Supporting our immune system during the flu season
Why do people tend be more sick during the winter months? The dead of winter seems to be a time when the days are short and we are searching for warmth and comfort. So why do those little bugs interrupt our lives at this time? The typical cold season begins in October and lasts until about March. We are still enjoying the sunlight and the crisp air during the transition from summer to fall, but when the winter months come our immune systems often fall short. How can we boost our immune systems naturally in order to prevent these winter season viruses and bacteria from invading our daily lives?
Many people make the decision to get vaccines to prevent the flu, but there are also many things that can be done in addition to this or if you decide not to get the vaccine. Health officials were especially concerned this year because of the combined effect of the H1N1 virus and the influenza virus. The H1N1 virus was unpredictable when it was first seen in the U.S., but it is not considered a highly lethal virus. This is good news and we can do so much to protect ourselves from the symptoms of the different strains of these viruses and gear up our immune systems.
Stress is the most predominant factor affecting our immune systems. Stress can’t be completely removed from our lives and in fact some stress is good for growth and development. Getting a full night’s rest is very important for the body to have time to recover and rejuvenate from the day. In order to get good sleep the room has to be completely dark and quiet, and the mind should be fairly clear of worries. This can be seemingly impossible for some people and on some nights, but there are little things that can be done to alleviate the problems. An eye pillow can be worn or dark curtains can be put up to block the light. A really soft eye pillow with lavender scent is especially relaxing. In order to clear the mind, a little journal can be used to let out the concerns of the day. Chamomile and relaxing tea blends are also good to calm the nerves before bed.
Getting enough exercise is also a benefit for sleeping well at night and boosting the immune system. The general recommendation is at least 30 minutes a day of brisk walking. Being outside with nature brings a sense of calm and wholeness, and gives us some expose to the sun giving us vitamin D. Keeping hydrated throughout the day and especially when exercising is very important for the function of the entire body. Drink at least half of your body weight in ounces of water per day.
Multivitamins are a good supplement to maintain the health of the immune system and many vitamins can be found in whole foods. Vitamins B and C are known to support the immune function and can be found in romaine lettuce, cauliflower, spinach, crimini mushrooms, bell peppers, and fish just to name a few. It is important to note that whole foods have different ratios of vitamins and minerals, which is essential for our body to maintain a balance.
These actions are not preventing us from contracting the virus, but they are keeping our guards up to fight all of the common infections. The number one way to prevent contraction is hand washing! By balancing, living our lives in moderation, and in turn supporting our immune system, we can stay strong this winter.
Heather Wickett, Naturopathic Intern
Northwest Natural Medicine