Our message this month is all about getting back to the basics for immune system health and wellness. Your body, mind and spirit will thank you for creating a healthful environment any time of year, but with the holidays approaching and as we get deeper into winter, it’s more important than ever to improve the function of your immune system.
The “basics” are the foundational ways you take care of you:
- Sleep – First place on your list for immune system support goes to getting enough sleep. Doing so strengthens your immune system, helps with weight management, improves mood, memory and mental function, to name just a few benefits. Your goal should be to get 7-8 hours each night. It is actually ok for the sleep to be divided into a couple of chunks – many people have a period of being awake in the early morning, around 2am, with their best and deepest sleep occurring afterward. If you do wake up, go to the bathroom, stretch gently, and go back to bed. Sometimes a short guided meditation, 4-7-8 breathing, or relaxing music can be helpful. Don’t fret, turn on the television, or start scrolling through your phone since these will all trigger your brain that it’s time to be up and moving into the day.
- Exercise – Regular exercise, especially moderate exercise such as walking, offers many benefits including: increased circulation and blood flow, better air / oxygen exchange, improved cholesterol and heart health, lower blood pressure, better sleep, and improved immune function. These benefits are enhanced if you can be outdoors, especially in the morning sun. Extreme exercise can be depleting and can sometimes actually decrease immune function, so moderate and build up gradually.
- Fluids – Staying well hydrated during the winter months can be more challenging than during hot summer days where our thirst triggers are active and we constantly reach for the water bottle to quench. In the winter time, it takes more effort. Make that effort! Being well hydrated increases blood volume and oxygenation for your body, supports temperature regulation, lubricates the joints, increases energy levels, and keeps mucous membranes moist and functioning effectively. Use warm beverages without caffeine or too much sugar as your “go-to”. A great way to increase healthful fluid consumption is to use broth as a warm drink – it’s warming, hydrating, nutritious, and decreases the tendency to overeat during the colder, darker part of the year.
- Healthful Diet –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. A switch from salads to soups and stews keep the vegetable content high while getting that belly warmth we crave. More thoughts about why diet is so important are found here.
- Self-Care – Dedicate time for self-care. Take some downtime to relax, rest and rejuvenate. Allow (and encourage!) yourself to find something that works for you, that you can do regularly, whether 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. The Danish practice of hygge is the epitome of winter self-care and worth exploring!
In addition to supporting your own immune system, don’t forget the basics of protecting yourself and others from infection. In the early months of the pandemic we talked about Covid-19 as if it would be going away – now we understand that we will be living with it along with the winter bugs we have all known for a long time.
Covid-19 did, however, reinforce good practices that we already knew but had not really been following. Last year, there was almost no flu. Why? People were following basic infection control practices! Remember to:
- Wash your hands.
- Don’t go to work or outside of your home if you’re sick.
- Wear a mask if you are around people outside your immediate circle.
- Maintain your distancing
- Avoid large, indoor gatherings.
These simple practices are STILL the MOST effective safeguards against not only COVID-19, but also flu, common cold and respiratory viruses of all types.
Finally, if you can and haven’t already, get vaccinated. The vast majority of people hospitalized, put on ventilators, or dying from Covid-19 are NOT vaccinated. If you are vaccinated, even if you do get Covid-19, you are much more likely to have a mild case and to recover quickly.
Most of us can use a little extra immune support, especially during the indoor cold and flu season. There are some basic supplements that many of us need to provide an immune boost:
- Vitamin D – reduces risk of developing viral infections, heart disease, stroke, depression, anxiety and some cancers. Most Americans are vitamin D deficient because of where we live (away from the equator), spending most of our time indoors, covering up and using sunscreen while outdoors (this is a good thing!), living in polluted areas or big cities, and not eating a diet rich enough in vitamin D. Most of us need to supplement, especially in winter.
- Zinc – supports immune function, as well as many metabolically intense processes like cell division and wound healing. Newer research also shows that zinc plays an important role in mental health – low levels are associated with depression and anxiety. 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. Shellfish, particularly oysters, beef, and pork are all high in zinc.
- Vitamin C – provides anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects and boosts immunity by helping white blood cells function more effectively. Food sources include the things we talk about a lot like citrus fruits and berries and several things we don’t think of so much like peppers (even jalepenos), broccoli, cabbage, and potatoes.
- ECGC – reduces inflammation, aids in weight loss, and prevents certain chronic diseases. It has been shown to have antiviral and anticancer properties. It’s most abundant in green tea but also found in other plant foods.
- 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.
A great way to get an immediate boost of supplements is to have an intravenous infusion. Since IV therapy goes directly into your bloodstream, your body absorbs a higher percentage of the nutrients, usually more than 99%. What does that mean for you? Fewer side effects and faster, more efficient delivery of nutrients to the organs and cells that need them. What’s more, infusions can be individualized to match the person’s needs, other supplements, size, etc. In our office, we individualize both the components of the infusion (i.e., which supplements are included) and the amount of each supplement. Thus, each infusion offers a solution tailored to our patients’ goals, particular physiology and nutritional requirements.
We hope that you have a happy and healthy winter season!
At Satori Integrative Medicine Clinic, our services include integrative medicine, ketamine, lidocaine and vitamin infusions and medical acupuncture. 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. 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.