It’s that time of year again when we start to think about what we can do to stay healthy despite what is going on around us and what we might be exposed to. This year our health has been at the forefront of everyone’s minds. These simple tips are great for year-round. It doesn’t take much to make a few shifts and in return, your body will thank you.
If you have limited access to fresh, humanely grown food to provide for your nutritional needs, then supplements are the best way to support our bodies nutritionally. It’s important to know that not all supplements are created equal though. Do your research and find a line that offers you something that the body will use. The idea that we will only use what we need and the rest will be lost in the elimination process isn’t always true. The foods we eat are not nutritionally dense so we truly do need all that vitamins have to offer. We just need one that is bioavailable so we are getting full absorption potential.
The consumption of sugar creates a cycle that is really hard to get out of. It takes sacrifice and most struggle with it at first but cutting it out of your life is probably the most beneficial thing you can do for your overall health. Your whole body just functions better without this. A little known fact is how sugar can aid in the strength of a virus by giving it energy. It feeds the virus so it can become stronger and harder for us to fight.
Processed foods have become a common commodity in most households. It’s easy to grab and make to serve a busy family. The problem with these foods is the ingredients and how they impact the body in negative ways. People who live mostly on a diet of processed foods tend to have more health complaints. This taxes our immune response for sure.
How much to get each day? This varies from person to person but the truth is most people are chronically dehydrated. This impacts our immune system by lowering the quality of our blood and since our blood is responsible for carrying oxygen and nutrients to vital organs this can be a big deal. I always like to imagine that our blood cells deliver fun packages to the porches of our body systems. Then picks up the trash left out on the curb. Imagine if the trash never got taken out. You could be doing all the other things right but if you don’t have enough water in your body to move those added nutrients it won’t be as effective.
Cold VS room temp? Do you like your water warm? Most people don’t but the benefit of warm water is how it supports healthy circulation by flushing out toxins that are present in the body. Doing this in the morning has a second benefit of supporting the digestive system. I always fill a cup of water to set on my nightstand ready to go as soon as I wake up. It helps to quickly clear the fog so I am ready to start my day. At the end of the day, warmer water helps to soothe the nerves and might make it easier for some to settle into sleep. To help me remember to drink more water, I love those big bottles with markers to help you reach your daily intake goal. Fill it up once and just take it with you.
In the years of being a wellness educator; I think I have heard more complaints about sleep. From taking too long to fall asleep from waking up in the night. A sign of good sleep is feeling rested when you wake. If this isn’t how you feel in the morning then you can start with implementing a bedtime routine. Just like what we do with children. If it helps them fall asleep more peacefully; it can help you too. About an hour before you want to be drifting off to sleep, start making your way to bed by calmly doing your self-care activities like washing your face and brushing your teeth. Move slowly and with intention rather than rushing the process. Take deep steady breaths to help bring oxygen into the body and ultimately let the brain know it’s time to relax. Keep your lights low to help encourage your natural melatonin hormone to release. I have one of those sunrise/sunset lights next to my bed. I keep it just bright enough to read a few pages in a book. The most important part of this process is to place your phone somewhere else for the night. Having your phone next to you can be very disruptive. Not only will you be more tempted to keep checking it but the data signals interfere with hormone productions which would include melatonin. We really need that one so I prefer to plug my phone into the outlet in my closet which is in another room. You can also turn data off as well to conserve energy showing kindness towards the planet. Then get a gentle alarm clock to wake you in the morning.
Cortisol is a stress hormone and many of us operate day to day with elevated cortisol due to the work-life environment, coffee, and sugar we consume. While I agree that we should do everything we can to control the common cortisol elevating activities; not everyone has that ability. Throughout the day take time to check in with yourself and identify stress before it impacts you beyond a surface level. If you notice your chest is tight; take a few minutes to breathe all the oxygen out of your lungs and then fill it back up to full capacity. Repeat a few times. Drink some water and go take a short walk. I have personally noticed that my stress levels stay low when I take just 5 minutes a day to practice meditation. I love how mindful it helps me to become. I also love how exercise can really melt the stress away. Even when I am barely finding time in the busy days; just a few minutes with a jump rope, dancing to a fun song with my kids, or a fast walk to get the mail can be all it takes. Ideally, 30-60 minutes of movement a day would serve you best. Every time I find myself sick; it came on the heels of a stressful week or month.
