Author: Dr. Erica Basso-Vriend, ND
Dr. Erica is a Collingwood naturopath who provides evidence-based care to those struggling with brain fog, memory issues, chronic pain, fatigue, and all things related to your period. Click here to schedule a free consult with our doctors.
It’s that time of year again, the Change of Seasons! With spring over and warmer weather approaching (not to mention the easing of restrictions exposing us to more people than we’ve seen in a few years!) there is one main concern that comes to mind with many of my patients – how do I boost my immune system? Although there are many different supplements and micronutrients we can introduce to do just that, there are other effective ways to boost your immunity without having to go to the drug store.
Your immune system is a complex system, and can be positively affected in many ways. I’m sure you have heard these age old tips – eat more oranges! take some Vitamin D! – but these are not comprehensive in terms of creating an environment that sustains a healthy and strong immune system. Below I will provide important ways to strengthen and support your immunity as our body’s adapt to the Change of Seasons.
Water does not get enough credit in terms of supporting the immune system. It is very important to stay hydrated at all times of year – in cold seasons a dry internal environment does not provide a stable environment to fight off viruses and bacteria well, and in the hotter sunny months we are sweating more and have increased sun exposure.
As much as I love a good sugary summer latte, ice cream or a daquiri on the patio, it is also important to be mindful of our sugar intake. I’m not saying stop having any type of food that you enjoy, but simply cool down your total sugar intake where you can – half sugar pumps in your latte, dark chocolate over milk chocolate, and roasted nuts over sugared nuts. When you consume more than 50g of sugar at an intake, your immune system will not be functioning at a high level. Cutting down on the total sugar intake is a simple way to support healthy immune function.
Sleep is an integral part of your immune system. In fact, sleep is when our immune system shines! Getting to bed a little earlier, and focusing on healthy sleep habits, is a great way to strengthen your immune system. The recommended sleep range, although not the same for each person, is around 6–7.5 hours per night. Sleep hygiene is also quite important to get a restful sleep and to fall asleep easily – it basically boils down to your bedtime routine. Let me ask a few filtering questions: Is your bedroom a calm, relaxing environment for you? Do you work where you sleep? Do you fall asleep with the TV on or on your cell phone (any type of blue light)? Do you have a white night light on all night? Do you wake up often and check your phone when you do? These are all ways that interrupt melatonin secretion and reduce your sleep quality.
There are some factors in our lives that are not easy or able to change, say if you have young children to care for, but when I work with people, the real issue is that they are unaware of the small, easy changes to be made to improve their sleep quality.
Okay, I am sure we have all heard that stress is bad. To be honest, short term stress is normal and not harmful to the human body. Our bodies are made to be resilient. However, long term, chronic stressors will indeed eventually (and commonly gradually) have a negative impact on our overall health. Your immunity is one system that is negatively impacted by chronic stress.
So, what can we do about it? First thing is first, become aware of the main stressors in your life. Everyone is different, so it is important to become more aware of the things that stress you out in your life. Without awareness, there is no change. Sometimes it comes down to mindset or your perspective on your stressors as well. Overall, individual stress levels are another area that is multifaceted, and is not quite black and white. Something like, taking the bus instead of driving, can relieve stress for one person, and create stress for another. So, writing a list of your stressors, and making small positive changes on the ones you can control are a fantastic place to start.
One of my favourite ways to boost immunity is through hydrotherapy. This is something you can do quite easily and regularly to strengthen your immune system, and to be honest, it is SO refreshing! Hydrotherapy not only boosts your immune system, but you will also see improvements in your energy, sleep, and temperature adaptation (going from cold to hot, or hot to cold temperatures). Furthermore, if you exercise or are beginning to exercise again, this is a great way to improve lactic acid flushing and post-workout recovery.
Let’s get to the How-To: the technique takes place in the shower. You begin by setting the water temperature to as hot as you can tolerate. There is not an absolute degree in temperature to get the benefits of this technique, so use your discretion. Disclaimer – some showers can get pretty hot, so please do not suffer in the shower – the water doesn’t have to be scorching hot to have the effect we are going for. After 30 seconds of hot/warm, turn the water to as cold as you can tolerate. The cold time is 10 seconds. This is one set. One cycle is three sets. Your goal is to complete one cycle per shower – and see how you feel after two weeks!
Overall, I hope you can apply one of these five techniques to support and strengthen your immune system this year. Keep in mind, we are all more capable than we think, and can make small changes to support our bodies in more ways than one!
Talk to your licensed naturopathic doctor or other healthcare practitioner about what different interventions are right for you! If you are interested in booking an appointment with a Collingwood naturopath, please book through our online booking link below. We can’t wait to work with you towards your health goals.