IMMUNITY & INFLAMMATION
‘Tis the season of sickness! Let’s talk about boosting our immunity and reducing our inflammation. We all know the tried-and-true sayings. “Eat your fruits and vegetables.” “Exercise regularly.” “Drink 8 glasses of water.” “Get lots of sleep.” “Don’t eat processed food.” While those are all very key elements to improving your immune system and inflammatory symptoms, and they will be expanded on, I do want to talk about more non-traditional tips as well.
Taking a vitamin C supplement (up to 1,500 mg daily) can absolutely help to ward off illness, but consider taking a probiotic supplement as well. Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium are two of the most important families of bacteria that populate our gut from birth, and they have been shown to positively affect our immune health. Look for one that has at least 30 to 50 billion colonies and at least eight strains of bacteria. Double this dose if you’re coming down with a cold or have to take antibiotics. Another top supplement for immune function is zinc, which acts as an antioxidant by fighting off free radicals. It’s also a very common deficiency worldwide. Take 15 to 30 mg a day. Lastly, the famous vitamin D. Yes, you get small doses of this vitamin from sunlight and from certain foods, but for most adults (especially in the wintertime), we need to supplement to reap the immune benefits. You can take up to 2,000 IU daily.
While it is certainly important to consume plenty of fruits and vegetables during this time of year, there are specific ones that are extremely helpful for boosting your immune system. Fermented foods should be at the top of your grocery list, especially if you don’t want to spend money on pricey probiotics. Kombucha, sauerkraut or kimchi, yogurt, apple cider vinegar, or anything pickled will give you plenty of gut-healthy bacteria. Some of the most powerful immune-boosting, antiviral, and anti-cancer substances are found in mushrooms, like shiitake, maitake, and reishi. Other antibacterial foods include garlic, ginger and turmeric. Another way to improve immunity is to decrease inflammation in the body. Many of the antibacterial foods are actually anti-inflammatory as well. Ginger, garlic, turmeric, nuts (especially almonds and walnuts), berries, pineapple and fatty fish (Omega-3) are all excellent foods to reduce inflammation.
These may seem obvious, but it never hurts to reiterate. Getting enough sunshine is an important part of immunity as natural sunlight is the best source of natural vitamin D. Aim for seven to eight hours of sleep on a regular basis and avoid all-nighters. If you travel through time zones frequently, use small amounts of melatonin (2 to 3 mg) to reset your circadian rhythm. Beyond the obvious cardiovascular, mood, and weight management benefits of regular exercise, moderate physical activity can improve our antibody response to infections. It’s important not to overtrain, however, as chronic strenuous exercise without recovery days has been associated with an increased susceptibility to infections, as well as frequency of injury. Managing stress is very important, as chronic stress actually suppresses our immune response by releasing the hormone cortisol. Cortisol itself interferes with the ability of specific white blood cells called T-cells to proliferate and get signals from the body.