Flu season is upon us. If you are frequently sick with allergies, colds, and flu, there are many natural ways to support the body to prevent illness.
One of the best ways to prevent yourself from getting sick is to get proper nutrition and avoid foods that suppress your immune system. Foods such as sugar, coffee, alcohol, and refined carbohydrates (bread, pasta, and pastries) all have a negative effect on your immune system. They make your body work harder and weaken the body’s natural defense mechanism. It is important to consume foods with a greater nutritional value including raw or lightly steamed vegetables, fresh fruit (especially berries), low fat protein (beans, fish, chicken), and whole grains (millet, quinoa, brown rice, oatmeal, spelt, kamut), as they support the immune system, balance blood sugar levels, and facilitate the digestive system. It is also important to drink plenty of fluids. Drinking at least eight glasses of water a day is important since viruses and bacteria have a harder time surviving in moist environments. However, be sure to avoid fruit juices which are packed with sugars and food preservatives, since these will actually lower your immune response.
It is also important to avoid any potential food sensitivities, since these can deplete the immune response. The most common food sensitivities are wheat, dairy, peanuts, citrus, eggs, soy, and corn. To determine your specific food sensitivities, blood tests and/or elimination diets can be conducted with a naturopathic doctor. Your intestines contain over fifty per cent of your immune cells (Peyer’s patches), so keeping the gut healthy is really important in maintaining overall health of the body. Supplementing with probiotics (acidophilus) helps balance the bacteria in the intestines to prevent colonization of harmful bacteria, thus strengthening the immune response.
To prevent illness during times of stress, it is crucial to supplement the body with immune enhancing vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin A,C,E, zinc and selenium. These vitamins are effective at increasing immunity and are also known as “antioxidants” which protect healthy cells in the body by fighting off free radicals (substances that damage cells and promote disease). Herbs such as echinacea, astragalus, goldenseal, borage, wild Indigo, reishi mushroom, and garlic are also beneficial at stimulating the immune system and have anti-bacterial and anti-viral activity.
In addition to supporting the immune system, it is also very important to enhance the adrenal glands, which are involved in controlling stress and preventing exhaustion. When your body becomes physically and emotionally stressed, you are more prone to sickness as your resistance is lowered. Supplementing with B vitamins and adrenal herbs such as Licorice and Ginseng, can increase your resistance to stress and infection, and increase your overall energy.
Lastly, it is crucial to get adequate exercise and rest. Going to bed early (before 11pm) gives your body a chance to recuperate and heal. Take time out for yourself each day to calm your mind with meditation, deep breathing techniques, yoga, and journaling. Acupuncture is also an effective way to reduce stress levels and improve immune function.
Naturopathic Medicine treats the “whole” person using natural therapies such as diet, supplements, herbs, homeopathy, and acupuncture to support and encourage the body to heal itself. I also offer vitamin booster shots to strengthen the immune system if you are run down or burnt-out.