Winter. It’s cold. It’s dark. It’s not my favorite season for sure. We spend more time in doors and, if you are like me, in close contact with sick people. To stay healthy I use herbs, acupuncture and the following practices…all year long! What can you better incorporate into your life to improve your natural immunity?
1. Get enough sleep. As they days become shorter and colder our natural inclination is to go to bed earlier or sleep later. Go with that inclination! Our body goes into repair and replenish mode while we are sleeping. During sleep you make more white blood cells – those are the ones that attack viruses and bacteria. In one study, people who slept at least 8 hours a night were 3 times less likely to come down with a cold than those who got 7 hours or less.
2. Heal your gut. Your gut wall houses 70% of the cells that make up your immune system. To have a robust immune system you need healthy gut flora (a.k.a. good bugs). Fertilize your own inner garden by eating fresh cooked organic veggies, non-gluten grains and legumes (soaked before cooking!), fermented foods, bone broth and pastured animals. Things that feed the bad bugs, destroy the good bugs and thus much of our immune system: processed food; refined sugar; medications like antibiotics, acid-blocking medication and anti-inflammatories; chronic stress. Struggling with poor digestive health? Acupuncture and herbs can help!
3. Get regular exercise. Take a 30-minute brisk walk, go to a yoga class or dance around the living room with your kids. Moving your body increases circulation of white blood cells increasing the opportunity for them to come into contact with a virus and pick it off. Plus it reduces stress, which is also an immune system downer.
4. Laugh more and practice gratitude. Research has demonstrated that laugher decreases stress hormones and increases certain immune cells. Watch a funny movie or get together with the friends that make you laugh until your face hurts. Similar to laughing, an attitude of gratitude reduces stress hormones and increases immune cells. One study found that people who are optimistic have more disease fighting cells than those who are pessimistic. Try a new gratitude practice: say three things you are grateful for at dinner each night or write down five things you are grateful for each morning and see how great you feel!