BOOST YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM NATURALLY
11 Tips And Tricks
Flu season is coming, is your immune system ready? The top two months out of the year you’re most likely to catch a cold or flu are February and December. While there’s no true way to guarantee avoiding a cold, developing and maintaining a strong immune system is a good first step.
While TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) is all about Incorporating whole health wellness to boost your immunity throughout the year, it’s uber important before flu season. Herbal treatments and diet adjustments have been used for centuries to ease cold and flu symptoms, but also to act as preventative care.
11 Ways to Boost Your Immune System
While maintaining a healthy lifestyle and nutrition plan all year round is the best course of action to reduce your chances of catching a bug, there are a few specific tactics designed to strengthen your immune system in a pinch. From antioxidant-rich herbs and foods, to good daily habits to double down on during flu season, these 12 tips based in TCM will have you covered.
Poor sleep, or a lack of sleep can result in an imbalance of yin and yang in the body. According to TCM, bad circulation, emotional distress, and qi deficiency can all be the cause of imbalance that leads to sleep problems. Several studies have shown that a lack of sleep or low-quality sleep can lower the body’s immune system. During sleep the body produces cytokines, antibodies, and cells, some of which are designed to fight infections, inflammation, and stress. If sleep is shortened or disrupted, production is decreased, leaving your body more vulnerable to illness. Be sure to hit your sleep quota each night to build a healthy immune system.
This berry is used to make teas, syrups, and supplements, all designed to either clear upper respiratory infections or provide a general boost of the immune system. Elderberries are loaded with antioxidants and have been shown to cut down colds by up to four days according to some studies. For the most effective use of elderberry, consider brewing your own tea from the berries and flowers.
Unfamiliar with ginseng? This root is known for its ability to strengthen the immune system, reduce duration of colds, and aid patients undergoing long term cancer treatments. You may recognize ginseng as an added ingredient in several brands of green tea or other light drinks. Though there are several variations of ginseng, in TCM Panax ginseng is said to host the strongest warming properties. However, Xi yang sen, also known as American ginseng, is often the most appropriate and most commonly used in China. Studies have shown that ginseng has positive influence over the balance and regulation of five different immune cells in the human body.
Mushrooms may be the key to better health. These powerful fungi have been used for thousands of years as a healing tool in Chinese medicine. A recent study on the immunity of women undergoing treatment for breast cancer concluded that those who took concentrated supplements of shiitake mushroom had stronger immune function than those who did not. Other mushrooms with immunity-boosting properties include maitake, cordyceps, turkey tail, and reishi. Beware, not all mushroom supplements are equal: the medicine is bound up in chitin and requires long, slow cooking to release it. You don’t get the benefit by just eating the mushrooms raw or lightly cooked. Consider talking to your TCM practitioner about adding mushroom soup to your diet, or increase mushroom intake through your meals or coffee alternatives.
When adding exercise to your routine in the hopes of a stronger immune system, moderation is key. Studies have shown that moderate exercise can boost your immune system and make you more likely to fight off upper respiratory infections. However, extremely strenuous exercise can actually weaken your immune system. Be sure to be mindful of the stress you put on your body at the gym and give yourself plenty of recovery time between workouts.
Green tea has been one of the staple beverages for health in wellness in Traditional Chinese Medicine for hundreds of years, and for good reason. Green tea contains high amounts of antioxidants and EGCG. These two components carry properties that improve the functioning of the immune system, and act as both antibacterial and anti-inflammatories. Try trading out your morning coffee for green tea to get all the benefits.
Get outside and soak in that vitamin D! Studies have shown that very low doses of sunlight exposure can help improve health through strengthening the immune system. While it is important that you wear your sunscreen and avoid excess time in the sun, even 20 to 30 minutes of sitting outdoors can help your body stock up on vitamin D.
Garlic has been used for thousands of years as an antibacterial and antiviral solution in TCM. The presence of yang, or innate warmth, of garlic supports the digestive system with processing food and liquids which allows them to better flush out toxins and bacteria. Other studies have shown the positive results of garlic as an antioxidant and its ability to increase production of white blood cells. Try adding garlic to your soups, sauces, meats, and even desserts to gain these benefits for your immune system.
A study in New Zealand showed that daily doses of probiotic supplements helped reduce both the occurrence of illnesses as well as the duration of illness. To naturally get the benefits of probiotics, try to add more yogurt, cheeses like kefir, and fermented foods such as miso, kimchi and sauerkraut to your diet. If these foods aren’t on the menu for you, probiotics can also be taken in the form of supplements.
Stick to a Healthy Diet
It’s important to be mindful and intentional about the food you eat each day to support a healthy immune system. Try to amplify your intake of fruits and vegetables that contain innate energy and immune-boosting vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, B6, and E. Pro-immunity foods include chicken, salmon, nuts, spinach, citrus fruits, kale, broccoli, bell peppers, and strawberries.
Echinacea has made a name for itself in both Eastern and Western medicine for its ability to fight the common cold and support a healthy immune system. You should take echinacea when the first signs of a cold appear to best fight it. Echinacea can be used both fresh or dried to make teas or supplement capsules. While there’s no evidence that taking echinacea will shorten a cold once you already have it, it can be an excellent preventative measure.
How Do I Know if I Have a Good Immune System?
The easiest way to know if you have a strong immune system is to count up how frequently you’re sick throughout the year. Do you find you catch a cold every time you travel, are around small children, or when the weather changes? People with good immune systems tend to only catch a cold once or twice a year. If you notice you’re getting sick more frequently than everyone else, chances are you have a relatively weak immune system.
What Lowers Your Immune System?
There are certain activities to shy away from if you’re looking to keep your immune system in mint condition. Though avoiding these things can help improve your chances of a weakened immune system, every body is different. As a general guideline, try to avoid smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, unhealthy weight loss or gain, stress and exhaustion. Not exercising regularly, eating food with low nutritional value, and failing to maintain clean hygiene practices can also lower your immune system’s defenses.
Some immune system concerns are much more serious than simply being susceptible to colds. These are based in more defined medical conditions including autoimmune diseases, certain allergies, and immune deficiencies. Conditions of this nature can be present from birth, or appear over time. Be sure to consult with your doctor if you think you have one of these severe conditions.
Have you tried Traditional Chinese herbal treatments to help maintain your immune system? Which herbal tea is your go-to?