Change is upon us, especially here in the Pacific Northwest. You may have already pulled your jackets out of the closet and are finding you're slipping on pants more than shorts lately. The leaves will soon begin to change and settle on the ground. School is back and that means --- GERMS.
One of our biggest passions as naturopathic doctors is prevention. We have so many tools at our fingertips, inspired by nature, to help optimize our health and improve our immune function. We don't always think of it as avoiding getting sick, because that is likely inevitable (and actually really good for our immune systems to have a little extra work sometimes). What we want is for our immune system to know exactly what to do when there is an invader (microbes/germs) and work in a very efficient way to clear our body of what it doesn't need.
We have compiled a list of our top 5 favorite immune boosting tips!
1. Minimize Sugar
This one can be tough, we know. But sugar absolutely suppresses immune function and it can also feed and fuel microbes. It is best to minimize or avoid sugar altogether when you're feeling run down or the onset of a cold.
2. Drink Warm Tea
Warm water washing through your mouth, throat and traveling to your stomach can help mobilize microbes (bacteria or viruses) down to the stomach where they cannot survive in the acidic environment. This action is enhanced when the tea you choose has herbs in it that help support the immune system. There are many out there, pick your favorite and drink up! Some of our favorite, relatively safe immune herbs are: Echinacea, Elder flower, Peppermint & Wild Cherry bark.
3. Wash up!
Make washing your hands a regular activity in your house, especially if you have little ones around. Get in a routine of washing hands when you get home for the day, before dinner & before bed, in addition to the more common times of after using the restroom, wiping your nose or sneezing. This really helps to keep a clean environment for your body. Additionally, avoid touching your face with your hands (unless when necessary when hands are freshly washed). Fingers rubbing eyes or getting near the eyes is the most common way germs are introduced to the body.
4. Vitamin D
Vitamin D3 effectively modulates the innate & adaptive immune responses, this means that it improves the function of your body's immune response to all invaders. Most people know vitamin D is absorbed from sunlight exposure to our skin but for a number of factors, absorption is often limited. Especially if you're living here in the Pacific Northwest, supplementation is often warranted to help with immune function and other body systems. Talk to your health care practitioner about the best dose for you!
One study followed participants from 1988-1994 and found that individuals with lower vitamin D levels were more likely to report upper respiratory infection.
Elderberry (or Sambucus) is a potent anti-viral and generally safe herb to give to all ages. It often comes in a honey base or glycerite but can also be present in other herbal blends. One in vitro study found that in the presence of Sambucus, viral load was diminished by 4 times. You can take this daily, 1tsp orally for immune support and to help ward off viral infections.
Feel free to comment on your favorite immune supporting tips! We'd love to hear from you.
In optimal health,
Dr. Curtiss & Dr. Stang
Vitamin D & Immune Function: Ginde AA, Mansbach JM, Camargo CA., Jr. Association between serum 25-hydroxyvitamin D level and upper respiratory tract infection in the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Arch Intern Med. 2009;169(4):384–90.
Elderberry & Viral Infection: Chen C, Zuckerman DM, Brantley S, et al. Sambucus nigra extracts inhibit infectious bronchitis virus at an early point during replication. BMC Veterinary Research. 2014;10:24. doi:10.1186/1746-6148-10-24.