These 10 tips for a strong immune system will help you build a strong foundation, preparing your body for the upcoming fall and winter months.
Immunity is an important topic, we all want a strong immune system as we prepare for fall and winter. Being sick is no fun.
Many of us know the big picture for immunity: eat healthy, get rest, exercise, and reduce stress.
But today I’m bringing you 10 tips for a strong immune system that go beyond the obvious. This post includes immunity enhancers that you may not have heard of (thymus, Irish sea moss, astragalus) as well as giving you some more guidance about the big picture components.
If you are on my mailing list, you may recall this email in which I discussed seasonal foods and ways to support our bodies in the fall. For many of us, we are still enjoying some “late summer” temperatures. And, the abundance associated with late summer in Chinese Medicine. Even though the calendar told us it was autumn in September, we are now only starting to feel fall in our bones.
How we nourish ourselves in this time sets up the foundation for a strong immune system in the cold months ahead.
10 tips for a strong immune system
- Support the gut. Our immune system relies on a healthy gut. Keep the microbiome happy with a wide range of fibre-rich, colorful whole plant-based foods, fermented foods, probiotics if needed, and also digestive bitters.
- Nourish. You’re already eating a wide range of plant-based foods, now focus on how to optimize your nourishment. Include produce items that are seasonal and abundant this time of year (winter squash, cauliflower, kale and other leafy greens, apples, pears, parsnips, and other earthy root vegetables). Be mindful to eat more slowly. And, consider your nourishment on other levels. What nourishes you? Consider how you can nourish your body and soul daily, through self-care and reducing stress. Consider warm epsom baths, massage, journalling, and time in nature.
- More cooked, less raw. Eating more cooked vegetables/fruit and reducing raw foods. Think more soups and stews instead of salads and smoothies.
- Hydrate. Fall is associated with dryness in Chinese Medicine. Stay hydrated with water, spiced/warming herbal teas, and also soups and stews.
- Stay warm. Our elders always told us to “wear a scarf”. And they were right! In Chinese Medicine, the nape of the neck is known as the “windgate”. When this area is exposed, it’s ‘vulnerable’ to external pathogens and wind. Layer up, wear a turtleneck or scarf.
- Rest. Fall and winter are the yin seasons of the year. Our bodies naturally need more rest. Prioritize your sleep, and harmonize your sleep rhythms with a regular schedule.
This time of year I also find it useful to use the Aurora Mini LightPad to help my body’s rhythms as well as to balance my mood through the dark months.
- Movement: Exercise modulates the immune system. And, we need to move our bodies to “pump” our lymph to take on invading viruses, bacteria, etc. So move!
My favorite exercise is using my Bellicon rebounder (see me jumping!) and Fascia FLO. Rebounding has been shown to boost the immune system and boost lymphatic flow.
And, of course, with our fascia work, we are improving all the systems in our body through the fascial network… and we have FLOs that benefit the external and internal immune systems in particular (see this video). I talk about those all the time in class (my students know the story of my thymus roll-downs fending off a gnarly virus that took our household down last year).
- Irish Sea Moss: This could be grouped under supplementation, below. However, I feel this is more a food than a supplement. And, I have to give credit here to one of my students, Barbara, for turning me on to Irish sea moss. During one of our classes, she talked about how she really loves the nutritional properties as well as its texture for cooking and baking. Just a week later I found Irish sea moss gel at our local farmers market – and I’ve been consuming it daily. You can buy sea moss capsules and dried sea moss online and add them to sauces, purees, etc. But you may find a local source that makes the sea moss gel (here are some on amazon). The gel you can take by the spoonful, or use to thicken sauces, dressings, and more. Sea moss is rich in vitamins and minerals, and especially good for gut health and immunity.
- Supplementation*: Vitamin D is crucially important for our immune system. This article by Brenda Davis elaborates on the importance of vitamin D, especially as most of us do not live near the equator. Check in with your dosage, recommendations for optimal vitamin D intake have changed in recent years.
*Readers ask me often what supplements I take: I use the Complement supplement (you can always find discounts on their page) as it combines vegan DHA/EPA with K2, zinc, B12 and vitamin D. In the fall and winter, I also take extra vitamin D drops. If I’m feeling my immune system needs a boost, I use Astragalus (note it’s important not to use if you are in the throes of a virus, as it can strengthen that pathogen).
- Laugh & have fun. Even though we are indoors more this time of year, remember to have fun with family even if that means connecting on Facetime and sharing funny memories or moments from your day. Or maybe a family game or favorite Netflix funny. Laughter is good for the soul – and the immune system!
I hope you find this information helpful. Remember, this is the time to fill your proverbial cup so your immune system has good stores moving into the fall.