germy sneeze

bless you!

Need natural ways to improve your immunity?  Me too.

Since having kids I’ve become a little obsessed with fending off bugs around this time of year.  About a year ago I wrote a post about 6 steps to boost your immune system.   Well, it’s on my mind again this year, and actually even more relevant, since my oldest started pre-school this September.  She is having a blast and loving school, but there’s been a steady stream of bugs into the house ever since.   And while she’s been remarkably resistant, the rest of us (myself, my 1-year old, and my husband), have been a bit more affected.

When it comes to boosting immunity there are, of course, the pillars of good health: exercise,  a clean and nutritious diet, and enough sleep.  But we all know about those, right?  So what else can you do?  Perhaps, like me, you’re exposure to bugs has increased, or perhaps you’ve been in a rut of feeling unwell for a while, and need to turbo-charge your a efforts.  If you’re already doing the basic stuff and would like a little extra, read on.

Here are 4 cool and effective ways to boost your immune system:

  1. Take a cold shower – This is probably the easiest one on the list.  Takes barely any time at all, is essentially free, and requires no time outside of your current daily schedule.  How does it work?  Research shows that “taking daily cold showers increased the numbers of disease-fighting white blood cells (compared to people who took hot showers)”.  Bonus: they can boost your metabolic rate, help prevent injury, and improve male fertility.  Read more here.  Duration doesn’t need to be long (think a cold rinse – 30-60 seconds), but to be effective your chilly shower should be taken daily.
  2. Try an immune-boosting adaptogen– Adaptogens are herbs that improve the way the body deals with physical and emotional stress.  There are several adaptogenic herbs, including various Asian and American ginsengs, ashwaganda, and eleuthero.  They have along history of safe use in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine and are used for purposes as varied as improving athletic performance, reducing fatigue, and enhancing the immune system.  My personal favorite for general immunity is astragalus.   While is its most common application, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center, astragalus has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and may help protect the body from diseases such as cancer and diabetes.  It has even been studied as a way to boost immunity in people whose immune systems have been weakened by radiation and chemotherapy – with positive results.  Be sure to check that it won’t interact with any other herbs or medications you’re taking and buy from a reputable company for best results.   This is my favorite, from a great US-based company with herbs grown right here.
  3. Eat lots of shiitake mushrooms, and their stock – Shiitake mushrooms have been extensively studied for their ability to enhance the immune system.  Like other mushrooms, they’ve been used for hundreds of years for these purposes in TCM and are sold in concentrates for more significant effects.  But even eating shiitake mushrooms can give you a boost.  How do they work?  Research shows that it’s the polysaccharides (carbohydrate molecules) in shiitake mushrooms have positive effects under a wide variety of circumstances, including exercise stress, exposure to inflammation-producing toxins, radiation exposure, and immunodeficiency.  Buy fresh shiitake mushrooms at your grocery store or local farmer’s market and saute them in a little extra virgin olive oil.  Save the stems and make them into a savory stock that’s great for soups and stews.
  4. Go have a rip-roaring good time – Most people think about staying in when they’re wanting to avoid colds and flu.  But isolating yourself and stressing about your wellness is counterproductive.  Simply laughing increases the number of white blood cells you have to fight infection.  Even anticipating something funny has a positive effect.  So plan something fun and get yourself out there.

Have fun trying these immune-boosting tips and see how they work for you!  Of course those pillars of good health – diet, exercise, and sleep –  are incredibly important.  If you’re struggling with balance in those areas, you might be a good candidate for health coaching, which can provide truly transformational change for your health and life.