It’s officially that time of year.
The time of year where you start to notice more sniffles and coughs from your coworkers. More runny noses and feverish temperatures from your kids. Or perhaps – no shows from your invited list of guests for a birthday party or fall gathering because they’re home sick with the flu.
The CDC marks October as the start to the infamous flu season and if you’re like most people, you might already be thinking about ways you can avoid getting sick (outside of staying far from anyone who seems symptomatic).
If you have school-age kiddos, you might have already had to deal with some germs as they transitioned back to classrooms and the thought of having another round of illness feels daunting.
Knowing you’re going to be exposed to more germs than normal, it’s always a good reminder to do a few things to help reduce the likeliness you’ll get sick after exposure. That includes washing your hands frequently and keeping them away from your face and mouth, as well as avoiding close contact with those who are sick.
But at the same time, I always ask my clients to think about ways they can actually boost their immune system and their body’s natural defense against these germs so that if you do come into contact, your body has a less likely chance of going down.
Your body is designed to fight off harmful things, and if you think of your immune system as a small army, you can make distinct choices in remedies that help support and build it up to be stronger.
Are others more likely to get the flu than others?
As stated earlier, you’re exposed to germs every day and your likeliness to being exposed to the flu bug is strong during this time of year. But what’s more important is around how your body’s immune system will respond after exposure.
There are all sorts of things that can compromise our immune system, diets high in sugar and processed foods, high-stress and lack of sleep are some of the most common lifestyle contributors outside of chemicals and toxins we’re regularly exposed to in our environment and food choices.
Although it’s perfectly normal and healthy to get sick a few times a year, if you’re someone that seems to always get the bug going around (even outside of this season), you may need to incorporate some strategies and remedies that support your gut health and immune system on a more regular basis.
Get some sun
If I could only pick one nutrient to recommend to support your immune system, it would be vitamin D. Not only can it help prevent you from getting sick, but it can also shorten the duration by both reducing inflammation and supporting the function of Tcells that protect against the pathogens that cause illness. The best way for your body to get this nutrient is from the actual sun (your skin synthesizes it after being exposed) and often, I’ll recommend clients to get outside twice a day (morning and midday is optimum), ten minutes at a time.
If you live in cooler environments during this time of year and rarely spend any time outside, this might not be achievable and supplementation is highly recommended. The Vitamin D Council recommends most adults supplement between 1,000 and 5,000 IU’s, but it’s also recommended to check your personal levels to ensure that amount is adequate enough for you. This is particularly important to track if you aren’t getting regular sun exposure (with no SPF) throughout the year or eating a diet in Vitamin-D rich foods, such as fatty fish, nuts and oils, eggs or dairy.
Eat nourishing foods
One of the best ways to boost your natural immune system is to focus primarily on food that is nutrient dense, such as high-quality meats, fruits and vegetables and natural fats while also avoiding/limiting foods that are high in inflammation. High inflammatory foods include wheat/gluten, processed dairy, corn and soy and often increase permeability of the gut, making it more challenging for your immune system to ward off any other intruders.
You can also optimize your nutrient intake by choosing foods that are local and in season in the environment you live in.
Hydration is also critical, so if you currently aren’t consuming at least 8 glasses of water per day, make a point to prioritize this habit into your daily routine.
Increase your sleep
If lack of sleep negatively impacts your immune system, don’t skimp out of it during this time of year. The goal for most adults should be between 7-9 hours per night. Getting good rest will always be one of your top ways to stay healthy or even help your body recover from illness faster. With shorter days with less sun during this time of year, some of us have an easier time opting into going to bed at a decent time. But if you are having a hard time falling or staying asleep, you might need to take measures to improve it. One of my favorite remedies to support sleep is spraying linens with a homemade lavender spray or simply diffusing lavender. For those with a racing mind and brain, my favorite sleep support supplement to recommend is our Restore PM Complex.
There are a few supplements I immediately start to add (or increase my frequency) once this time of year rolls through: Vitamin C, probiotics and Zinc.
If you are taking a good multivitamin (like our Life Time one), you might already be taking a good amount of zinc. You can also increase your food sources of zinc. A few notable sources include grass-fed beef, pumpkin seeds and dark chocolate.
Vitamin C is probably the most popular of the immune boosting supplements – often the first nutrient most of us think about when we start to feel run down or like we’re getting sick. My favorite foods sources include lemon (great to add along with sea salt to your drinking water) and bell peppers. I often recommend in supplement form for those that get sick often or train hard on a regular basis. 1,000 mg per day is most often recommended to support immune health.
A good probiotic is part of my core supplement plan for most of my clients as it helps build up the good bacteria that you’d find in your gut lining and imperative when you’re exposed to bad bacteria or germs.
Manage that stress
We all have stress, but your health goals should be working toward the right solutions that help build your body’s resiliency (and response) to everyday stress.
For some, that might be engaging in deep mediation and relaxation techniques. For others, it can include finding the right self-care tips that allow you to release any mental or emotional stress.
Moving your body on a regular basis will always be a core recommendation from my point of view, as the most beneficial result of exercise in my opinion is the impact it has on our emotional and mental health. Find something that you enjoy and can keep in routine so you have a strategy that you regularly enjoy that also gets you to do something healthy for your body.
How to know if above is enough?
If you feel like the above list is something you practice on a regular basis, yet you still get sick often, you might consider getting more personal with an assessment.
Our Lab Testing Manager, Mandy Rother (also Registered Dietitian and holistic health coach) stated that her team often personalizes recommendations for our members based off the results of their blood markers. For some, they might find out that their gut is super permeable (high risk to getting sick often) and might need a more intense gut/immune system protocol that includes a specific diet and supplement regimen.
She also noted that Elderberry syrup is something more and more individuals are trying to include in their daily routine as they’ve noticed a difference in how their immune system responds during this season. Whether they start to take it when they feel run down or simply include it in their daily supplement routine, it’s something to try if you feel like everything else isn’t working.
– Written by Flourish staff
This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.