Whether you’re a frontline worker or working from home while trying to homeschool three kids, it is more important than ever to stay healthy and operating on all cylinders. Botton line: your life needs you healthy. While there is no magic pill to ward off illness, there are a few tried-and-true ways to keep your immune system humming:
Eat More Fruits & Veggies
Your mother has been telling you to eat more fruits and veggies since you were too short to ride rollercoasters. As it turns out, there might have been some science behind all of mom’s nagging.
Whole foods like fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and beans are nutrient-dense and rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants help decrease inflammation which has been linked to a myriad of chronic health conditions including heart disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, and obesity.5
Only 1 out of every 10 adults meet the daily recommended servings of fruits and vegetables.6 But when you have a busy life and a tight schedule, how do you manage to get healthier food on your plate?
- Make a plan. Keep track of how many fruits and veggies you currently eat in a day. Then make a plan to slowly increase that amount. Swap that afternoon chips & dip for celery and hummus. Or maybe instead of fries on the side, you opt for a side salad. Small changes add up over time. Most adults should aim for 2-3 cups of vegetables8 and 1-2 cups of fruit per day.7
- Start with Breakfast: If you’re aiming to pack more nutrients into your day, it's worth starting the day off right. Try adding diced apples to your morning oatmeal or include mushrooms or tomatoes to your morning omelet for a savory breakfast.
- Buy prepared: If all the chopping, peeling, and dicing is a bit too overwhelming, pick up some pre-cut or pre-washed options at your local grocery store. Bagged salads and pre-cut fruits are a much better option than takeout.
- Spice it up: Most grocery stores have an entire aisle dedicated to adding more flavor to food. Every tried truffle salt? How about sesame butter? Don’t be afraid to experiment.
- Top it off: Make your veggies pop with flavored oils, toasted nuts, or a sprinkle of cheese.
- Soups & Smoothies: Soups and smoothies are a great way to sneak in extra nutrient-rich foods. Add a handful of spinach to a fruit smoothie for an energy boost, or sneak in puréed cauliflower to a soup to make it extra creamy. You won’t taste the difference, but your body will thank you!
Get Enough Sleep
Sleep and the immune system are closely connected. Consistent and quality sleep strengthens the immune system. The opposite is also true. Studies show that people who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to get sick if they are exposed to a virus, like the flu or common cold.1
We all envision living a long and healthy life, symptom and disease-free. Yet the reality is that most of us suffer from some pervasive health issues or chronic illnesses. There is a solution, however. If you are like many people who are not seeing results using conventional medicine alone, consider naturopathic medicine.
How Are Naturopathic Doctors Different From Traditional Doctors?
Naturopaths are trained in all of the basic medical sciences that standard medical doctors are trained in. However, naturopathic physicians artfully blend modern, cutting-edge diagnostic, and therapeutic procedures with ancient methods. They design individualized treatment plans integrating both traditional health care wisdom and the latest evidence-based research in order to restore, maintain, and optimize health naturally using a whole-person approach.
How Do Naturopaths Support Healing?
A naturopath designs a tailored treatment plan based on the understanding that health is determined mostly by food, environmental, and lifestyle factors – “epigenetics” that directly impact how our unique genetic predispositions towards certain diseases are expressed. This approach goes against conventional wisdom, underscoring the truth that we are not “doomed” according to family history. Instead, the patient is empowered to take control of his or her health as a lifelong practice. Fostering education and sustainable changes in the person’s lifestyle habits are seen as essential to the process of healing and cultivating wellbeing.
Parents are used to juggling it all -- personal commitments, work schedules, their kid’s school, and social schedules, helping with homework and preparing meals that hopefully support their children’s learning.
Although it’s a different world now with hybrid learning, limited social engagements to manage, parents are feeling a different kind of stress in having to navigate safety precautions and manage their child’s education in a new way (especially if they have to go back to work this fall).
Even more, safety concerns are prevalent for many parents who worry about their child being exposed to viral threats or potentially acting as a carrier, possibly threatening those at home with dampened immune systems that are more at risk.
While managing stress and finding healthy coping mechanisms is a very important part of supporting a strong immune system (and making life less difficult), there are numerous nutritional strategies that can make a big difference.
Spring is finally here!
