Fall. Golden leaves. The crisp-linen scent of impending snow. Pulling the cozy sweaters out of the closet. The return of kidlets to school. The closed windows. The first co-worker, child, or family member that sneezes. The thick green-yellow snot oozing out of your child's nose. The headache. The chills. The irritated, sore throat. The cough. It's back-to-school season! Can you keep the family healthy? Can you prevent colds and flus? Can you improve upon recovery time?
Yes. You may still get colds and flus (it's normal, and part of having a healthy immune system), but decreasing the number of days you're out of commission, decreasing the yearly frequency of viral infections, and improving the responsiveness of your immune system can be achieved with lifestyle adjustments.
It starts with diet.
Avoiding sugar - cane sugar and artificial sweeteners both disrupt immune function. Sugar suppresses interleukin-6, an inflammatory cytokine that helps fight infections. Sucralose, an artificial sweetener, reduces interleukin-10, a protein produced by the immune cells that promotes healing and antibody production. Sugar also increases overall inflammation. Choose foods that naturally taste sweet, like berries, apples, and carrots.
Limit wheat and cereal grains like rye and barley, as these contribute to dysfunctional immune processes and inflammation. Consider grains with less gluten, like quinoa, brown rice, amaranth, and millet.
Improve your intake of Vitamin C, D, E, and A. These vitamins are necessary for proper immune function, helping the body fight viral and bacterial infections, and supporting antibody production.
Vitamin C sources include: broccoli, dark green leafies, orange or red bell peppers, kiwi, and citrus.
Vitamin D sources include: shiitake mushrooms, egg yolk, sardines, and salmon.
Vitamin E sources include: almonds, avocado, sunflower seeds, spinach, and beet greens.
Vitamin A sources include: sweet potato, spinach, carrots, kale, and Swiss chard.
Sleep is also an important part of healthy, optimized immune systems. Sleep supports lymphatic function (where white blood cells hang out), and optimizes antigen presentation (so antibodies can identify and respond to the invader).
Stress management is imperative - chronic stress can suppress immune function, affecting T cells negatively, and impairing the function of white blood cells. Meditation, exercise, relaxation, mindfulness, and gratitude can all decrease the impact of chronic stress on your body.
Other things to add in (that we love in our house) are:
Astragalus - an herb that protects the body from stressors, supports the immune system, and has antiviral properties
Probiotics - regulate the immune system, supports healthy digestion and elimination
Multivitamin - good quality multivitamin and mineral supplement ensures adequate support for metabolic and immune function
Vitamin D3 - added immune support
Talk to your naturopathic doctor about individualized immune support for you and your family.
The in vitro effects of artificial and natural sweeteners on the immune system using whole blood culture assays.
Fast food fever: reviewing the impacts of the Western diet on immunity
Stress, Food, and Inflammation: Psychoneuroimmunology and Nutrition at the Cutting Edge
Sleep and immune function
The Dietary Intake of Wheat and other Cereal Grains and Their Role in Inflammation
Ascorbic acid: its role in immune system and chronic inflammation diseases.
Role of vitamins D, E and C in immunity and inflammation.
Enhancing versus suppressive effects of stress on immune function: implications for immunoprotection and immunopathology.
Randomized Controlled Trial of Mindfulness Meditation for Generalized Anxiety Disorder: Effects on Anxiety and Stress Reactivity