Winter is upon us and so is cold and flu season. While I see signs everywhere encouraging everyone to get their flu shots –  there are things you can do at home and every day to boost your immunity and prevent those pesky cold and flu bugs from settling in you.

I am a proponent of boosting immunity naturally and building up your body’s defenses so you don’t contract these germs or if you do, you limit their capability or power over your body. Getting your immune system in top  gear should be a priority, especially this time of year when we are hustling and bustling with winter cheer.

So let’s talk about what weakens our body’s amazing defense system. Here are the top 3 immune system attackers:

  • Sugar:  One of the main immune suppressors is sugar!  This includes sweets, sodas, candy and other indulgences. Cutting out sugar can be difficult, because sugar is everywhere, so it is important to start reading labels.  Find out where it lurks in your kitchen, – your breakfast cereal, sauces, crackers, etc.  (Click here to learn how to manage your sugar cravings)
  • Processed foods: Another immune suppressing group of foods is processed or refine foods. Your body needs nutrient dense foods to stay strong, function optimally and fight infection.  Processed foods can cause gut issues, which will in turn weaken your body’s ability to fight germs. Choose produce over boxed foods.  This may be a difficult change for some people, and I advise working with a health coach to successfully make that change. Not only will you build your defenses up for this season, but for a lifetime!
  • Stress:  Your state of mind affects your state of health. Stress, loneliness, depression and anger all contribute to your wellbeing. And there are amazing studies in the fields of immunology & psychology to show that negative emotions actually lower your body’s ability to fight infection. This is why it is so important to always strive for harmony in our relationships, jobs, home and self.  Focusing on being thankful and filling our minds with happy, comforting thoughts will increase your resistance.

Now the good news is there are several methods we can start adopting now to get our immune systems in gear to wage this war. I would advise doing all of them. Here are some suggestions you can start to implement on a daily basis.

  • Increase water, eliminating soda and other sugary beverages.  Lemon water is useful, as is herbal teas like peppermint, spearmint, or immune boosting blends from tea makers like Traditional Medicine.
  • Sleep – getting adequate sleep each night is very important to keeping your body strong.  lack of sleep really may make us more prone to catching colds and the flu.  When you sleep your body produces the hormone melatonin. It’s a powerful antioxidant and free radical scavenger that helps combat inflammation. Sleep loss not only plays a role in whether we come down with a cold or flu. It also influences how we fight illnesses once we come down with them.
  • Eat vegetables and fruits high in Vitamin C.  Oranges, kiwi and okra are high in antioxidants and vitamin C. But all fruitseating well color wheel and vegetables offer substantial nutrients to keep your body strong and healthy.   And then there are “Superfoods” like Elderberry, Acerola Cherry and Camu Camu, which are some of my favorites. You can find in supplement or powder form.
  • kaleGreens! I can’t emphasize enough how important green vegetables are to the body. If you don’t like them, find a way to like them because they will treat you well. Greens are high in nutrients and chlorophyll. Chlorophyll benefits the body in a number of distinct and unique ways. It is known to be a green element that helps to cleanse the body of harmful toxins. It is also an active agent that the body uses to fight infection.
  • Eat seasonally.  Fall and winter is the time to focus on warmer, heartier foods like soups, stews, root vegetables, squashes and whole grains if you can digest them well enough.  Also warm spices like ginger, curry, cumin and clove.  It is also the time to reduce your consumption of cooling summer foods if you are in the north, like watermelon, peaches, tomatoes, salads, etc.   Homemade soups are always the best ways to strengthen the body. Make a pot one day and eat throughout the week. Chicken soup, bone broths and rich vegetables stews are deliciously warming on a cold day.

Despite our best efforts, sometimes we just get sick.  In this case, try working with the body instead of against it. Get rest, drink plenty of fluids, sweat it out, and of course consult with your doctor if you are not getting better.