While we all enjoy the warmth, sunshine, and blossoming trees and flowers, springtime also means allergy season is upon us. Especially in the wake of COVID-19, we may be extra cautious about symptoms of immune reactivity, as seen in allergic responses to environmental pollens. Thankfully, there are multiple ways to decrease inflammation at the root cause of bothersome seasonal allergies. Using simple, natural strategies can have a positive impact on your immune response overall for greater protection against viruses and other pathogenic infections, and for reducing allergies so many of us suffer from this time of year.
Immune System Health relies on Gut Health
All health begins in the gut — even that relating to allergies. Supporting proper GI function is essential to all inflammatory conditions, for boosting immune function, and decreasing reactive symptoms such as seasonal allergies. In fact, more than 70% of our immune system lies in our digestive tract.
How can we support our GI health?
Eliminating inflammatory and reactive foods, determining individual food sensitivities, allergies, and intolerances, including healing anti-inflammatory foods, supporting proper digestion and absorption, reducing environmental toxins from water, food, personal and home products, chemicals, etc., identifying hidden infections and pathogens, rebalancing a dysbiotic (unbalanced) microbiome, repairing the integrity, healing, and regeneration of the gut lining, and cultivating a healthy mindset and nervous system rebalancing to support our rest and digest function will all work synergistically to improve our gut health — and overall health, including resilience against things such as environmental pollens and other allergy-related factors.
If you are one of many people that suffer from seasonal allergies, you may be surprised to know that there are simple, natural ways to reduce the impact of your spring sneezes and sniffles without prescription medications. Basic strategies to support gut and immune function, along with sleep, exercise, healing foods, stress reduction, and targeted supplementation can help to relieve health problems such as allergies that were once thought of as a life-long issue.
Supplements to support allergy symptoms include:
Patients with severe COVID-19 infection can develop fatal lung damage from a cytokine storm, a marked increase in pro-inflammatory cytokines such as Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha (TNF-alpha), Interleukin-1 beta (ILB1), Interleukin-6 (IL6), Interleukin-8 (IL8) and other cytokines
The following supplements can help to suppress the multiple pro-inflammatory cytokines that cause severe lung damage (ARDS) in patients with COVID-19 infection caused by coronavirus 2 or SARS-CoV-2.
NOTE: Sambucus Nigra (Elderberry):
There is evidence that elderberry inhibits replication and viral attachment of Human coronavirus NL63 (HCoV-NL63), different than COVID-19, but a member of the coronavirus family. (1). Sambucus appears most effective in the prevention or early stage of coronavirus infections. Sambucus significantly increases inflammatory cytokines, including IL-B1 so it should be discontinued with symptoms of infection (or a positive test) despite its ability to decrease TNF-alpha.
- IL8 inhibitors: Cordyceps, ECGC (from green tea), Isatis spp, NAC, Polygonum cuspidatum
- IL 8 (aka CXCL8): produced by macrophages and epithelial cells, airway smooth muscle cells, and endothelial cells. Induces the migration of neutrophils.
- IL Beta-1: produced by activated macrophages. Stimulates cell proliferation differentiation and apoptosis. Upregulates COX2 in CNS
- IL Beta-1 Inhibitors: Cordyceps, Eupatorium perfoliatum (boneset) Polygonum cuspidatum (Japanese knotweed), Salvia miltiorrhiza (red sage), Scutellaria baicalensis (skullcap).
- IL 6: crosses the blood-brain barrier (BBB) and stimulates the production of PGE2 in the hypothalamus altering the body’s temperature regulation process. Affects pituitary/adrenal/hypothalamus axis. It can cause damage to neurons in the central nervous system (CNS) and peripheral nervous system. Common in Alzheimer’s, MS, depression, lupus, cognitive decline, progressive hearing loss, decreased hippocampal function, seizures, and stroke.
- Il 6 inhibitors: Andrographis paniculata, Salvia miltiorrhiza, Scutellaria baicalensis, Isatis spp
- TNF-alpha produced by macrophages, lymphocytes, NK cells, neutrophils, mast cells, eosinophils, and neurons. TNF-alpha tends to be elevated in Alzheimer’s, depression, inflammatory bowel disease, and cancer. It is synergistic with IL 1 and IL 6, with similar effects on the hypothalamic/pituitary/adrenal axis (HPA axis), temperature regulation, appetite, liver function, and insulin resistance. It causes heat, swelling, pain, and redness.
