Immune System Boosters
From the desk of Jessica L. Molleur, Lic.Ac., DNBAO.... 'Tis the season for stress, grid-locked parking lots, and to-do lists. In the past few weeks at OMBE, everyone has asked us about everything from vaccinations to echinacea. Here are some simple ways to keep healthy this holiday season so you can worry less about the flu and do more vacation-planning, cookie-baking or whatever else is on that to-do list.
TOP 10 Ways To Stay Healthy This Holiday Season
1. Take a Probiotic
Probiotics help you fight off "bad" bacteria by helping you introduce "good" bacteria naturally found on your skin, digestive tract, and other areas of your body. This supplement can be found in most health food stores. Look for a supplement that is labeled "CFU" (colony forming units), contains multiple strains such as bacillus coagulens, lactobacillus GG or bifidobacterium. After you choose a probiotic, make sure you store them in an area away from heat, moisture, and air.
2. Sing Happy Birthday!
Wash your hands. Wash your hands. Wash your hands again. Studies have shown that the duration of hand-washing is one of the most important keys in reducing the amount of illness-causing bacteria on your hands and skin. But how long do you need to stand at the sink? The answer is 15 seconds-the approximate time it takes to sing Happy Birthday.
Research isn't clear on why a good night's sleep can benefit the immune system. However, it is clear that chronically, sleep-deprived people are more susceptible to catching a cold while those well-rested have a better chance at fighting off an infection.
Ginger is a strong antioxidant, has antimicrobial properties (including the ability to kill salmonella), contains two natural antibiotics, contains anti-inflammatory agents, helps eliminate congestion, and has shown to kill cold viruses. Need we say more?
5. Go Nuts! (A Note About Selenium & Zinc): Go Brazil Nuts! Brazil nuts contain almost 544mcg of selenium per ounce. Selenium is a trace mineral that inhibits free radicals and helps to regulate your immune system. Zinc also increases antibody production helping you ward off that cold. The usual dosage is 13 to 23 mg of zinc as zinc gluconate or zinc acetate every two hours. Begin taking zinc at the first sign of a cold and continue until symptoms subside; never take these forms of zinc for longer than two weeks.
6. Stay Hydrated
All of the systems of your body run more efficiently when you're properly hydrated and this includes your immune system. How do you know you're hydrated? Don't go by your perceived level of thirst which decreases as we age. Make sure the color of your urine is clear or pale-yellow.
Research shows that regular, moderate exercise (e.g. walking 30 minutes daily) boosts leukocytes and stimulates the immune system. People who exercise regularly have shown to be less susceptible to catching cold.
Garlic has been found to be antifungal, antibacterial, and antiviral. It also contains over 70 sulfur-containing compounds that help the body stimulate important immune boosting cells. Include garlic into salad dressings, soups, and stir fries to get a little more of this powerful food into your diet.
9. Make Your Plate Look Like A Rainbow
Choosing foods of color and complex carbohydrates (red bell peppers, sweet potatoes, squash, collard greens, or beets) help boost your antioxidant level while steering you away from simple sugars. Try to avoid white foods (bread, flour, sugar) which can have a negative impact on your immune system. Studies have found even 75-100g of sugar (the equivalent of 2 sodas) can decrease white blood cells. Diets high in fat have the same effect.
10. Reduce your Stress Levels Short-term periods of stress may boost your immune system. However, chronic exposure to stress has a significant impact on your health and on your immune system when levels of cortisol and adrenaline. How can you rate your stress levels? Keep a "Stress Journal" and rate your level of stress in the morning, mid-day at work, and before you go to bed for one week. Pick a relaxing ritual or other stress buster over the next 30 days and see if you can get your average score to drop.
BONUS! Try Acupuncture. Acupuncture has been found to stimulate white blood cells in the body as well as regulate the immune system. Acupuncture can reduce the severity and duration of a cold or flu if treatments are scheduled at the first sign of infection! Chinese Herbal Formulas such as Yin Qiao San are some of the most effective, side-effect free remedies for a nasty cold or flu. To learn more, email email@example.com.
Jessica L. Molleur is a licensed acupuncturist, herbalist and massage therapist in Massachusetts and California. She holds a Masters of Science in Traditional Chinese Medicine from the American College of Traditional Chinese Medicine in San Francisco, CA. Her training also includes a Bachelor of Science in Exercise Physiology from the University of California at Davis, CA.
She is a National Diplomate of Acupuncture, Oriental Medicine and Chinese Herbology through the National Certification Commission for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (NCCAOM). Following her acupuncture licensure, she became a Diplomate of Acupuncture Orthopedics. This orthopedic specialty certification is held by fewer than 300 acupuncturists in the United States. Patient services range from pediatric care to sport rehabilitation and facial acupuncture. Jessica first became interested in acupuncture as a soccer player searching for an alternative to knee surgery.