Protect Your Immune System Naturally This Holiday Season
The glorious fall days are upon us, along with their promises of pumpkin-picking excursions, Thanksgiving, and all the special holidays, including ringing in the New Year! Along with these enjoyable anticipations there is, somewhere in the background, the uneasy awareness that the winter months are almost here. For some, winter is a gift—winter sports, brisk walks, bonfires, and the pristine beauty of snow. For many of us, however, the challenge of keeping our immune system functioning well in the face of the many stresses that comes with winter and the holiday season looms large.
Not to worry! With a few considerations and a small amount of effort, you can strengthen your immune system so it is in the best shape it can be, to help you better navigate through the demands of winter. Here are some guidelines to help you stay healthy this holiday season.
There is so much you can do to aid your immune system simply by consuming the right foods. This is the time of year when sweets abound, but just one teaspoon of refined sugar suppresses your immune system for about four hours! It is of great benefit to reduce or even eliminate refined sugar from your diet as much as possible, even during the holidays. Enjoy a cup of hot cocoa or a piece of pumpkin pie but save those treats for special times, rather than on a regular basis. Instead, indulge in fresh, organic fruits, crack open some nuts, roast pumpkin seeds, or enjoy fruit- or stevia-sweetened smoothies or protein shakes. You will feel better, cope better, and—dare I say it—look better! Good nutrition can reduce your cravings for sweets and empty calorie snacks, so adding more fresh produce to your meals, both raw and steamed, can up your nutrient supply in a big way. Adding a high-quality multivitamin and daily green drink can fulfill those needs when we are less than mindful of our food intake as well.
Keep Your Colon Healthy
Since your colon comprises over 60% of your immune system, it’s important to take steps to keep it in good working order; in particular, avoiding constipation. Herbal blends such as triphala, an Ayurvedic blend of three medicinal fruits native to India, keep the bowel toned and functioning beautifully and can be taken daily with no adverse effects. Adding magnesium in the form of a supplement to your intake brings water to the colon, aiding the cleansing process and helping to keep you regular. Fiber-rich foods such as avocados, apples, broccoli, carrots, beets, raspberries, pears, and Brussels sprouts can help your colon a great deal, and the addition of a good probiotic not only aids in colon health but boosts your immune system as well. If you’re living with IBS or other colon challenges, there are herbal options, such as marshmallow herb, to help soothe and heal the colon.
There are wonderful, effective herbs, aptly called adaptogens, that help us cope with stress and give our bodies the ability to better adapt to the various challenges—physical, mental, and emotional—that we face daily. Medicinal mushrooms such as reishi and shiitake and herbs such as Siberian ginseng, Ashwagandha, Schizandra (which also protects and repairs the liver), and holy basil are wonderful examples of adaptogens. Holy basil is a calming herb that helps promote the mental balance so needed in our daily lives. These herbs can be taken daily in capsule or tincture or tea form.
One of my favorite de-stressors is Rescue Remedy, a combination of five flowers in tincture form discovered by Dr. Edward Bach almost a century ago. These drops contain alcohol, but there is a non-alcohol form for children, pets, and those wishing to abstain from even minute amounts. They also come in a gummy-like pastille.
Cleanse Your Liver
Doing a short live cleanse in the fall does wonders for your immune system. Such a cleanse helps our poor, toxin-overloaded livers to gently release toxins so they can be eliminated from the body. Some herbs that help this cleanse are milk thistle, burdock, artichoke, dandelion, and yellow dock. Be sure to drink plenty of water when doing any kind of cleanse.
Other Natural Herbs and Supplements
There are herbs and supplements that boost the immune system and can be taken seasonally as prevention or when we begin to feel the onset of illness. These include Echinacea, Astragalus, Andrographis, elderberry, garlic, ginger, and vitamins A, C, and D. The popular N.A.C. is an amino acid that is not only an antioxidant, but an eliminator of free radicals and toxins from the liver and lungs. Black seed (also known as black cumin) and green tea are beneficial as well.
Remember, following these suggestions can help you enjoy the festivities of this season while getting your body and mind ready for the cold, damp season to come:
- Watch your diet. Reduce or eliminate sugar as much as possible and add fresh fruit and vegetables as much as possible.
- Cleanse your colon. Keep it toned and functioning well.
- Use herbs and supplements. Take daily or as needed to reduce stress.
- Have mercy on your liver. Do your best to detox and rebuild this wonderful, life-sustaining organ.
- Take immune-supporting herbs. Use these herbs and supplements as both preventives and curatives.
Remember to take care of yourself—you are the greatest gift you can give to your family and friends this holiday season!
Marianne Bloxsom is an herbalist and Supplement Manager at Edge of the Woods Market in New Haven, CT. The knowledgeable team at Edge of the Woods would be pleased to help you choose vitamins and supplements for all your needs. Please stop by and say hello, call 203.787.1055, and visit: eotwm.com.