The weather changes in autumn, cold temperatures set in, and runny noses and sniffles start to seem like an epidemic. Around Hallowe'en, the first snowfall combines with the sugar rush of October 31 to set most of us up for a spate of colds and flu that come and go through the winter. What if, this winter, you discovered a simple way to boost your immune system so you won't get sick? What if there were ten?
People who pick three or more of the suggestions from this list - and stick to them - will substantially improve their immune strength, increase their ability to stay sane and healthy through dreaded cold and flu season, and keep their health and happiness up through the darkest months of the year!
1. Drink your lemons. Lemon is the ideal food for restoring acid-alkali balance. Drinking freshly squeezed lemon juice in water, or adding it to tea, salad dressings (in place of vinegar), baking or cooking, helps maintain the body's internal "climate" at a pH which supports healthy bacteria instead of the viruses and harmful bacteria which thrive in more acidic environments. Apple cider vinegar is another great way to improve your body's alkalinity, but the taste of lemons is much more pleasant!
2. Give your body an herbal boost. Hundreds of herbal supplements and tinctures exist to give the immune system additional support during the winter. I recommend essential oils (especially my favourite winter blend, Thieves) as an excellent source of immune-stimulating compounds, and the rawest and most natural form of any medicinal plant, but there are other supplements which can be effective. Fresh herbs and whole food remedies are always preferable over packaged herbs or supplements, since they have a much higher potency and frequency and your body absorbs more of their value. See also Essential Oils Fight Cold and Flu.
3. Get a full night's sleep. Everybody's different: your body may need anywhere from 6 to 10 hours of sleep each night. Whatever your personal sleep requirement is, get it! Sleep has been linked to balanced hormone levels (including human growth hormone and the stress hormone, cortisol), keeping weight down, clear thinking and reasoning, improved mood, and vibrant, healthy skin.
4. Eat plenty of protein. Protein is a building block for a healthy body, mind, and immune system. Diets low in protein tend to be high in carbs which convert readily to glucose, spiking blood sugar and stressing the pancreas and the immune system.
5. Drink plenty of water. This is almost, but not quite, a given; most headaches occur because despite the number of reminders, people still aren't getting enough water! Headaches and thirst are both signs of dehydration. You should be drinking, in daily ounces, half your body weight in pounds. (i.e. Body weight in pounds, divided by 2 = number of ounces of water per day.) Click here for detailed guidelines - how much water do you need daily?
6. Stop drinking coffee. Contrary to recent marketing as a source of antioxidants, chocolate and coffee are two of the worst things you can do for your immune system and your health. Caffeine robs your body of minerals and vitamins, and it dehydrates you. If you drink coffee, make sure you add an additional two glasses to your water intake per cup of coffee. A mineral supplement helps to offset caffeine's damage, too.
7. Worse yet is the impact of refined white sugar. If you do only one thing to boost your immune system, eliminating sugar will do the trick. You will see noticeable results in your energy levels, weight distribution, immunity and your ability to think clearly when you break the cravings and stop eating refined sugar. Many holistic nutritionists consider sugar a drug for its impact on the human body; some practitioners are known to prioritize eliminating sugar from the diet over recommending that people quit smoking. Healthier sugars such as agave and stevia do exist, but avoid artificial sweeteners; they are even worse than cane sugar.
8. Stock up on raw fruits and vegetables for their antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fibre and enzymes. The nutritional content that you receive from raw fruits and veggies is unparalleled. Many vitamins, including C, are antioxidants and will protect cells - including those of your immune system - from damage by toxins in the environment. Dark-coloured produce (berries, kale, broccoli) tends to be higher in flavonoids, polyphenols and other antioxidants. The perfect source of minerals is seaweed, which is sold dried, but can often be found raw (dried at low temperatures to maintain most of the enzymes and nutrients) in health food stores.
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9. Spend some time out in the cold. Snowball fight, anyone? Exercise can make a noticeable difference to your health and happiness by releasing endorphins. Most of us spend 90% of our lives indoors, inhaling dubiously filtered air and other people's germs, so take every opportunity to get outside. Time spent outdoors in the cold also stimulates the thyroid gland.
10. Nurture yourself. Make sure you take time to yourself, spend some time with friends, and indulge yourself in a massage, a hot bath, or an energy work session when you want one. Our bodies respond to our emotions - if you're feeling harassed and anxious, it can manifest in a sore throat or a cold. Create a space within yourself and your living environment for harmony, self-love and joy (giving thanks, prayer and blessing the abundance in your life and of the world around you helps). Pay attention to warning signs of sore throat or exhaustion so you can keep them from getting worse. Take a "mental health day" every few months to make sure your emotional needs are met. When you're happy, you're far less likely to get sick.
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