Simple home remedies
Essential oils can be overwhelming to some and are often misunderstood. The most important thing to know is that due to their molecular makeup; they can absorb into the cellular structure aiding the cell in very positive ways. My favorite essential oils to use daily are citruses such as lemon and orange. They help the cells produce a powerful antioxidant called glutathione. This is a naturally occurring antioxidant that declines due to age and environmental influences. It is very important that our cells are able to make this. There is a long list of benefits including proper immune function. I also like to include peppermint due to how it invigorates the body and aids in homeostasis. My third favorite essential oil lavender. The main constituent of lavender essential oil is linalool and that has been known to support healthy cortisol levels. Unfortunately, synthetic linalool is often added to inferior essential oils to improve the aroma. This can pose a risk to the cell so be sure your essential oils are not adulterated with synthetic constituents.
Elderberry has become a popular addition to many homes. We recently added Mindfully Made elderberry to our retail shelves. It is bottled locally here in Kansas City using fresh berries grown not far from the metro area. They contain powerful antioxidants and vitamins that support the immune system. It just takes a little each day for everyone in your home.
Herbs are a great addition to your home medicine cabinet. I keep a few small containers of these on hand to add to my favorite teas I already drink each day.
Olive Leaf has natural antimicrobial properties and contains high levels of oleuropein and other polyphenols that support the immune system. Oleuropein has a high bioavailability and supports a healthy inflammatory response as well as aiding in the immune response that targets viruses. Just add this one to your favorite tea.
Clove bud has a fragrant aroma making it a favorite to use during the cooler months. While they smell amazing it does have health benefits. You can add clove buds to a warm citrus tea or cider creating a warming effect in your digestive tract and therefore supporting the immune system.
Ginger is my absolute favorite to use when feeling nausea. Its antispasmodic properties make it the very best for when your gut is not settled. What I learned recently is that it is high in anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties as well. Add Ginger to a citrus tea in the morning on an empty stomach for the best benefits.
We all know the connection between Vitamin D and our bones; but did you know it also reduces your chances of getting the flu. There was a study done with schoolchildren in 2010 that was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. There was also another study done in 2017 that showed that it helped reduce the risk of acute respiratory infection. You can read more about that study here. Since Vitamin D is produced in the skin when exposed to sunshine most find themselves deficient in the colder months due to a lot less sun exposure. We can supplement by eating foods with vitamin D or taking supplements; which is what I opt for. When I experienced low vitamin D a few years ago; it caused depression and mood issues. Those things alone can make you more susceptible to illness. Keeping a positive outlook really does help to boost the immune system. When I supplemented; I found a high-quality Vitamin D3 and took 5000IU per day and after about two weeks I felt a lot better. Consult with your health provider to determine if you are deficient and how much you should be taking each day.
Another little health hack is the ongoing use of probiotics. I like to compare the need for probiotics to having a thick lush lawn of grass. Sometimes the healthy grass dies off if we don’t take care of it and we start to get patches of weeds coming up. If it goes on too long eventually we have a lawn full of weeds. Our gut is a lot like this. The unwanted weeds can multiply pretty fast if left ignored. When we add probiotics to our GI tract; it works a lot like when we toss out grass seed to ensure those bare patches don’t allow weeds to come up. Using them regularly just supports this balance.
While there are just a ton of ways to support our body; it can be overwhelming and sometimes feels like a chore. If something is easy, we are more likely to do it. Just by making a few changes each day; we will have a much better experience with our health. Since it is so hard to start something new and get into the habit, I prefer to keep it super simple. A few changes to how we shop at the grocery store, make a little tea corner on the kitchen counter, and set your vitamins where you get ready in the morning will make a big difference in implementing a new wellness routine. One of my favorite hacks is to use post-it notes. I remind myself in various places in my home to breathe, have gratitude, and of course drink water!
Keeping watching our blog as we continue to share more education on supporting your immune system and overall health.