Oooh the change of seasons. Some greet this time with optimism and excitement as we start new schedules at work, school and daily life. We also start to think about our overall health and wellbeing as we move into the colder months ahead. And with the pandemic still a part of our daily existence, this fall has also come with the discussion around ensuring both parents and kids’ immune systems are in tip top shape, but how do you know if you have a strong immune system? Read on to see if your immune system could use a bit of TLC along with that pumpkin-spice latte 🙂
Here are a few warning signs that may indicate your immune system is lagging:
Your stress levels are sky high
Long term stress decreases the body’s lymphocytes (the white blood cells that help to fight off infection) leaving you more vulnerable to viruses like the common cold.
You always have a cold
While sneezes and sniffles are much more common in kids, whose immune systems are still forming, adults are expected to have just 2-3 colds per year and to be able to bounce back in 7-10 days. If you’re constantly catching colds – or have a cold that won’t run its course – that’s a clear sign your immune system is struggling to keep up.
If you have frequent diarrhea, gas, or constipation, this could be a sign that your immune system is compromised. Nearly 70% of your immune system is in your gut. The beneficial bacteria and microorganisms that live there defend your gut from infection and support the immune system. Low amounts of these helpful gut bacteria can leave you at risk to viruses, chronic inflammation and even autoimmune disorders.
Your wounds are slow to heal
The healing process depends on healthy immune cells to help regenerate new skin. If you immune system is sluggish, your wounds may linger.
You feel tired all the time
If you’re getting enough sleep and still suffering from exhaustion, it’s worth considering if you immune system is telling you something. When your immune system struggles, so does your energy levels. That’s because your body is trying to conserve energy to fuel your immune system so it can fight off germs.
Tips to keep your immune system in top shape
While you and your children may encounter an endless array of germs and viruses on a regular basis (a bit less these days due to masking, but still important for immune development), it make sense that we want to ensure that our immune systems are as prepared as possible to battle whatever we happen to come across .
Here are a few tips to help keep and improve immune function.
Serve more fruits and vegetables
Colourful fruits and veggies contain different carotenoids which are immunity-boosting phytonutrients [see more ideas below!].
Get more sleep
Sleep deprivation can make you more susceptible to illness by reducing natural killer cells, immune system weapons that attack microbes. Ensure you and your children have a regular bedtime that gets your the sleep you need!
Exercise as a family
Research shows that exercise increases the number of natural killer cells in both kids and adults. Exercising WITH your children rather than just telling them to go outside and play can help turn exercise into a lifelong habit that they enjoy. Try going for family bikes, jogs or hikes or play a family game of basketball or soccer at your local park!
Check your vitamin D levels
We highly recommend staying on top of your vitamin D levels and consider supplementing accordingly with the guidance of a healthcare professional. In Canada, both kids and adults are likely to need supplementation for at least part of the year.
Nutrition for a healthy immune system
More ideas on what to add to your daily diet to help your immune system stay resilient.
Focus on citrus… and bell peppers?
This one is probably already on your radar since citrus fruits are a fantastic source of Vitamin C. Vitamin C contributes to the rapid increase of B cells and T cells, two white blood cells that play a role in secreting antibodies and killing off infections.
Citrus, however, isn’t the only great source of vitamin C. Ounce for ounce, red bell peppers contain almost 3x as much vitamin C as a Florida orange!
Garlic’s immune-boosting properties seem to come from a heavy concentration of sulfur-containing compounds, such as allicin. These compounds can help fight off infections, and as a bonus there is also evidence that they may help slow down hardening of the arteries and lower blood pressure!
Blend in some spinach
While it may not be everyone’s favourite leafy green, it is amongst the highest in vitamin C as well as other immune-boosting antioxidants and beta-carotene, which may help increase the infection-fighting ability of your immune system. Consider blending it into a smoothie with plenty of colourful fruits to hide it from your kiddos… and your own taste buds!
Consider incorporating fermented foods such as natural yogurts, low-sugar kombucha, tempeh, kimchi, sauerkraut, & pickled vegetables.
These foods can help to infuse your gut with healthy probiotic bacteria that fortify your immune system.
Sip green tea
Both green and black teas are packed with flavonoids, a type of antioxidant. Green tea takes the gold due to its levels of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), another powerful antioxidant that can significantly enhance immune function.
As always, we’re here to help you improve your health and keep you strong as we move into the colder months. If you need a seasonal revamp or a first assessment, book in with Dr.Sue or Dr. Sapna and get started on a healthier winter season.