Fall is a special time of year. The leaves change, temperatures cool, and there is a crispness in the air. Many of us wait for fall so that we can bring out our fuzzy socks and cozy sweaters. But a change in season is also a time for your immunity to be hit. Hard. This year is no different, except that it’s more important than ever to keep our immune systems strong and working at peak performance.
The immune system is complicated. It’s comprised of several functions, all working in harmony with each other. If one of these functions is off base, it throws off the entire melody. Good daily habits go far in strengthening immunity and keeping our systems in balance. Here are five ways to naturally boost immunity this fall.
Eat a healthy diet
This is a simple one and yes you have heard it before. But it’s true. A good diet goes a long way in maintaining healthy immune function. The nutrients you get from food such as vegetables, fruits and spices go a long way in boosting immune health. Spices like cloves, cinnamon, cumin and thyme, that are popular flavors in fall and winter meals, contain antiviral and antimicrobial properties. A review published in the 2017 International Journal of Molecular Sciences reveals that these properties prevent the growth of food spoiling bacteria like Bacillus subtilis and Pseudomonas fluorescens and some harmful fungi.
The vitamins and minerals present in fruits and vegetables, are also more easily absorbed in their natural concentrations directly by the body than if taken as supplements. Cruciferous vegetables contain over 106 percent of vitamin C, a vitamin that isn’t naturally produced by the body. Protein is also an important component of an immune healthy diet. Meat contains crucial nutrients like iron, zinc, folate and vitamins A, B6 and B12, all important to boost a healthy and well-functioning immune system.
No less than six hours of sleep
You will be hard-pressed to find anything we love more than sleep. A good night’s rest is one of the greatest gifts you can give your body. Your body regenerates when you’re asleep so good quality sleep and enough of it is vital for immune health. When you’re asleep, your body produces and distributes cytokines (a type of protein that can either fight or promote inflammation), white T-blood cells that regulate immune response. Lack of sleep also increases cortisol (stress) hormone levels in your body. High cortisol levels can hamper immune function because the body is busy protecting itself from perceived threats and has fewer reserves to fight off illness. Prioritize good sleep by limiting screen time before bed, and try Plant de Terra’s Dormeo line of products to support a good sleep cycle.
Drink alcohol in moderation
It’s fall, the holidays are around the corner and after the year we’ve had, you’re probably looking forward to some well-deserved relaxation, time with close family (in appropriate social bubbles) and just taking a breather. While it might be tempting to kick back and relax with a second or third glass of pinot, alcohol has some negative effects on the immune system. When you drink excessively, your body (mainly your liver) works in overdrive to detoxify your system, leaving you immuno-compromised. High levels of alcohol can also weaken the body’s ability to fight off infections, especially during high illness periods like flu season. If you must drink, stick to the advised 4-ounce glass of wine if you’re a woman and two drinks per day if you’re a man.
Don’t sweat the small stuff
Stress is a killer and few symptoms are more weakened by increased stress levels, than our immune system. If you lead a high-stress lifestyle, try finding natural ways to cope and manage stress levels – for example try spending time in nature or make time for a regular exercise routine. Long-term stress leads to elevated levels of cortisol in the body. From an evolutionary standpoint, our bodies have come to rely on cortisol to protect us. It sends the body into fight-or flight mode and historically, that has kept our species alive. In fact, cortisol blocks the immune system from beginning it’s work before a stressful event is over, allowing your body to react to the immediate threat. Overtime however, if cortisol continues to block the immune system, the body becomes unable to protect against illness bearing viruses and bacteria.
Manage chronic pain
Chronic pain can wreak havoc on the body and mind. When our bodies are suffering from a painful ailment, it’s all we focus on. If you have a chronic condition, example asthma, heart disease or diabetes, your body spends a significant amount of its resources managing these conditions, leaving you with fewer resources for everything else. If you get sick from a virus, you’ve got fewer resources to help you fight off infection. If you’re constantly in pain, your stress hormone levels are high, blocking your already compromised immune system from being effective. Managing chronic conditions and pain effectively, can help free up your immune reserves to protect against infection. To help manage chronic pain, try whole-plant hemp products that naturally help alleviate pain and stiffness.
Fall is a beautiful time of year and the changing seasons bring vibrant colors and exquisite foliage. So, allow yourself to enjoy this time with a chunky knit, boots and pumpkin spice everything instead of being laid up with illness before the long winter spell.