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It's cold and flu season!

That's right folks, we are fully in winter now and with that comes nasty bugs that tend to make us achy, weak, and sniffly. While a healthy immune system can make sure we stay in tip-top shape, giving our body a boost can help fight off any incoming attack. Getting sick is not a given, even in these cold months!

I used to get sick all the time- colds every month that seemed to never fully go away, weird illnesses that happened only to a few people (I was one of those people who actually got swine flu, yikes!), and an overall feeling of malaise. 

So here is my go-to regimen during the winter months to help my immune system stay at fighting power:

1. Sleep. I can't stress this enough. This is the time our body repairs itself and allows for the inner workings of our immune system to scavenge any invaders. I have noticed that when I don't sleep well, the first sign of an impending cold is a sore throat. The more run down we are, the more our defenses are weakened, and the higher the chance of getting sick. Sleep hygiene is beginning to gain traction, and it basically instills the idea of treating sleep with respect; have some sort of routine that can signal to your body that it's time to slow down. Studies have shown that a warm bath 1.5 hours before bedtime significantly improved sleep. Or maybe a hot cup of chamomile tea, which increases GABA, the main "calming" neurotransmitter. Finding a bedtime routine that works for you can greatly improve sleep quality and therefore immunity. 

2. Getting active. Right now, the CDC recommends 150 minutes of activity per week, whether that be in one chunk of time or split into sessions is up to you. Not only is a workout fabulous for our minds (hello endorphins!), our waistline, and our's also a way for us to fend off potential bugs. When we exercise, our body enhances its immune response (i.e white blood cells) to scavenge throughout our body to see if anything out of the ordinary pops up. This means that with exercise, our body is more alert and able to find potential pathogens than if you don't exercise. 

3. Eating right, with high-quality foods. Having a healthy diet is about good health in general, which includes having a healthy immune system. During the colder months, opting for cooked foods rather than raw can help keep the system in balance, which is line with modalities such as Traditional Chinese Medicine. If you are an omnivore, opt for grass-fed organic animal products. The use of antibiotics in animals is starting to attract attention and for good reason. The antibiotics in the animals don't just vanish, and actually end up on our plate. We are now seeing that a good portion of our immune system is housed in our large intestine and generated from the bacteria that live there. When we eat foods, or we ourselves take antibiotics, those bacteria are essentially wiped out and our immune system takes a hit. The same idea with pesticides- they're job is to kill bacteria on foods and they do that in our gut as well. Organic foods have also been found to have higher levels of certain nutrients- organic eggs, for example, have higher levels of vitamin D than conventional eggs. 

4. Correct nutritional deficiencies. Our body is a synergistic effort of many different systems to keep us healthy. To keep these systems going, we need to have the right amount of nutrients. Too little or too much will lead to imbalance, and eventually poor health. Certain nutrients are key to a healthy immune system: Vitamins D, E, B, C, Iron, Zinc, and Selenium. Unfortunately, our current blood panel ranges to help us see if we are in balance aren't all that great. If you feel ill, yet the lab work doesn't show anything off, I highly recommend you seeing a different doctor. You know yourself the best, and there may be a subclinical deficiency going on that needs to be addressed. 

5. Support your system with botanicals. I absolutely LOVE botanicals, aka herbs. They are nature's medicine, and have been used as such for millenia. There are a few herbs that are wonderful immune boosters, such as olive leaf extract, echinacea, and medicinal mushrooms. Always consult with a physician when working with botanicals, as they can be just as potent as pharmaceuticals. 

While we will get sick in the future, there is no need to always be in fear of a cold lurking around the next corner (or next subway car). Hopefully, with these tactics, you can boost up your immune system to fighting power and lessen the amount of times you get sick, as well as the duration of your colds. 

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