Keep Your Immune System Strong

The cold and flu virus season has officially hit our little mountain town of Sun Valley Idaho.

I hear people sniffling in yoga class and see people coughing as they walk through the grocery store.

I don’t want any part of it!  I imagine you don’t either.

But the fact is, you are going to be exposed to the little buggers. That is likely out of your control.

What is IN your control is your immune system.  How do you keep it strong?  Here are ten tips:


1.  Practice proper hygiene.  Wash hands, of course,*, but also try to keep fingers away from nose, eyes, and mouth in general.  Ewww, no nail-biting!
2.  Get enough sleep.  8 hours is my goal.  If you are feeling something coming on, increase your sleep and rest!
3.  Manage your stress levels.  Stress creates inflammation which makes the job of the immune system harder.  Try yoga or meditation to relieve stress. Yes, I know you don’t think you have time for that yoga or meditation class, but do you have time to be sick? (answer:  no).
4.  Exercise.  Daily if you can, but give yourself a day of rest of you are feeling something coming on.  Try not to sit for many hours at a time.  If you have a job that requires you to sit for more than one hour at a time, get up and move at least on the hour.
5.  Increase your humidity.  Viruses don’t like humidity.
6.  Stick to a low sugar diet.  Sugar taxes your immune system.  All those holiday treats add up.
7.  Stay hydrated.  I like warm to hot water to soothe my throat. Add a little lemon and/or honey, or make ginger tea. SEE RECIPE BELOW.
8.  Avoid (when possible) daily over the counter and prescription medicines.  Most of them just tax your system.
9.  Take immune system friendly vitamins (especially vitamin D and C) and minerals (especially magnesium)
10. Add probiotics to your regime.  You can even take oral lozenges that have probiotics in them (great if you feel that first sign of a sore throat).  A recent study** showed that a specific strain of probiotics helps the elderly population.

The top three causes of a low immune system?  In my opinion:  unmanaged stress, lack of sleep, and too much sugar.

So stay happy, rested and healthy over the holidays!

At the first signs of a cold, I drink 1 to 2 ginger teas per day, and I find my symptoms subside quickly. Since it is caffeine-free- it safe for most children 2 years and older (you just need a little less ginger- and maybe more honey)!

This is what you need:
12 oz of hot water
1/2 to 1 T honey
1-2 T grated ginger (1 to 2 teaspoons for children)

Ginger tip: you can use bottled ginger, but I prefer the taste of natural ginger root. Ginger root stores well in the freezer. Prior to freezing, break the ginger into 2-inch pieces and place it in an airtight bag.


*Avoid triclosan as an antimicrobial ingredient in your soap.  Triclosan is an endocrine-disrupting chemical (EDC) which means that it is a compound that acts like hormones.  A study published in Chemical Research in Toxicology found that triclosan, as well as another commercial substance called octylphenol, promoted the growth of human breast cancer cells in lab dishes and breast cancer tumors in mice.

**Daily supplements of the probiotic Bifidobacterium lactis Bi-07 may improve the activity of white blood cells in elderly adults, a population with higher susceptibility to infections. Researchers in the Journal of Nutritional Science found that a daily dose of the probiotic for three weeks led to significant increases in the activity of monocytes and granulocytes in elderly people, thus improving clearance of bacteria from the body without contributing to the low-grade inflammation observed in the elderly population.

Alterations in the gut microbiome and immune functions of elderly adults are associated with higher susceptibility to infections and metabolic disorders. Phagocytosis, by which immune cells ‘eat’ bacteria or infected cells, is one of the mechanisms that help to resist infections. Bi-07 may provide health benefits to elderly individuals by increasing the activity of phagocytic cells.

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