Now that winter is here, many of us have a greater interest in taking better care of ourselves and our families in order to be less susceptible to getting sick. We wanted to talk about how to improve the function of your immune system.
- Sleep – Getting enough sleep tops our list for immune system support. Try to consistently get at least 7 hours each night, and you will be doing yourself a great favor. Getting enough sleep strengthens your immune system, helps with weight management, improves mood, memory and mental function, to name just a few benefits. Lack of sleep is linked to an incredibly wide range of ailments, from heart disease and Type 2 diabetes to obesity, depression, poor cognitive function, and even Alzheimer’s disease.
- Stress – Utilize your stress management strategies frequently – build your skill at shifting your nervous system into a restorative, relaxed state. It’s important to find what works for you, that you can do EVERY DAY (or multiple times a day) whether taking a walk, meditating, yoga, breathing exercises, sharing a laugh and some connection with a friend, gazing at the night sky, or anything else that brings a sense of ease and peace.
“A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.” — Irish proverb
- Diet – Poor nutrition is the leading cause of illnesses in the US. Nearly 85% of health care spending now goes toward management of diet-related chronic disease. What we eat matters and simple changes can have a profound impact: more fruits, vegetables, and plant-based meals, less processed food and simple carbs, increase foods with antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents. More thoughts about why diet is so important are found here.
- Supplements – Some basic supplements for prevention include:
- Vitamin D – reduces risk of developing the flu, heart disease, reduces depression, and is beneficial for number of other health conditions. Many of us are vitamin D deficient due to spending most of our time indoors, living in polluted areas or big cities, and not eating a diet rich in vitamin D.
- ECGC – reduces inflammation, aids in weight loss, and prevents certain chronic diseases. It has been shown to have anticancer properties. It’s most abundant in green tea but also found in other plant foods.
- Zinc – supports immune system and metabolism function. Evidence suggests that if zinc lozenges or syrup is taken within 24 hours after cold symptoms start, the supplement can help shorten the length of colds.
- Vitamin C – provides anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects and boosts immunity by helping white blood cells function more effectively.
- Elderberry – contains compounds which decrease the ability of viruses to infect cells. Elderberry is considered generally safe and in influenza B (cause of common cold), use of elderberry shortens the duration of symptoms.
We are nearly one year into the COVID-19 pandemic. We are starting to get vaccinated. The following five practices are STILL the MOST effective safeguards against not only COVID-19, but also flu, common cold and respiratory viruses of all types.
- Hand washing
- Social distancing
- Avoiding indoor gatherings
- Staying home if sick
Some guidance specifically for COVID-19:
- Elderberry – it is recommended to stop elderberry at the first signs of infection (fever, cough, sore throat) and/or if you test positive for the virus. Here’s why: it increases immune cell release of tiny chemicals called cytokines. Specifically, elderberry increases the release of a cytokine called IL-1B which is a part of the inflammatory reaction to COVID-19 that can result in acute respiratory distress.
- Deep breathing – there is evidence that deep breathing and qigong can be of help in recovery from COVID-19.
For more about integrative medicine approaches and COVID-19, visit the University of Arizona COVID-19 FAQ page.
At Satori Integrative Medicine Clinic, we encourage our patients to incorporate self-care practices into daily life as part of a comprehensive treatment plan for: major depression, the depressed phase of bipolar disorder (bipolar depression), postpartum depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), pain syndromes such as fibromyalgia and complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), also known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), and addiction. Our services include integrative medicine, ketamine and lidocaine infusions and medical acupuncture. If you or someone you know suffers from any of these conditions and this approach to health and wellness resonates with you, please contact us for more information.