Sweater Weather Reminders
It is officially sweater weather! Oh Joy! Fall is my favorite season, and I am in love with the transition from summer to the cooler months of the year. The air seems fresher. The stunning color changes are warm and inviting. I love the mysterious morning fog that breaks into afternoon sunshine and fall warmth. I love seeing pumpkins on porches, the lingering color of the dahlias, and the stunning falling leaves. All of these remind me that it is also time to begin a holistic strategy to support immune function in the body.
Each September I put away my summer clothes and bring out my sweaters and boots! I am in love with cashmere sweaters! Along with these changes and transitions, I also start to think about how to bolster my mind, body, and spirit as we head into cold and flu season and the darkness that the end of the year brings. This year in particular, immune function is a priority for me, as I know it is for most of us! Below are some of my favorite holistic recommendations to strengthen and support your immune system function as we head into the fall and winter months of this year.
More Than Ever, We Need Immune Strength
We live in a time where our immune system is being called to operate with stellar strength! Not only do we face the usual cold viruses and the seasonal flu, but now also COVID-19. We are seeing the power of the virus and how smart it is with its ability to change and outsmart our attempts to control it. This is really frightening and means that we must be smarter than ever in supporting and enhancing our immune systems to fight viruses that come our way. COVID is most certainly not be the end of the virus war… there may be others in the future. With that in mind, here are the ways I like to approach holistic immune system support.
Cook with Garlic and Red Peppers
Garlic is an effective antiviral, antifungal, and antibacterial, therefore, making it ideal for supporting a healthy immune system. Research shows that garlic helps reduce the severity of cold and flu symptoms. You can chop or crush the cloves – which helps convert alliin to allicin, the protective element in garlic – and add to sauces, soups, appetizers, or whatever you’re cooking. Likewise, red bell peppers and hot chili peppers are high in vitamin C and have antimicrobial properties that protect against viruses and other microorganisms.
Most of our immune system function begins in the gut. Therefore, the health of our gut is critical in supporting our immune function. Probiotics can play a huge role in this. Probiotics support the beneficial bacteria that live in our gut and whose main function is to protect us physically and mentally. I recommend dietary probiotics daily in the form of fermented foods with live cultures such as yogurt, kefir, kimchee, sauerkraut, kombucha.
If you are not consuming fermented foods daily, you can take a probiotic supplement. I especially like the spore formed probiotics (Flora Synergy by Energetix is a favorite) as they can pass through the small intestine to the large intestine unharmed by the digestive process to function in the colon where they are needed. You can see my favorite probiotics by registering with my dispensary where you will receive a discounted price on supplements. Register for my dispensary here.
Feed Your Microbiome… Your Immune Support System
Prebiotics are “food” for the probiotics. Because probiotics are live bacteria, they need to be fed for optimal function. By doing this with intention, our microbiome will have the best success. You can get prebiotics in your diet by eating indigestible carbohydrates. Beneficial bacteria in the colon consume these compounds which are fermented in the digestive tract. Natural sources of these prebiotics include almonds, bananas, apples, and vegetables such as Jerusalem artichokes, wild yams, jicama, leeks, asparagus, chicory, garlic, and onions. You can also take prebiotics as supplements.
I recommend eating a whole foods diet such as Mediterranean style. This type of diet promotes a healthier gut microbiome. This is because it includes plenty of healthy fatty acids, fruits, vegetables, fiber, and smaller amounts of protein. And, most importantly, irrespective of what type of food you eat, avoiding processed sugars and processed foods in general will go far to bolster the immune system.
Take Vitamin D
Vitamin D supports our immune system, and this is especially important to be mindful of during the darker months of the year as we are less likely to be able to produce it from exposure to sunshine during the winter. I typically recommend taking a vitamin D supplement at least through the winter months. You can do this with Energetix Vitamin D3/K2 spray. This spray will support the immune system if used once daily. Vitamin D is also a wonderful anti-inflammatory and also supports our moods.
Protect Mucous Membranes
Many viruses act in our upper respiratory system, therefore causing symptoms in our nasal passages, sinuses, throat, and upper airway. There are several throat sprays on the market that can act to strengthen the barrier function of the mucous membranes in these areas of the body. I recommend using these daily or every other day as a preventive measure. Alternatively, you can use at the first sign of cold symptoms and continued until several days after symptoms resolve. You can find my favorites listed in my Fall Holistic Immune Support Protocol (along with all of the other supplements mentioned in this article) at my dispensary here.
Use Adaptogenic Herbs
Many plants and herbs function as adaptogens. Adaptogens are non-toxic plants that help our body resist physiologic stressors of all kinds. They also help us to resist fatigue and improve moods. I recommend using adaptogens daily during the winter months. You should start taking them at the first sign of symptoms if you do not consume them daily. Adaptogens can be used in tea form or supplements. Many herbs such as ashwaganda, holy basil, astragalus, ginseng, rhodioloa, schisandra berry, and turmeric are adaptogenic.
Golden Milk is a fun way to drink turmeric, and is often soothing just before sleep. To make Golden Milk, simply mix 1/2 cup of your favorite milk or milk alternative (I like coconut milk, oat milk, or almond milk), 1 teaspoon turmeric (ground or fresh grated), 1/2 teaspoon ginger (ground or fresh grated), 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, dash of ground black pepper (to help your body absorb the turmeric), 1 teaspoon honey (optional). Heat over stove, pour into your favorite mug and sip the pure delight!
