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Health | Winter & Immunity

Natural ways to help keep our immune systems in best shape

Digital writers

Wednesday, January 17, 2018, 6:04 PM - If you start to feel sore, congested, feverish, and fatigued as the days get shorter … you may become one of the millions of Canadians who fall ill come winter.

There are steps you can take not only during cold and flu season but also throughout the year to either prevent yourself from catching something unsavoury or to help reduce the symptoms and manage comfort. These steps range from awareness and prevention habits that will keep you from being exposed to the virus and ensuring you have the right products at your finger tips for relief.

Simple steps like being aware of what you use to fight that feeling of being unwell will go a long way to keeping your family healthier and on your toes.

Additionally, Alison Danby, naturopathic doctor and director of The Root of Health clinic in Oakville, Ont., says there are some natural and simple steps we can take to reduce stress on our bodies to keep our immune system in the best possible shape to fight!

Avoid sugar and dairy

Even one teaspoon of dairy can compromise our immune system for up to five hours. Reduce sugar intake and allow your immune system to flourish and function to combat cold symptoms and viruses.

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For a lot of people, dairy can be very phlegm-forming, creating more mucus in the lungs and sinuses, allowing areas of bacteria to pool. This can create infections.

Eat clean

By eating the right foods, you get important vitamins and minerals for your body to help fight viruses, and you are providing your body with the basic buildings blocks.

Add some extra garlic and onions to your diet, because they have anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties.

Make sure you’re getting enough protein, because your immune system requires amino acids which you get from your protein sources.

Herbs, Tinctures and Multi-vitamin supplements

There are many different supplements, minerals, and vitamins you can be taking, including those that include herbal ingredients. However, you need to consult your physician or naturopathic doctor before taking them, because they can cause many different interactions.

Incorporate herbs into your diet like Mint, Lemon Balm, Wild Thyme, Peppermint and Eucalyptus into in the form of teas and tinctures. And if you’re fighting a cold or sore throat; you can find over the counter products like Ricola that include herbs and provide soothing relief. Keep them on hand as coughs can creep up on you when least expected-especially in the dry winter months.

Drink plenty of fluids

Water is very important. Drinking hot fluids, like tea can also help. Favourites are honey lemon and ginger cinnamon. Hot liquid will not only help clear the sinuses, but also help the ears drain and provide extra fluid to help flush the system. This also prevents fluids from pooling and creating a bacterial infection.

Here is a go to tea:

Immune Boosting tea:

  • 1/2 lemon juiced squeezed
  • 1/2 tsp of local honey
  • 1/4 tsp of cinnamon
  • 1 ginger tea bag or use the ginger root shavings

Add all to a boiling cup of hot water and sip!

Get enough rest

This is an obvious one that most people are not following. Make sure you’re going to bed around 10 pm and getting a full night’s sleep. In general, Danby says that it is important to not over-work yourself. If you put your body under stress, your immune system will be weaker and less able to defend itself. We cause our bodies stress when we don’t provide it with its essential needs, such as a clean diet and enough sleep.

Additionally, your body can become so stressed that it waits until you are a bit more relaxed to let cold and flu symptoms take over.

"If your body is under stress, it will actually suppress your immune response until it is on holiday and able to relax and heal itself," she said.

While nobody enjoys getting sick, Danby says that there is a silver lining.

"When you get sick, you’re actually building life-long immunity and that’s a really great thing for healthy individuals."

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