This winter was brutal for everyone. The predicted day-after-tomorrow kind heavy snowfall has never arrived in Chicago. On the contrary, we barely had any freezing cold days. Because of this mild winter, all kind of viruses were having a ball. Everyone around us got at least flu and some got stomach virus as well. Whoever got sick told me that once the virus got into the household most everyone else also got sick as well.
Having a compromised auto-immune system makes me more vulnerable to viral illnesses. I have to pay closer attention to keeping my immune system working as properly as possible. Throughout the years dealing with my health issue, I’ve learned a lot about the workings of an immune system. The Paleo Approach which I’ve read recently gave me a comprehensive, medical understanding of the immune system and how to keep it running properly.
Besides the genetic disposition of a person, keeping our immune system functioning as it should is in our hands. It’s quite simple when you put your health on top of your priority list. I know that, because every time I give into daily chaos and let my health go down on my priority list, I get sick. When I take good care of my body and mind, I barely get sick. Even if I contract a virus, I quickly and lightly get over it.
There are three main pillars our immune system relies on:
||Sleep|| ||Water|| ||Nutrition||
If we ignore any of these three it doesn’t matter what and how much supplements we take, we weaken our immune system.
The reason I put “sleep” on top of the list is because it is my weakest point like Samson’s hair. Especially after becoming a parent, first years we struggle with extreme sleep deprivation. Unfortunately, our bodies can only handle so much sleep deprivation for so long. We have to accept that we cannot have it all and do it all. We need to prioritize our health to be able to take care of our family. We need to get as much support as we can to make up for the lost sleep.
Sleep is critical for hormone regulation, milk production, metabolism (weight gain/loss) and mental health. Luckily early on during my son’s toddlerhood, I’ve realized I was less tolerant and grumpier when I was sleep deprived, so I made sleep my priority to become a better mother to him.
Even though I don’t have a scientific proof for it, I also believe sleep deprivation is one of the triggering factors which caused my Hashimoto’s disease. Now whenever I go on with less than 6 hours of sleep for longer than 2 days, my immune system completely crashes and I immediately get sick with some sort of illness. If a sickness comes in the house and I am slightly sleep deprived, I get hit hard and it takes me longer to recover.
Since 75% of the body of babies and children is made up of water, which goes down to 65% towards adulthood, we need to keep our bodies hydrated to stay healthy. We support our immune system by drinking lots of water to help our
- kidneys clean out toxins from our system.
- intestines digest food more thoroughly and properly. Intestines are considered the core of our immune system and water is crucial to keep the intestines properly working. Lack of water can cause constipation and other digestive problems.
- lymphatic system produce lymph fluid. Lymph fluid carries white blood cells and other immune system cells throughout the body as well as water and nutrients through the blood.
joints keep lubricated.
Lemon water is a good way to start your day and boost your immune system by flushing out the toxins through your kidneys, cleaning out debris from your intestines and supplementing your body with Vitamin C.
Nutrition is a crucial element for not only keeping the immune system working correctly but also for giving it a boost when our bodies need stronger protection.
- What to eat:
For keeping a good overall health, eating a diet high in vegetables, fruits and whole grains are essential. This should not be a trend or an exception but n everyday habit. Repeating the fact that intestines are the core of our immune system, we have to be resolute about putting the good stuff into our bodies and keeping the bad out.
- What not to eat:
In addition to what to eat, what not to eat is also crucial. Refined sugar is one of the biggest offenders to the immune system. Refined sugar impacts our white blood cells by competing for space in those cells for vitamin C. It also promotes inflammation in our body. Artificial sweeteners are not any better, they actually suppress immune system’s response to challenges. If you crave for sweets, stick with fruits and honey in moderation.
When you need to keep your immune system reduce alcohol and/or coffee intake as well. Keep drinking lots of water and fluids such as herbal teas.
In order to boost your immune system, feed your family more foods with vitamin C, vitamin D, and zinc during high virus season. If you live above 35 degrees latitude, regularly have your vitamin D levels checked, because you are at a greater risk for Vitamin D Deficiency. Vitamin D deficiency can cause serious issues to your immune system. You can read more on vitamin D in this post.
Supplementing your healthy diet with healthy fats omega 3 and 6 either with food such as salmon, nuts and avocado, seasonal fruits that are antioxidants and yogurt and kefir which are rich with probiotics are definite ways to support your immune system.
Depending on how balanced your or your children’s diet is, you can supplement these vitamins, antioxidants, and probiotics with pills as well. Fresh and organic sources of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and probiotics are always favorable to supplement pills or powder mixes. However, I prefer to load up with Vitamin C and zinc supplements at the onset of cold or flu-like symptoms so that we stop or at least shorten the duration of the illness.
More boost with:
Most important vitamin whose deficiency have a big impact on our immune system is Vitamin D. We generate Vitamin D using sunlight. During summer time, it is essential that we go out and expose our skin to sunlight to keep our Vitamin D levels at a healthy level.
Just like a healthy diet, exercise contributes to the general good health and therefore to a healthy immune system. It may contribute even more directly by improving blood circulation, which helps the cells and substances of the immune system to move through the body freely and do their job efficiently.
Stress is a big factor which compromises our immune system. We tend to treat our body poorly when our mind is occupied with stress. We have hard time sleeping, we ignore our nutrition and water intake. Therefore, taking care of our mental health is as important as our physical health.
Do you have a strong or vulnerable immune system? How do you keep your immune system strong during winter time?