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4 Simple Ways to Boost Immunity Naturally
Stay happy and healthy this winter! The winter season can take a toll on our immune system and leave us more susceptible to getting sick. At the Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA), we conducted a recent survey, which reported that 54 per cent of Canadians usually get sick in the winter months, with 91 per cent of respondents saying their overall health impacts their level of happiness.
As a holistic nutritionist, I believe health and happiness go hand in hand. We’ve come up with four pillars of immune health, supported by natural health products, to help keep bugs at bay this season.
Pillar 1: Nutrition
While good nutrition is important all year round, it’s especially important to maintain a balanced diet in the winter in order to keep your immune system strong. You should also supplement with a natural health product (NHP) to make sure you’re getting all the essential nutrients you need. Here are some foods and NHPs your family can try this winter:
- Nuts: Nuts provide the perfect blend of immune-boosting nutrients, including protein, vitamin E, zinc and selenium.
- Garlic: This member of the allium family has been shown to reduce cold symptoms and improve immune cell activity.
- Mushrooms: Reishi mushroom extract contains bioactive compounds called “lectins” that can increase the activity of your white blood cells.
Pillar 2: Exercise
The shorter, colder days can make you want to hibernate all winter long, but just 30 to 60 minutes of daily, moderate exercise can improve your body’s immune response — I know I always feel better after a workout. To enhance your exercise regimen and boost immune health, consider the following NHPs:
- Krill oil: When coupled with exercise, krill oil supplementation can help increase white blood cell production, which helps sustain immune function.
- Protein: Branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), the building blocks of protein, help improve muscle recovery after exercise and improve immune cell growth and development.
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D supplementation in athletes has been shown to limit infections. If you’re engaging in winter sports this season, consider vitamin D supplementation for immune health and overall well-being.
Pillar 3: Mindfulness
Incorporating mindfulness into your lifestyle can decrease the length and severity of the flu or common cold. Practicing mindfulness can be as simple as starting each day by thinking of three things you’re grateful for and ending each day with five minutes of steady breathing and reflection. I also turn to NHPs to help me stay mindful, manage stress and to keep bugs at bay:
- Valerian: This root is commonly used for its sedative and anxiety-reducing effects, and can be found as both a supplement and a herbal tea.
- Omega-3s: Fish oil supplementation has been shown to reduce stress symptoms.
- Probiotics: The good bacteria in your gut plays an important role in supporting the immune system. It also improves the release of anxiety-reducing compounds.
Pillar 4: Sleep
Sometimes, no matter how hard you try, it can be difficult to get enough sleep with work deadlines looming and other worries on your mind. When asked what factors negatively impact their health, Canadians from coast to coast reported that lack of sleep tops the list at 73 per cent. It’s important for all of us to get enough rest, especially since sleep deprivation can impact the activity of your immune cells and make it difficult for your body to identify and fight cold and flu bugs. Here are a few natural remedies to help you get better sleep and support a healthy immune system:
- Magnesium: This mineral has been shown to calm the nervous system, induce relaxation, reduce blood pressure, and even increase energy during the day, which are all important factors when trying to get some rest.
- L-theanine: This amino acid found in green tea promotes relaxation and better sleep by reducing anxiety that might be keeping you up at night.
- Melatonin: This nerve hormone is well-known in the natural health world for increasing total sleep time and reducing the amount of time it takes to fall asleep.
Visit your local CHFA Member health food store to find these products, or chfa.ca for more immunity boosting tips. Have a happy and healthy winter!
About the survey: A survey of 1,591 Canadians was completed online from September 12 to 15, 2016, using Leger’s online panel, LegerWeb. A probability sample of the same size would yield a margin of error of +/-2.5%, 19 times out of 20.
Michelle W. Book is the in-house Holistic Nutritionist and spokesperson for the Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA), an organization dedicated to educating Canadians about the benefits of natural health and organic products. As a busy professional with a young family, Michelle strives to spread the message that small changes in our everyday lives can have significant, positive effects on our health.