- TNF-alpha Inhibitors: Andrographis, Cannabis, Cordyceps, Eupatorium, Houttuynia, Sambucus, Scutellaria, Salvia, Zingiber off. (ginger)
- NLRP3 inflammasome Inhibitors: Melatonin
When Traditional Doctors Can't Find A Solution
It’s an all-too-common scenario. You’ve been suffering from a cocktail of vague and seemingly unrelated symptoms for months, even years now…fatigue, brain fog, aches and pains, memory loss, poor sleep, low libido, weight gain, food cravings, mood issues like anxiety or depression, skin rashes, hormone imbalances, headaches, or digestive problems. You finally make an appointment with your doctor to get some answers (that Dr. Google can’t provide), only to be given a mere 15 minutes to rattle off your laundry list of complaints, desperate for some validation. You’re given a prescription or two and sent home with the discomforting assessment that what you’re experiencing is “just a part of normal life” due to genetics or aging. You leave feeling defeated, hopeless, and frustrated. Perhaps you then go from doctor to doctor, only to be told that you’re fine, there’s nothing wrong, and even worse…it’s all in your head.
Or, perhaps you have been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, IBS, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, pre-diabetes or type 2 diabetes, a reproductive issue, or an autoimmune disease. You are told the unsettling news that you can’t reverse the condition -- you simply have to take medication to manage it for the rest of your life and hope it doesn’t get worse.
NOW WHAT? What to do if you feel like you are out of options
While these kinds of predicaments are common, they don’t have to be “normal”. The good news is that while suffering from health issues seems isolating, you’re not alone. The better news is that there are solutions to identify and address the reasons why you’re suffering – because there are actual reasons.
The fact is, while conventional Western medicine is necessary for acute conditions, the methods used don’t address the myriad of chronic conditions plaguing so many individuals on a day-to-day basis. Thankfully, Naturopathic medicine is designed to do just this. The methods used not only prevent chronic conditions from developing in the first place, they effectively identify the root causes of symptoms and dis-ease, rebalance the body at the foundational level, and promote healing and resolution, even reversal of health conditions – many of which are thought to be untreatable through the lens of conventional medicine, regardless of what your genetic predispositions may be.
How does Naturopathic Medicine Compare to Conventional Medicine?
Many people are familiar with the terms “Naturopathic Doctor” or “Naturopath” but may not fully grasp the breadth of their practice or what distinguishes them from conventional medical physicians. According to the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians (AANP) and the Institute for Natural Medicine (INM), naturopathic medicine originated in the 1890s.
Stress is simply part of being human. We all know what stress feels like -- but do we really understand what it does to our body? Or what to do about it?
Chances are, most of us are in denial, internalizing the cultural mantra to “just deal with it” or “push through”. While this does a lot to help our to-do list, it also does a lot to hurt our health. Statistics show that up to 80% of all doctor visits and 50% of all illnesses are stress-related.
In regard to health concerns amidst a pandemic, reducing stress and managing our perception of stress are powerful factors in immune resilience and influence how our body handles a viral threat. Hormones released during stress increase inflammation and suppress the immune system, leaving us more vulnerable to pathogens.
The bottom line: reducing stress is one of the most critical things we can do to support the body’s natural ability to heal, strengthen immune function, and increase health and life span.
If chronic stress goes unresolved, it will break the body down, create symptoms, and can lead to the development of numerous diseases and conditions – all of which are preventable.
Most people don't think about sunshine or gut health when they are considering how to stay safe from contracting viral threats. As a lot continues to change in the health world, it’s also time to adapt our ways of thinking about how to optimize immune resilience.
Surprisingly enough, our body internally manufactures one of the main nutrients to bolster our immune system -- Vitamin D.
With a new wave of Coronavirus cases and increased concerns for our safety as winter approaches, new research is indicating that supplementing with vitamin D may be a key factor in keeping us resilient and healthy.
Vitamin D Works To Target Infection By Reducing The Cytokine Storm
Medical experts state that having sufficient vitamin D levels can positively affect the risk of contracting coronavirus and lessen complications in a severe infection. Vitamin D works to target infection by reducing the cytokine storm in response to viral and bacterial infections and enhances cellular innate immunity by inducing antimicrobial peptides.