While I would argue that optimizing health and supporting your immune system should be a regular goal, this year in particular it’s front and centre for obvious reasons.
I wanted to give you some obvious, but clear reminders on how you can positively impact your body and immune system throughout a regular cold a flu season, never mind the cluster that 2020 has brought us.
SLEEP IS KEY
There are a lot of studies looking at how our bodies are affected when we don’t get enough sleep. In fact, getting enough rest is KEY for a well-functioning immune system, and this year is no exception.
The discussion I have a LOT with patients though, is around how much is OPTIMAL. Sure you may be able to sort of function on six hours of sleep, but how many hours do you need to feel fantastic? Aim for fantastic, not just barely getting by. This obviously may mean you need to go to bed earlier than you’d like, but I promise, it’s SO worth it.
EAT YOUR GREENS
I was on a MISSION this year to eat fresh greens all the time. With our first hard frost last night and the forecast looking like we’re into our normal fall now, garden fresh greens are finishing up. This doesn’t mean though that you won’t still have access! I plan on dehydrating a lot of my kale and chard and will blanch and freeze some too. That way I have different ways to use it up throughout the winter.
I also intend to do a LOT of sprouting this winter. The nutrients obtained from greens and sprouts are HUGE to support your overall health and wellbeing.
Aim to get AT LEAST one serving of greens in your daily meals (but ideally at least one serving per meal) to help support your body and immune system.
MOVE YOUR BODY
This is something that I want to encourage, but with a caveat. The goal ALWAYS, is to ensure that exercise and movement stay a positive stressor on your body. If you’re finishing your workouts feeling exhausted and having to lay on the mats for 10+ minutes after you’re done, you’ve done too much or pushed too hard.
It’s really important to check in with your body on a daily basis to see where your energy levels and capabilities are sitting. There will likely be days that you feel like you can push yourself harder and other days where you need to cut back on reps or sets, OR change up your activity entirely.
Days that your body isn’t feeling into it don’t mean you have to lay on the couch—these can be days you go for a walk with your family, do a little restorative yoga, hike a little in nature or do something that’s still moving your body, but while doing it on a level that isn’t adding more stress to your body.
This is another important topic that I’m discussing with patients a LOT. I know that things are normally crazy, and covid has not made any of this easier, to say the least.
BUT, it’s so key and important that we keep your stress levels at a place that your body can maintain.
IMPORTANT NOTE: if you’re a Type A personality (or someone who’s what I would call a “Pusher,” meaning you are go-go-go and always have a mile-long to-do list, we have to look at where your PHYSICAL body (and spirit!) can maintain things on an ongoing basis…not just how much you can continue to push through and FORCE your body to keep going). I see patients ALL THE TIME who push their bodies beyond what they’re able to manage and I promise you, you don’t want to get there.
Take time DAILY, to ensure you’re taking a bit of a personal break…even if it’s for literally 5 minutes. Take some proper deep breaths, have a bubble bath, walk your dog, do a guided meditation…whatever is where YOUR calm place lives. Do it DAILY.
OPTIMIZE YOUR VITAMIN D LEVELS
I posted my vitamin D levels from this spring to my instagram story last week (hint, they weren’t great, especially considering I’d supplemented throughout the winter, THEN went on a 2-week vacation to the Cook Islands).
In my opinion, TESTING your vitamin D level is SO important. It will give us an idea of where you’re starting out and can help us figure out how to dose to what YOUR body needs to get and keep things optimal.
We may also be able to figure out that you’re like me, and have a bit of a genetic disadvantage and not properly convert or utilize vitamin D well. This then means that we then understand that we have to dose you very differently than others to keep levels in a good place.
There have been studies coming out recently to suggest that while vitamin D isn’t necessarily protective against covid in and of itself, that those who have OPTIMAL levels of vitamin D and aren’t considered “low” are seeming to fair better once contracting covid.
GET OUTSIDE IN THE TREES
There are LITERALLY studies to show that spending time in nature and breathing in all the lovely plant compounds like phytoncides can actually increase your WBC count and lower your cortisol levels! You’ll be breathing in cleaner air, moving your body a little, decreasing your stress levels AND supporting your immune system at the same time! Win-win-win.
I would even go so far as to suggest that you don’t need to think about this as time to exercise. Go slow, enjoy the beauty of the surrounding nature and even consider learning about local plants and mushrooms to forage a little!
WORK TO SORT OUT YOUR OTHER HEALTH ISSUES
I’ve been very disappointed that throughout the pandemic, there hasn’t been a big focus on improving health overall. I absolutely believe that hand washing, social distancing, masking, vaccines, etc etc etc are a huge and important part to the overall big picture, but I think that the majority of people could do a little more work to move toward health optimization too.
If you’ve got anything from anxiety/stress to gut issues, hormonal imbalance to fatigue, to the potentially more concerning things like obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, etc, etc, etc, it’s SO important that pandemic or not, we work on getting you as healthy as we can.
This will mean that whether you contract covid or regular old influenza, your body will be in a better place to cope with whatever comes its way.
NEED EXTRA SUPPORT?
I’m here to help if you feel like you need help with any of the above or if you’d like more individualized suggestions around how best to support your immune system.