Written by contributor Stephanie Langford of Keeper of the Home.
The green tomatoes on the vine outside my window make me want to deny the truth that summer is winding down and fall will be here in a matter of weeks. (Sniff, sniff.) With the change in seasons comes the usual struggles with various colds and flus that work their way through our homes and communities.
It’s not as hard as you think and I’m going to give you six easy ways to shore up your immune system and stay healthy this fall:
Soak up as much sun as you can
Before it leaves us for much of the winter, now is the time to soak up as much sun as you can get. It has been well documented that vitamin D, which is formed in our body through exposure to sunlight, is crucial for maintaining a strong immune system.
I was surprised to learn this year that (particularly for those in less sunny regions, like the Pacific West Coast), it can take up until about September for our vitamin D levels again to become optimal after the winter! That’s why it’s important to take as many opportunities as you can to boost your levels, and then once fall settles in, go out again whenever the sun shows its face. Tough assisgnment, huh? Go play in the sun.
To keep vitamin D levels high throughout the gray parts of the year, cod liver oil is my preferred method for supplementing. There are other real food options that you can turn to as well to help you stay healthy through the fall and winter months.
Photo by grongar
A garlic clove a day…
May keep your husband away. But hey- at least you won’t be sick! (Just kidding. Eat the garlic with your husband and then you can be healthy together.)
Garlic is a superstar in my arsenal of natural health tools. Raw garlic contains allicin, sulphur compounds and many other health-boosters, which have potent antiviral and antibacterial qualities.
You can simply eat raw cloves whole (I know some people who cut them into large chunks and swallow like a pill), but crushing them is even better because it activates more of the antibiotic effects. My children take a crushed clove on a spoon, covered in raw honey. I like to put several crushed cloves on toast, with lots of butter and cheese. You can also add extra raw garlic into your hummus, guacamole, salad dressings, or anything else you enjoy it in.
Nurture a healthy gut
Did you know that 75-80% of the immune response is actually based on the health of your gut? That’s huge! Which means that keeping your digestive system functioning at its peak should be a priority.
The best ways to enhance digestion are to cut back on sugar, eat whole, unprocessed foods, and add lacto-fermented foods or foods high in beneficial bacteria (like yogurt) to your diet. Another popular way is to take probiotic supplements, and this can definitely be helpful, but stick to high quality supplements. Your best bet is one like Bio-Kult or one that requires refrigeration (ask your local health food store for a recommendation).
Photo by DannySan
Plenty of Vitamin C
Many people already know to take this, but they often do it in pill or powder form. While this may have some benefits, it’s far better to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables that are naturally high in vitamin C.
- bell pepper
- kiwi fruit
- lemon juice
Here’s the only catch: eat these foods fresh and raw. Not that there’s anything wrong with enjoying them cooked as well, but if you want to get as much vitamin C as possible, raw is best. Vitamin C is very fragile and easily lost through exposure to light and heat.
Get some extra sleep
Speaking as a homeschooling, work-at-home mom of four children under the age of seven (including a nursing baby), I know well the challenge of getting sufficient sleep each night. So, I’m preaching to the choir with this reminder that a well-rested body is one with a higher capability to fight off potential infections and viruses.
Even if you are struggling to get enough sleep most nights, be creative and find ways to grab some extra rest when you can. Maybe it’s an afternoon nap here and there, one extra early bedtime each week, or take turns with your honey to each sleep in one morning on the weekend. Sometimes just that additional bit of sleep is exactly what your body needs to stay strong.
Photo by AForestFrolic
Cut back on sugar
I know. I’m killing myself with this picture, too. I tell you to cut back on your sugar as I show you just about the yummiest looking dessert possible?
Sugar really does do a number on our immunity, though. I’ve actually had times when I have enjoyed dessert (knowing I probably should have said no) and literally began to feel my throat get sore and my lymph nodes get tender within 30 minutes of eating it. Even if you don’t notice it like I do, sugar really does depress your immune system that dramatically.
I’m not saying you have to go off of all sweet goodness for the season (cinnamon lattes? pumpkin pie?). What I’m really saying is to be mindful of your sugar consumption, and particularly if you feel yourself dragging or you know that you’ve been exposed to something, stay off of it for a couple days to give your body the best chance to fight things off.
What do you do in the fall to maintain a strong immune system?