Dr. Jillian Smithers
Ways to Boost the Immune System
It's that time of year again when our immune systems are easily run down and friends and family members start to get sick. But that doesn't mean that you have to, also! Here are some things that you can do to keep your immune system strong and feeling great throughout the entire cold and flu season.
Remember, the first line of defense is always a healthy lifestyle.
The best way to keep your immune system strong and healthy throughout the winter months is by prioritizing your sleep, nutrition, and water intake. But there also comes a time and a place for supplements, too, which I have also shared at the bottom.
Get More Sleep
While 8-9 hours a night is ideal, even making sure that you consistently get 7 hours per night can help keep your immune system strong throughout the winter months. Sleep should be a priority in your life to begin with (if it's not, let's start with that!) but as soon as you start feeling run down, make sure to get more high quality shut eye!
Struggling with sleep? Grab some Insomnitol or Melatonin from my online store (found under Sleep Support) and let's get you sleeping!
Again, this goes without saying, but we all need the reminder sometimes to drink. more. water. PLEASE :)
The cooler weather can make it hard for some people to keep up on their water intake, but adequate hydration is just as important at this time of year to keep mucus membranes moist and help prevent viruses from entering through that barrier.
There's a reason that I write this out on all of my treatment plans, because your body needs adequate hydration to function properly. A general goal is half your body weight in ounces of water, but this could be more or less depending on your current health so I recommend speaking to your doctor about a specific goal appropriate for you.
Limit Sugar and Alcohol
This is the time of year where people tend to indulge more in unhealthy food and drink choices. With the holidays around the corner, remember that both sugar and alcohol suppress the immune system, and will do you no favors in keeping your immune system strong and healthy.
Sugar increases inflammation body wide (and helps to break down collagen, so it speeds up the aging process), so if you start to get sick, do not reach for a glass of orange juice for vitamin C. It will actually do more harm than good, but opting for a vitamin C supplement is great!
Alcohol not only suppresses your immune system, but also depletes your body of crucial B vitamins, which we need for energy and hormone balance!
Get More Probiotics
Since 75% of the immune system is made in the gut, it should come as no surprise that gut health is very important when it comes to keeping your immune system strong. The first thing to do is to add in more probiotic food sources like sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, yogurt, and kefir. Taking a probiotic supplement with at least 10-20 billion CFUs per serving is another great way to support your gut health and immune system.
I know, I know. Here I am again preaching about water. But have you ever heard of ending your showers on cold, or doing alternating hot and cold cycles? Whether you want to end your shower with a cold rinse or alternate (but always end on cold), what you're doing is stimulating the movement of your lymph, which is hugely important for your immune system. You can think of our lymph system as one of our first lines of defense against invaders like bacteria and viruses.
Our lymph fluid does not get pumped around our bodies like blood does, so it's up to us to make sure that it's circulating properly with movement (exercise), lymph brushing, or wet sock treatments.
Know Your Vitamin D3
Do you know when your vitamin D levels were last tested? Were they low, "normal", or optimal? Most lab ranges of vitamin D range from 30 nmol/L - 110 nmol/L, but I typically like to see those levels at at least 60 nmol/L and supplement accordingly.
Vitamin D is important to have tested regularly so that your doctor can prescribe the appropriate dose (yes, these levels can get too high and become harmful to your health) and then monitor its progression and make the appropriate changes. If you can't remember the last time that you had your levels checked, or you remember that they were low in the past but haven't been supplementing or monitoring them, ask your physician to order a blood test for you so that you can support your immune system, energy, and moods throughout the winter.
Fill in the Gaps with Supplements
Vitamin A: Necessary for proper immune function, vitamin A is found in sweet potato, winter squashes, carrots, dark leafy greens, and more. I typically recommend liquid drops of vitamin A ranging from 10,000 - 12,500 IU/drop and take one drop per day for maintenance. When I am getting sick, I will ramp that up to 5 drops per day for no more than 3 days.
Vitamin C: I am a lover of vitamin C because it boosts the immune system and makes new collagen! Who doesn't love a good two-for-one supplement? The most common issue I see with vitamin C is that people don't take it in high enough doses, but if you take too much then it can cause loose stools. The one that I take is a vitamin C powder that also includes bioflavonoids for added effect. It's an orange effervescent powder that I take one teaspoon of per day for maintenance and increase up to 3-4 times per day when I'm getting sick of suffering with seasonal allergies.
Vitamin D: see above.
Elderberry Syrup: This is a favorite in my household and with my patients because it just tastes delicious. Do you remember taking those disgusting liquid medicines that advertised that they taste disgusting but they work? Well, this one works but tastes amazing! One teaspoon per day is great for maintenance and then I increase that to 4-5 times per day when I'm fighting off an infection.
Herbs & Mushrooms: Herbs like echinacea and astragalus combined with mushrooms like cordyceps, shiitake, maitake, and reishi all provide varying but synergistic immune supporting properties. The supplement that I keep at home and only take when any symptoms start is called ImmunoTone Plus, which works very well.
Probiotics: see above.
Each of these supplements listed can be found in my online store under "Immune Support."