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October 28, 2016
I love the fall season. The colorful trees, leaves everywhere. Turkey dinners and fresh outdoor hikes. However the shorter, greyer, colder days mean the beginning of the cold and flu season. As an herbalist and a mom, I know that prevention is key and that means preparing our bodies for optimal health, so that our immune systems are ready for whatever might come our way.
The Journal of Nutrition conducted a study on healthy subjects in Calgary and found that their vitamin D levels were insufficient by an average of 64%. Other studies have shown that Canadians and those in the northern US states all test low in vitamin D. In the winter months, they considered it essential to supplement in order to maintain healthy levels of this very important nutrient. Vitamin D boosts our immune cell activity and regulates an overactive immune system in the case of autoimmune conditions. The dosage range varies from a minimum of 800 i.u./day to 8000 i.u/day depending on your personal needs. A blood test can be done through your doctor upon request to assess your vitamin D levels.
While it’s true that many of us have busy schedules, studies tell us that getting just 20 minutes of moderate exercise per day enhances lymphatic function. This causes our white blood cells and antibodies to circulate more effectively. These immune cells are critical for being able to detect and deal with incoming pathogens. Try bouncing on a trampoline, a brisk walk at lunch, stair climbing at home, or a gym class with a friend. Your children also learn by example, so it’s important that they see your healthy habits in action!
This is one of my favourite herbs for the whole family in preventing viral and bacterial infections. It increases immune cell activity and helps our bodies to better deal with stress. In Chinese medicine, this herb is known as huang qi, and is considered a deep immune tonic used in the prevention of colds, influenza, bronchitis, and other infections. It is safe for children and adults alike. Take astragalus as a daily tonic to prevent illness and to raise your immune defenses. For those with autoimmune conditions, it is always best to check with your health practitioner before using any herb on a daily basis.
Smoothies have become a popular and powerful way of delivering nutrition to the whole family and they can play a big role in immune boosting as well. However, in the fall and winter months, it is best to skip the ice. Ice is too cooling for this time of year, and Chinese medicine tells us that it weakens the digestive system which houses much of our immune cells and is responsible for nutrient absorption. A delicious smoothie packed with vitamin C rich foods can be made while keeping the smoothie at room temperature. If you like to use frozen berries, then simply toss them into some hot water to thaw them out first and try a ripe banana instead of a frozen one. Check out some of our yummy recipes that the whole family will enjoy.
Fermented foods are pivotal in improving the health and terrain of our digestive systems which regulate our immune function by way of the microbiome. From our mouth to our colon, their sour taste stimulates our saliva and gastric juices, while populating our digestive tract with numerous plant-based probiotics. These good bacteria help to keep the pathogenic organisms at bay and ensure that we’re able to fight off the bugs that come our way.
When you add Epsom salts to a nice hot bath, it provides much more than peace and relaxation. Epsom salt is made of magnesium sulphate and it supports detox as well as boosting immunity. Dr. Ramsey at the Center for Natural Healing says that Epsom salts spur a process called vasodilation, which increases white blood cell production and helps the body fight illnesses quicker. It is also a lovely way to bring your day to an end and get you in the mood for a good restorative sleep.
When we do the work to boost our immunity, we also end up creating more energy and a happier mood. As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!