Six immune-boosting strategies: Plan ahead to avoid health pitfalls in fall, winter
By Wendy M. Henrichs
Board Certified Chiropractic Pediatrician and Nutrition Counselor
Any time of year is the perfect time to boost your immune system, but fall is an especially good time. If you have children or grandchildren fall means ‘back to school’ and unfortunately back to exposure to bacteria and viruses. It is a time when you want a healthy immune system to ward off infection and disease. Here are some tips to boost your immune system not only for fall and winter, but throughout the year.
Eat a diet rich in fruits and veggies
Fruits and vegetables are loaded with antioxidants. Blueberries, kiwi, oranges, red bell pepper, broccoli, sweet potatoes and spinach are especially good at supporting and boosting immune function. Organic produce is higher in nutrients and lower in toxins so choose that whenever you can. Including an abundance of fresh veggies and fruits in your diet will help your immune system get ready to handle the fall and winter colds and flu.
Exercise releases endorphins, our happy chemicals, which lower cortisol levels. Cortisol is your stress hormone and it lowers immune system function. Lifting weights and strength training has been shown to increase production of very important immune cells called T-killer cells. These T-killer cells are our first line of defense in warding off cold and flu viruses. Exercise also improves your quality of sleep which will further improve your immune system function. Add physical activity and strength training into your daily routine for a year-round strong and healthy immune system.
Get enough sleep
During sleep your body heals and rejuvenates. Inadequate sleep will decrease immune function over time. Lack of sleep increases your stress hormone cortisol which will in turn further lower your immune system function. Adults need six to nine hours of good quality sleep. Children and teens require nine to 12 hours of good quality sleep. To ensure a better rest turn off your electronics 30 minutes or more before hitting the pillow. Take a walk or do some light exercise after supper, but at least two hours before your bedtime routine. Avoid snacking and alcohol after your evening meal for a more blissful sleep.
Smoking not only causes cancer, but it weakens your immune system making you more susceptible to colds, flu and other infections. Vaping is being marketed to teens and young adults as a ‘safer’ alternative to smoking but has a similar effect to smoking cigarettes so avoid vaping as well.
Avoid alcohol or drink in moderation
Alcohol is converted to sugar which increases cortisol levels lowering your immune function. When you consume alcohol in the evening it will interfere with your REM sleep cycles affecting the quality of your sleep. Lack of good quality sleep will raise cortisol levels further diminishing your immune function. If you enjoy wine or a cocktail with dinner, then limit your consumption to one drink which has been shown to have a minimal effect on sleep quality.
Stress causes the release of your stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol decreases lymphocyte production, your first line of defense from bacteria and viruses. Stress is everywhere, but you can work at controlling it. Exercise as mentioned earlier is an excellent combatant to stress. When your body is under stress, so is your immune system.
Your fall and winter do not have to be plagued with illness. Use these strategies to not only avoid common stressors to your immune system, but also boost your immunity and stay healthy all year long.
Dr. Wendy Henrichs is a board certified chiropractor and nutrition counselor at Timber Land Chiropractic in Rhinelander. For a complimentary chiropractic, nutrition or lifestyle counseling consultation, visit TimberlandChiropractic.com, Facebook, or call 715-362-4852.