By Kyle Buchanan
It’s that time of year! The snow is falling, the holiday music is coming on, and the sniffles and the sneezes always seem to be just around the corner!! So yes, it’s the holiday season but – bah humbug – it’s also cold and flu season. But not to worry! I’ve got you covered.
We’re constantly rubbing shoulders with all sorts of organisms, whether we breathe them in, swallow them, or have them hanging out on our skin. The question is whether these bugs turn into full-blown issues…and that answer lies in the strength and ability of our immune system.
So today – we’re showing our immune system some love. I’m going to share my top 6 tips for supporting immunity on a daily basis so we feel as great as we can all winter long. And if we happen to catch a little something, I’m going to share my top 3 tips for that too. Let’s get rolling!
Support the Gut
I can’t stress how important this is. It’s easy to discount our digestive system when thinking about immunity, but it really is the number one place to start. Your gut plays a pivotal role in fostering a robust immune system, with about 70% of it residing in the gut in something called gut associated lymphoid tissue, or “GALT.”1 The digestive system isn’t just about breaking down food; it’s a bustling hub where trillions of microorganisms, collectively known as the gut microbiota, thrive. It’s these little microbes that have a huge impact on our immune function in so many ways; whether helping train our immune system2, influencing the production of antibodies or helping to regulate inflammation. I can’t stress how vital a healthy gut is for a healthy immune system, and it’s why digestive healing is a key pillar in my clinical practice.
How do we support our gut on a daily basis? It’s a two-factor approach – we want to limit the things that damage the gut (like stress, processed sugar, alcohol and excessive caffeine), and add in the things that promote optimal gut health and bacterial diversity. These foods include bone or veggie broth, mushrooms, omega 3, soluble fibres like chia and flax and fermented foods like sauerkraut, miso and kimchi.
*Pro Tip: aim for about ¼ cup of fermented foods every day this winter and see if you notice digestive improvement!!
Keep on Top of Your Vitamin D
I know . . . Kyle talking about Vitamin D again!!??! But here’s the thing – I couldn’t in good conscience write an article about immunity without including this pivotal immune-enhancing vitamin. Sadly, this is a vitamin many of us are still deficient in, and as a deficiency can make you more susceptible to infections 3 – this is a crucial piece of information, not to mention validation for my inclusion of this point.
Pro Tip: If you tend to keep forgetting about your Vitamin D, keep it out where you can see it, preferably near something you habitually go to every day – like the coffee maker or the fridge. This will help ensure you remember to take it – there’s even a term for this, it’s called “habit stacking,” pairing a new habit (like the daily Vitamin D) with a pre-existing habit (like making your morning coffee).
Include that Zinc!
Zinc is one of the unsung heroes of our immune system, pulling the strings behind the scenes to keep us safe from infection. It’s this magical modulator that tinkers with almost every aspect of our immunity, and also helps to provide balance to our immune system4.
So try to include zinc rich foods this winter – pumpkin seeds, poultry and oysters are some of my favorite sources. But here’s where I loop in digestion again! For zinc to be properly absorbed from the foods we eat, we need adequate amounts of stomach acid and unfortunately, many of us unknowingly deal with hypochlorhydria (or low stomach acid) without even knowing it.
So here’s a tip to ensure better digestion and zinc absorption. Take a few deep breaths before you eat (you digest more efficiently in a calm state), incorporate apple cider vinegar or lemon juice either before your meals, or with your meals to support stomach acid production (*please note, if you are dealing with an active ulcer, these tips are not for you!), or consider taking digestive bitters before meals. All of these help to prime your digestive system and help to encourage stomach acid secretion.
If you do feel something “coming on”…
We all know that feeling where “somethings not quite right,” where you feel a little off, maybe it’s the flu? Maybe it’s not? But either way…something’s up. It’s that in between feeling we all know well. Whenever this comes on, or even if I do happen to catch something a bit more obvious, my go-to all winter long is Boiron’s Oscillococcinum*
Oscillococcinum is a homeopathic medicine, used for the relief of flu-like symptoms (like body aches, headaches, fever and chills); it also helps reduce the duration of flu symptoms, and I continue to find it incredibly effective for both myself, and my clients. And unlike other flu medications – Oscillo does not cause drowsiness or sleeplessness, and is suitable for the whole family: Adults, children and infants.
How I recommend taking it: at the onset of symptoms, dissolve the entire content of 1 tube of pellets, and then repeat twice at 6-hour intervals.
For infants 0-2 years old: dissolve the content of one tube in water before administering.
For Sore Throats, consider this Brand New Homeopathic Spray!
If you do happen to catch something and are dealing with that terrible sore throat feeling (which really is just the worst), there is a brand new spray to the Boiron Line Up!
Echinalia* helps to relieve sore throats, irritations and mouth ulcers. It’s a plant-based formula that includes Echinacea angustifolia and Greater Plantain Mother Tinctures. It has a pleasant fresh aroma to it and a purposeful long nozzle to allow for local and targeted application. And when your throat is sore, you definitely want targeted relief. Suitable for adults and kids six years and up.
How to: 1-2 sprays, up to six times per day. Reduce with improvement.
Rest, Rest, Rest
Just like the Vitamin D, I couldn’t look myself in the mirror if I didn’t include rest in this article. Rest is essential to support overall immunity. In fact, poor sleep can make you more susceptible to catching something you’re exposed to. 5 So as an immune-supportive, preventative measure, make sleep a priority.
Beyond that though – if you do happen to get sick, please, please, please – stop and sleep. We are all so incredibly hard on ourselves, and push ourselves too hard trying to help everyone else. But in order for your body to heal, and heal efficiently, rest is key.
Sleep is like the ultimate repair shop for your immune system. While you snooze, your body cranks up the production of infection-fighting antibodies and immune cells, gearing up to kick those germs to the curb. It’s also the time when your body releases proteins that help with inflammation and stress. So – I know this won’t come as a shock – please make sleep a priority if you happen to catch something.
I do want to note that it’s normal to get sick every now and then. It’s part of being human and it’s not necessarily a sign that your immune system isn’t doing its job, because it is!! Even when you’re sick, your immune system is working to get you better. And there were probably countless times when you didn’t get sick because your immune system was silently doing its job too. It’s very easy to take it for granted . . .
So with that, this winter, maybe show your immune system some extra love each day. Support your gut with nourishing foods, keep on top of your Vitamin D and take time to rest. And when your immune system needs a helping hand, have some favorite go-tos ready so you can soothe the symptoms and heal as quickly as possible.
Have a wonderful, healthy holiday season ahead!
* These homeopathic medicines may not be right for everyone. Always read and follow the label.
About the author:
Kyle Buchanan is a licensed nutritionist, writer, host of the feelgoodery podcast and is a Resident Contributor on Canada’s The Morning Show, which airs weekday mornings on Global Television. He has a passion for spreading holistic health and wellness advice to as many as possible; from television audiences and conference attendees to online listeners, readers and video watchers. He also has his own private practice, working with clients worldwide on their journey to feeling their absolute best. For more information, check out www.kylebuchanan.ca or his Instagram page!