3 Simple Ways to "Winterize" Your Immune System

We prepare our cars, RVs, boats, and homes for the chillier winter months, so why not do the same for our bodies?

Any healthcare practitioner will tell you: The end of the year is notorious for knocking people off their game. Most people falsely assume that it's inevitable that they get sick at the end of the year because more bugs are going around, but that's simply not true.

For the most part, the same bugs that take center stage during the winter months are circulating year-round. The only difference is that our immune system takes a serious hit during this time of the year, leaving us susceptible to catching the common cold, the flu, gut infections, and the like. 

The good news is that there are 3 simple ways to "winterize" your immune system now so you can spend the holiday season with your family instead of the hospital staff.

Winterizing Strategy #1 - Eat Healing Foods

The food you're eating can either help you heal or break you down. Aiming to fill your plate with nutrient-dense foods lowers your body's inflammation level and thus decreases the strain on your immune system. This is in contrast to eating nutrient-robbing foods (like sugar and processed foods, to name a few) that can actually trigger your immune system to work harder, leaving you little reserves to fight off infections. 

Add these healing elements to your diet to help bolster your self-defense:

Bone Broth

This ancient elixir has been around for ages and is a powerful healer. Making broth or stock with beef or chicken bones and a combination of organic vegetables, herbs, and spices leaves you with a mineral-rich tonic that boosts your immune system and digestion. As an added bonus, it's rich in collagen and glucosamine - elements that help to ease achy joints, rehydrate skin, and build stronger teeth and bones. Who doesn't like a multi-tasker?

For more information about the benefits of bone broth (and the easy, go-to crockpot recipe I love), visit Wellness Mama's website here.

Drink 1 cup every evening for best results.

Cooked Veggies 

Cooked veggies (instead of raw) are easier to digest and allow your body to absorb more nutrients. Choose organic for any food if you plan on eating the skin. If you plan to remove the skin, buying conventional should be just fine.

Aim to eat cooked veggies at each meal.

Probiotic

The critters in your gut are crucial to helping you fight off foreign invaders that may make their way into your body. Bone broth (above) and a good variety of non-pasteurized fermented foods (ex. sauerkraut, kimchi, and sugar-free organic kefir) will help provide good gut-bug food, but almost everyone would benefit from taking a high-quality probiotic like Prescript Assist to help boost their gut flora. 

Aim to eat probiotic rich foods 2-3 times per week.

Garlic

Personally, I never need another excuse to eat more garlic, but just in case you do: There are compounds found in garlic that become active when the clove is cut, pressed, or broken up in any way. These compounds contribute to a stronger immune system, so toss a few cloves into your bone broth (yes, I'm still talking about bone broth!) or saute them up with your dinner veggies.

Eat Dessert*

Yes, I said it! You can have dessert with one caveat: *It's homemade. Here's why: When you go into the holiday season and swear up and down you're "going to avoid sweets and treats at all costs", it can eat up (pun intended) a significant amount of your energy. Not to mention the guilt and sadness that may surface if you feel like you're missing out (or is this just me??).

So, I'm giving you permission to indulge so long as what you're eating is made with love, from the heart. There's no point in filling up on Snickers, store-bought cookies and cakes that hold no special meaning to you or the holiday season whatsoever. Save your indulgences for when they're really meaningful. Then, eat slowly and enjoy it so you don't feel the need to go back for more.

Hydrate

Toxins accumulate in our system and need to be flushed out. Our immune system plays a big part in picking up these toxins and moving them to your liver, spleen, and kidneys to be filtered and removed. If you're not hydrating properly then this process slows down and becomes stagnant, over-burdening your system.

I preach on hydration on a daily basis and encourage you to learn strategies on hydrating effectively via my blog post: Staying Hydrated - Going Beyond "Drink More Water"

Winterizing Strategy #2 - Flush Out Toxins

Your body has systems built in to circulate fluid. The two main ways we do this are via our cardiovascular system (blood vessels) and our lymphatic system (lymph nodes). Interestingly enough, both of these systems are linked via the heart.  Below are ways to flush toxins out of both.

Exercise

Getting your heart rate up via daily exercise helps to circulate fluids so things don't remain static. It also boosts your white blood cell count, which are the cells playing a starring role in your immune system. As your heart rate increases, you also breathe more frequently (hopefully) which helps clean out the lungs, preventing pneumonia that can often set in when you're sitting too much.

Whole Body Vibration (WBV) and Rebounding

WBV is a popular technique that involves standing or lying on a vibration plate to help stimulate various systems in your body, including your lymphatic system. Rebounding (jumping on a trampoline) also helps with lymphatic circulation, so if you ever needed a chance to hop up there with your grandkids, this is it!

Winterizing Strategy #3 - Cultivate a Healing Mindset

Our mindset has a tremendous impact on our health. Think about this: Have you ever been standing in line at the grocery store and the person behind you starts sneezing or coughing, complaining they aren't feeling well? You think, "Man, they sound like they're sick. I hope I don't get whatever they have!" And then, suddenly, you start to feel a tickle in your throat and the hint of a headache coming on?

This is a perfect illustration of your body trying to find evidence of the thoughts that are going through your mind. In other words: You get what you expect. Once you have it in your mind you're going to get sick (or start hoping that you don't), here it comes! You can call it the "law of attraction", or simply head to the research studies that suggest increased worry lowers your immune system and makes you more susceptible to catching something. Either way, it's important to re-frame your mindset to expect something different this season.

In general, stop telling your body it's weak or at risk. Be aware when others try to tell you this, too. After all, your body will achieve what your mind believes - for better or worse. Use this daily affirmation to start re-writing your mindset: "I choose to feel resilient, strong, and vibrant in this moment." Then just sit back and enjoy feeling that way!

Finally, say "no" to things that don't energize you to avoid feeling run down and spread thin. Subconsciously if you don't want to attend an event, your body is going to listen and make you feel stressed, drained, and even ill. 

Listen to that inner voice and, instead of feeling guilty about turning down invitations to dinners or events that you don't want to attend, commend yourself for committing that energy towards things that energize you with the people that mean the most to you. When you're not running around, stressed and put-off by the activities you're doing, your body will thank you for it!

Watch & Listen:

Sarah discussed this topic on a Facebook LIVE event on the Invigorate PT and Wellness Facebook page. Click "play" to watch & listen:


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