As we head in to a season change and usually a busier time of year, especially if you’re in a tourism area like us, we wanted to hit you up with a few reminders for your immune health. Even if you’re feeling good right now, strengthening your immune system will carry you through in to the summer still feeling great and hopefully avoiding burnout. We have focused on six immune regulators for you to implement or choose from. Remember that starting out a new routine can be overwhelming so start with one and build up to introducing more of these in to your lifestyle. By the time summer hits, you’ll have a routine that will have you sailing through the season happy and healthy.
#1. Incorporate Zinc in to your diet
Zinc is a mineral. We don’t make zinc in our body- we must get it from outside sources, preferably daily.
How it works:
Zinc maintains the integrity of the immune system by supporting the development and function of white blood cells that fight bacterial and viral infections.
Food sources are oysters and other shellfish, red meat, eggs, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin seed butter and fortified foods like nut milks. Supplements are also available and effective
#2. Vitamin D through sunlight or food source
Your body produces vitamin D naturally when directly exposed to sunlight. The caveat is that you want to be sunscreen free. Fifteen minutes of bare sun exposure is sufficient. Especially for us folks in the northern hemisphere, getting vitamin D is crucial.
How it works:
When a T cell (our inner mini warriors defending our body) is exposed to a foreign pathogen, like a virus, it sends out a flag (the vitamin D receptor) to get the vitamin D’s attention. It searches for vitamin D to come help it function. If there isn’t vitamin D available- the T cell will not activate.
Food sources are wild salmon, mushrooms, eggs and fortified foods. Liquid vitamin D is a great supplement to keep this up, especially in the winter months or if you are working inside often through the sunnier days.
#3. With each meal have a variety of colours on your plate
Eating the rainbow through the day, or in each meal, is going to ensure that you are getting a variety of nutrients. This is the easiest way to eat a balanced meal without having to input your meals in to a nutrient tracker app. The nutrients we are aiming for here are vitamin A, provitamin A, vitamin C, and omega 3s- all found in fresh fruit, vegetables and healthy fats.
How they work:
Vitamin C encourages white blood cell production and helps them function while protecting them. Vitamin A regulates and supports the immune system and enhances the body’s defence system. Omega 3’s help white blood cells do their job effectively and efficiently.
Food sources are blueberries, red cabbage, carrots, red peppers, eggs, chia seeds, turnips, broccoli, kale, oats and all the other whole foods!
#4. Eat more fermented foods
This is a whole foods approach to supporting the balance of the microbiome. The microbiome is a tremendous number of microorganisms that colonize the human body inside and out.
How it works:
The microbiome plays an active role in defending us against various harmful bacteria and viruses. Not just the microbiome in our gut but all over our entire body. How they work together is complex, dynamic and context dependent. It’s being researched heavily. What we know for sure is a healthy microbiome= robust immune system.
Food sources are kombucha, sauerkraut, pickled foods, apple cider vinegar, kimchi, yogurt, miso and natto.
#5. Walk in nature
Dr Qing Li wrote a book called Forest Bathing and he can explain this much better than I can. Here is an excerpt from his book when he was talking about going out in to the forest with a group of his students.
“I took measurements on a normal working day before the trip and again one, two, seven and thirty days after the trip was over. The results showed that natural killer activity and the number of natural killer cells were significantly increased after forest-bathing and that this effect lasted not just for seven days but for as long as thirty days.”
Natural killer cells control viral infections by destroying virus infected cells during infection. They limit the replication of the virus and transmission.
Forest bathing is not a brisk workout in the forest but a slow and steady intentional walk while being mindful of the sounds and smells.
#6. Quality sleep
We all know that sleep makes us feel better but here’s what’s happening. Quality sleep increases our T cells. Our T cells are our little inner warriors that are inside fighting infections for us.
Tips for a better sleep
• Turn screens off at least one hour before bed
• Finish your last meal 2 hours before bed
• Have your last coffee 12 hours before sleeping
• A bedtime ritual that includes a foot massage
• Breath exercise in bed:Inhale 4 seconds, hold 7 seconds, exhale 8 seconds
• Exert energy during the day
Remember to choose one thing to focus on and go from there. Just implementing one of these tips will begin to improve your overall health.
Cheers to a healthy and happy spring!