Mushrooms are another way to get adaptogenic support. Shiitake mushrooms are particularly beneficial. Eating shiitake mushrooms increases the levels of natural killer cells and immunoglobulin A, two important immune system components for fighting off viral attacks. Making mushroom broth for a soup base or just to consume as a warm beverage are wonderful ways to get adaptogenic support from these amazing foods. Another favorite of mine is Core Mycelia Blend, a tincture made by Energetix that can be used daily for immune support. You can find this by going to my dispensary here.
Get Plenty of Zinc
Zinc is a mineral that is also a natural antiviral. Pumpkin seeds, hemp seeds, lamb, grass fed beef, chickpeas, lentils, cocoa powder, cashews, kefir/yogurt, mushrooms, spinach, avocado, chicken, almonds all contain significant amounts of zinc. I recommend consuming 2-3 servings of the above foods daily. Alternatively, you can use zinc in a supplement form as well. I personally take a zinc supplement made by Thorne (here).
Drink Ginger Tea
I drink lots of ginger tea this time of year and throughout the winter months. Ginger supports immune function by providing antimicrobial properties, adaptogenic support, and antioxidants. I like to make it fresh by slicing up a half inch piece of fresh peeled ginger root and placing it in a large mug with the juice of half of a lemon. Pour hot water over both, let steep for 5 minutes and then enjoy the tea with a bit of local honey. Sometimes I add a few mint leaves as well. This is a soothing remedy that will support your immune system, your digestion, and is soothing in its aroma and taste.
Antioxidants are necessary to decrease inflammation and fight off disease. You can consume them in the foods you typically eat or in supplement form. Three key antioxidants – zinc and vitamins C and D – play crucial roles in helping protect the body’s cells from damage. Many fruits and dark leafy greens contain antioxidants. Most salad greens, kale, and spinach include vitamins A, C, E, K, and folate, as well as high levels of fiber and immune-supportive minerals. These foods are also low in carbs, sodium, and cholesterol, making them ideal choices.
In my practice at Valencia & Sage, LLC, I recommend four functional medicine tests that will help evaluate the health of the immune system. These tests are invaluable in the information they provide, and will provide a blueprint of information to help bolster your immune function. The tests I most commonly recommend are as follows:
Vitamin D levels can be checked in a simple blood test. Checking vitamin D levels is an important holistic strategy as it reflects not only the availability of this vitamin to support our immune system but also for our moods and to monitor our ability to fight inflammation in the body. Checking blood levels of vitamin D helps guide the amount to supplement with for ideal health.
Food sensitivities testing are more important than ever! Here is the thinking behind how food sensitivities can affect immune health. Sensitivities to foods cause inflammation in the gut. This inflammation can damage the lining of the gut and cause small holes in the lining of the intestines. These holes in the gut lining can allow food particles to enter the body rather than be eliminated through the intestines. The body interprets these food particles as “the enemy”, and this causes an inflammatory response in the body. If this is allowed to carry on for some time, autoimmune disease can develop. A food sensitivities test will quickly identify which foods cause inflammation in your body. By eliminating inflammation from caused by consuming these foods, your immune system will be supported holistically, and therefore more likely to function in an optimal state.
Another common test in functional medicine is the stool test that looks at the microbial makeup of the gut microbiome. The microbiome is the basis of our immune system health. If we have bacterial or yeast overgrowth or an unhealthy microbiome (dysbiosis or leaky gut), our immune system will be weakened. A stool test can quickly identify the health of your microbiome, and will provide a tool to foster healing there if needed.
Nutritional testing called Organic Acids Test can reveal many details about how our bodies flow. There are many micro systems in the body that work together to create one big complex system that is intricately designed as the human body. Each of the smaller micro systems functions with the assistance of co factors such as vitamins and minerals and other nutrients. If these nutrients are lacking, the flow of the system and the body is interrupted. An interruption in one micro system will affect the other systems in the body. If dysfunction occurs, symptoms can appear, and disease can begin.
Our immune system is only one system in our body. It has influence on all other systems and the other systems in turn have influence on our immune system. An Organic Acids Test can identify which areas in the body are not flowing as they should be and thus causing symptoms or illness. This type of testing can quickly identify specific nutrients that are needed to correct the dysfunction and allow for easy flow and therefor good health.
A Holistic Approach To Immune Health Is Best!
In conclusion, I believe a holistic approach to supporting our immune system is more critical than ever before! There are so many ways to do this, and a mindful strategy using the above suggestions will make a strong impact on your body’s ability to fight bacterial or viral illnesses that can be so prevalent this time of year. You can find all of my supplement recommendations for immune health support at my Wellevate Dispensary. Register there to see my protocols and get a discount on the highest quality supplements. You can register here.
I hope you have enjoyed the information I have provided here. If you work with me, I will help you integrate these holistic immune support strategies into your overall health plan. My approach utilizes a function medicine strategy designed to pinpoint the ROOT CAUSE of your symptoms and design an individualized holistic health plan strategy to address the root cause. Immune support is just one component of this approach. Work with me, and allow me to help you find your best and most vibrant health! You will be amazed! I promise! Questions? Comments? Email me at email@example.com
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