brand has a lot of different options depending on the severity of your intestinal tract and even has gummy probiotics for kids!
Sleep: Having an erratic sleep schedule will not only leave you grumpy and groggy, it can lead to more colds, flus and illnesses. When you don’t get adequate shut eye, your body’s ability to respond and fight off foreign invaders is compromised. Studies have shown that people who get an average of seven hours of sleep each night not only have better immune systems, they actually live longer! Some tips for getting sufficient sleep include going to bed/waking up at the same time each day, not using electronics right before bed, avoiding alcohol within six hours of bedtime, meditation and/or stretching before you hit the sheets, reducing stress in your life, and exercise!
Plant-Based Foods: As Hippocrates said thousands of years ago, “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.” There’s no better way to get the proper vitamins, minerals, nutrients and antioxidants you need to ward off illness than through what you put into your mouth each and every day. I truly believe that the fresh greens juice with apple, lemon and ginger that I have for breakfast every morning has helped build my immune system and energy levels tremendously. I continue to eat a vast array of fruits and veggies throughout the rest of my day because that’s what my body needs to perform at its best. Some of the best immune-boosting foods and spices include: ginger, oranges, oats, barley, garlic, mushrooms, papaya, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, tomatoes, broccoli, kale, spinach, Brussels sprouts, berries, bell peppers, thyme, rosemary and sage, to name a few.
Avoid Hormone-Laden Meat: Large meat and dairy companies are looking to create the largest profit possible in the shortest amount of time. They inject antibiotics and hormones into cows, chickens and pigs to make them grow faster and bigger, and to prevent the spread of disease. Unfortunately, if you are not actively seeking out grass-fed or hormone-free animal products, you are not only advocating inhumane living conditions for these animals and promoting global warming, you are consuming some amount of antibiotics, hormones and resistant bacteria each time you eat them. Not only will your immune system be compromised with the exposure to unnecessary antibiotics and bacteria, you too will grow FASTER and BIGGER just like the animals! New studies have shown being overweight or obese can affect the body’s ability to produce white blood cells and antibodies to fight off illness and inflammation. As you can see, it’s a scary cycle! If you are going to consume animal products, I encourage you to buy directly from a local farmer or Farmer’s Market, or look for labels that include organic, hormone-free, grass-fed, and free-range.
Exercise: During moderate exercise, blood flow increases and you start to sweat out the toxic waste from your body! The improved blood flow also promotes circulation of antibodies and white blood cells to help ward off infection and disease. Plus, you feel and look better, right?! So start walking, running, dancing, spinning, boxing or down-dogging every day.
Vitamin Supplements: It can be hard to get all of the nutrients from your food, especially if it’s not organic and because the quality of our earth’s soil is not like it used to be. In addition to following all of the steps above, I encourage incorporating a vitamin and mineral supplement into your diet to boost your immunity. (Remember it’s a SUPPLEMENT not a replacement for fruits and veggies!) The most important antioxidants to look for are: Beta-carotene, Vitamin A, C, & E, B Vitamins (B6 & B12 in particular), Zinc and Selenium. I take Dr. Schulze’s SuperFood Plus!
I guarantee, these easy steps will lead you to a happier, healthier life! Remember, we only have one body…if we don’t take care of it, where else are we going to live?