Achoo-Kidding Me?

By on January 30, 2017
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You know it’s cold and flu season when the people in your life seem more and more like Snow White’s dwarves: Sneezy, Sleepy and Dopey! Here are some simple tips to boost your immunity; so, you can feel like yourself all season long.

Exercise is one of the best ways to boost your overall health. By increasing blood flow and lymph circulation in the body, exercise brings immune cells to your tissues so that you’re better able to fight off infection (Harvard Health Publications)

Try to implement a routine of moderate exercise about 3-5 times per week. Skiing, skating, sledding – we have so many ways to stay fit and have fun in our Canadian winters. But be sure to bundle up to keep yourself warm; in Traditional Chinese Medicine, the back of the neck is an important spot whereby external pathogens can enter the body, so invest in a good scarf for your outdoor adventures (Gilbert 2011). But if you’re more of a fair-weather Canadian, try taking a dance class or sign up at your local gym. Keep in mind that overdoing high-intensity exercise can add more stress to your body and weaken your immune defences, so as with anything, moderation is key. 

R&R
With our busy lifestyles, we often forsake rest and relaxation to check off another box on our seemingly infinite to-do lists. But health research is showing us just how important it is to reduce stress. Try practicing yoga, schedule tea with friends, or add meditation into your self-care protocol. A 2013 study showed that meditation actually reduced cold and flu illness more so than did exercise (Obasi et al, 2013)

Try to catch enough Zzzzs, as a 2015 study found that shorter sleep duration increased susceptibility to the common cold (Prather et al, 2015). If you have trouble falling asleep at night, say goodnight to your screens an hour before bedtime, and sip on a cup of chamomile tea to help ease the transition into dreamland.

Eat to Your Health!
Getting your 10 servings of fruits and vegetables per day is one of the best ways to keep your immune system functioning at its best. To up your intake of antioxidant-rich vitamins A and C, eat carrots, leafy greens like spinach and kale, and butternut squash, for starters. Mix up your usual produce picks to make sure you’re getting a variety of vitamins and minerals.      

Nutrition Notes
• Support your gut bacteria with probiotic foods like unsweetened yogurt, kefir, and sauerkraut
• Up your vitamin E and zinc from sources like almonds
• Get adequate protein from lean meats, or vegetarian options like beans and organic soy
• Embrace healthy fats from avocado and wild fish
• Avoid sugar – that includes cookies, pop, and what you stir into your hot beverages!

Call in the Professionals
Invest in a high-quality oregano oil to supercharge your immune system. Its antimicrobial properties help kill both viral and bacterial respiratory infections, and treat symptoms like cough, sore throat, and bronchitis. Its anti-inflammatory effects also help quell inflammation. Look for an oregano oil with vitamins A & D added, which both play an important role in immune system function. 

If you’re not up for the potent taste of oregano oil and you’re looking for something more mild, consider black seed oil. This oil has been used medicinally in Middle Eastern cultures for millennia. Anecdotally, it’s been said to “cure everything except for death!” And the research is starting to back that up; studies show that this versatile oil can regulate the immune system, benefit blood sugar, and has anti-cancer activity (Butt et al, 2010). Even though it’s known for its medicinal power, it can be used in cooking and food preparation. Look for a cold-pressed black seed oil and try mixing it with olive oil for delicious salad dressing! 

References:
Gilbert, Cyndi. “It’s Cold Out There. Cover Your Windgate.” October 28, 2011. http://www.cyndigilbert.ca/its-cold-out-there-cover-your-windgate/ 

Harvard Health Publications. “How to boost your immune system.” June 15, 2016. http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-boost-your-immune-system 

Obasi CN, Brown R, Ewers T, et al. “Advantage of meditation over exercise in reducing cold and flu illness is related to improved function and quality of life.” Influenza and Other Respiratory Viruses. 2013 Nov; 7(6): 938-44. do: 10.1111/irv.12053 

Prather A, Janicki-Deverts D, Hall M, Cohen S. “Behaviorally Assessed Sleep and Susceptibility to the Common Cold.” SLEEP. 2015. doi:10.5665/sleep.4968.

Butt M, Sultan M. “Nigella sativa: Reduces the Risk of Various Maladies. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition.” 2010;50(7):654-665. doi:10.1080/10408390902768797.

Cassie Irwin is a lifelong nutrition junkie and healing foods writer. Visit her blog at: thekitchndoctor.com, where food is medicine. 

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