The information contained in this post is for general information purposes only and is not meant to substitute professional advice or treatment. If you have or suspect you may have medical issues which may be affected you should promptly contact your health care provider. Any statements regarding health advice, supplements and nutrition are to be used at your discretion and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
We have probably all been there is some regard, as the weather starts to get colder and less appealing to be outdoors we tend to retreat inside, layer up and potentially stop looking after ourselves. Realistically, winter is not always appealing to be outdoors but indoor comforts need not give us permission to indulge a little too much in our other comforts. But are these habits setting us up for success or fail in relation to our immune system?
It goes without saying that overall health of your body and ALL its systems will give you the best chance of having a strong and supportive immune response when exposed to dangerous micro-organisms. This winter in particular we are faced with Covid-19, even bigger motivation for us to commit to building up our immune system rather than allowing those nasty pathogens to get the better of us. So what exactly does this translate as in our activities from day to day? And how can we make small changes to help us feel better even when exposed to those unpleasant winter illnesses?
It's important to note that each individual has a unique immune system so what may work for me might not be the best approach for someone else. When in doubt ALWAYS speak to your health professional before implementing change to ensure it is appropriate for you and your constitution.
So here are some simple steps I've taken this winter to support the my immune system...
Cold water exposure
Well as you may have gathered from the picture, you guessed it, I'm plunging in cold water. Now cold water exposure is definitely not for everyone (more information about this in our Online Immune Boost Workshop) so be cautious when implementing this, however to keep things simple, exposure to cold water awakens the stress response in our body. So why is this a good thing? Well, when we turn on the stress response in a controlled environment we can adapt accordingly. For example, we realise there is no real threat and can easily return to our rest response. The idea is that when the stress response (sympathetic nervous system) turns on in response to other triggers (uncontrolled) the body can recognise the need (or not) to react in that moment and return to rest (parasympathetic nervous system) more readily. So I'm plunging in the ocean once a month for the whole year as a challenge to myself and albeit cold it feels AMAZING. I also turn my shower to cold EVERY morning for about 10 seconds before getting out (with the aim of lengthening that- baby steps haha).
Eating for the season
It seems obvious to be now but for most of my life I definitely was eating what I wanted whenever I wanted despite the season. And no surprise, all our major supermarkets in Australia provide us with any produce we need at anytime of year whether it's growing here or not thanks to importation. If we work by the theory that food is medicine there are a few hacks that may help enhance your immunity during winter.
Don't eat really cold foods your body will adapt by thinking it's warm outside and adjust accordingly
Eat what is growing around you, in Australia check state by state what is harvesting during each season and only eat that (yep I'm still in mourning not being able to eat mangoes in Victoria)
EAT REAL FOOD, if it has a big ingredients list- it's processed, if it has numbers in the ingredients list- it's not food
Take your herbs/supplements, if you see a health professional who prescribes these make sure you actually take them as prescribed. *never self prescribe herbs/supplements, even the ones you can get from the supermarket, please*
Stay hydrated, it's cold, I get it, but water is the only substitute for water. Tea, alcohol, sparkling water, coffee, cordial, juice etc DO NOT COUNT. It's likely warm and drying in your house and car and work etc so this is essential.
This is one of the most under rated things you can do for your health overall but especially for the detoxifying of your body. Get to bed at a reasonable time and aim for 7-8 hours of sleep (there's no shortcuts here). Avoid artificial light exposure after the sun has gone down, keep the house dimly lit and avoid screen time once the sun has set. Rise with the sun and open the curtains as soon as you wake up. The Circadian Rhythm is something we focus on in depth online in the Immune Boost Workshop.
And complimenting our sleep is getting outdoors during the day, even better if you can get out with your bare skin in the sunshine for a small portion of the day. Vitamin D is so good for so many reasons but especially helpful when boosting immunity. Given the restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic I have been especially grateful to get outdoors for exercise and have found I even enjoy getting out on a drizzly or frosty winter's day.
This goes without saying, when we are under mental or emotional stress our body responds accordingly. Having the stress response activated in your body for a long time takes up A LOT of energy. This will likely lead to systems being compromised when we don't have a change to "rest & digest" as discussed earlier. Mental health is an ongoing journey, mindfulness such as meditation, journaling, breathing, walks in nature are all good for the soul. To take things even further, giving yourself permission to FEEL any feelings you have, recognise that they are serving you both positively and negatively and taking responsibility for your own thoughts and actions is a slow but great process to begin. Personally, I've been journalling, walking outside every day, meditating in the mornings, colouring in and doing some online learning.
So there you have it, just some of the ways I'm approaching keeping my immune system happy throughout this unusual winter in 2020. We can wear masks, gloves, social distance and stay inside but if we aren't supporting the building blocks of our immune system are we really giving ourselves the best chance of staying healthy? Don't get me wrong, implementing all those protocols supports our community and our health care system but now it's time to start supporting you!