Your health affects everything you do and everyone you are in contact with. Try playing with children when you are fighting a cold, or dealing with a client when you have the stomach flu - not much fun right? We can all relate to situations when we’re physically not at our best but need to carry on with life’s demands. Whether you’ve made it a new resolution or not, everyone can benefit from making a few changes to their lifestyle to support a healthier body. As you read through the ideas below, take inventory as to which ones are currently part of your life and where you can improve, and commit to making at least one change to boost your immune system and strengthen your body this winter.
1) Consider Chiropractic Care
Most people are familiar with Chiropractic care and its effects on the musculoskeletal system, but the benefits of a healthy spine extend into your whole being. Structure affects function. The effects of spinal care on your nervous system are well documented, and since your nervous system is what powers your immune system, it’s important to keep it working optimally. Chiropractors apply spinal adjustments to correct disturbances in nerve function, ensuring your body can operate the way it was designed to. Furthermore, chiropractic care has specifically been shown to boost the immune response! Collingwood is home to an excellent array of Doctors of Chiropractic. Find one who will meet your needs and work with you toward your health goals, book a spinal check-up, and enjoy the many benefits it will offer you and your family.
2) Give Your Body the Right Fuel
Consistent with good health, optimal immune function requires solid fuel for your body. A diet rich in whole, natural foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, seeds, nuts, and adequate amounts of lean protein is a good starting point. Strive to eat food as fresh as possible, as processed or packaged items have unwanted preservatives, fats, and hundreds of chemicals detrimental to your health. Good carbohydrates like organic vegetables will provide essential nutrients simply unavailable in processed foods, and the micronutrients found will catalyze and support many immune functions. Consider trying different seasonal vegetables for some variety. Root vegetables such as squash, potatoes, carrots, celeriac, beets, contain antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and there are many ways to prepare them to please any palate. And don’t forget to pile on the garlic! Garlic is a potent anti-microbial, boosting the production of white blood cells and fighting off bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. Either raw or cooked, add to all your foods to enjoy its benefits.
3) Curb Your Sugar Intake
Sugars and artificial sweeteners are also something you want to avoid! Consuming just 100 grams of sugar can significantly impair white blood cells. This negative effect starts within 30 minutes, lasts 4-5 hours, and typically includes a 50% reduction in the ability of white blood cells to destroy and engulf foreign invaders. The effect is cumulative: the more sugar you consume, the greater the negative impact on your immune system. This can be especially important for those of you who need an afternoon boost to finish your workday! Try having your coffee or tea without sugar, or replace your sugary afternoon snack with a handful of nuts, dried or fresh fruit. Although they won’t offer a direct replacement, they may be enough to curb your craving.
4) Increase Your Fluids>
Your body is approximately 80% water, and it requires an on-going supply to stay hydrated. Not only does water contribute to your cellular composition, it is essential to flush toxins out of your body. Drink a minimum of 5-6 8 oz glasses per day of pure water, and beware of fluids that further dehydrate your body such as caffeine, sodas, and alcohol. If you simply cannot give them up, make it a routine to counter your cup of coffee or tea with a glass of water when you’re done.
During the deepest levels of sleep potent immune enhancing compounds are released, and many immune functions are greatly increased. Most people require 7-8 hours of sleep each night, but convince themselves they either don’t need it or have more important tasks to complete. Sleep deprivation, especially when prolonged, suppresses the immune system, and delays wound healing. It has also been shown to accelerate aging, and disrupt hormone levels. Night owls also take note: your body has biological rhythms, and the hours you sleep before midnight are more valuable than those after. This one is simple: Get the rest your body needs!
6) Connect With Friends
More than just fun times, studies have shown that friendships help us live better and even longer! A Harvard study found that physical impairments were less likely to develop in those who have many friends. In fact the results were so significant, the researchers concluded, that not having close friends or confidantes was as detrimental to your health as smoking or carrying extra weight! Another group of researches found that people who had no friends increased their risk of death, while those who had the most friends cut their risk by more than 60%! When our lives get hectic social time seems the first to be cut out, but that’s exactly when we need it the most. Although the exact mechanisms for this health benefit are still undetermined, friendships bring joy, laughter, and often empathy to our lives. Make time for your friends for the sake of your health!
7) Move Your Body
Living in this four-season paradise, there is no excuse for not enjoying some physical activity outdoors on a regular basis. Exercise gives you strength and cardiovascular endurance, helps maintain a healthy weight, provides mental clarity, increases your circulation and helps your body detoxify, all of which support your immune system. Even 30 minutes of activity broken up into 10-minute intervals throughout the day will have a powerful effect on your body. If you can’t commit to a regular routine, find simple ways to add it into your lifestyle.
8) Wash Your Hands
Your hands are the vehicle for microorganisms to travel into your mouth, eyes, and nose. It sounds simple, but the best way to eliminate bacteria and viruses is to wash your hands throughout the day. Fancy anti-bacterial products contain harsh chemicals that can harm you, and many scientists fear the widespread use could lead to strains of resistant bacteria, causing the products to be ineffective in the times when they are really needed. A recent study also found that people who used antibacterial soaps and cleansers developed runny nose, cough, sore throat, fever, vomiting and diarrhea and other symptoms just as often as people who did not use such products.
Simply wash with soap for at least 30 seconds (hum your favorite tune!) and rinse with warm water multiple times throughout the day to get microbes off your hands, and save the hand sanitizers for when there is no other option.
9) Get Outside!
Researchers have found that influenza strains are distinctly seasonal, occurring during the six months of least solar radiation in both hemispheres, and during the rainy season in the tropics. During these months our exposure to the sun is lowered, which causes our vitamin D levels to plummet. Vitamin D, which our bodies produce with sun exposure, has a profound effect on the immune system. There is evidence suggesting the lowered sun exposure and vitamin D levels are closely related to one’s risk of acquiring the flu, which is consistent with the fact that vitamin D is one of the most common vitamin deficiencies in North America. The easiest way to get it? Spend time outdoors every day.
10) Detox Your Home
The cooler weather brings more time spent indoors, and less fresh air circulating throughout the house. The chemicals in conventional cleaning products such as chlorine bleaches, surface wipes, dish detergents, and glass cleaners can cause a range of major heath problems for children and adults as they contain chemicals known to be hazardous to humans. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, indoor air pollution is one of the nation's most pressing personal health concerns. Cleaning your home without chemicals is easier than you think, and it’s very economical. A quick search at your library or on the Internet will yield a plethora of ideas for non-toxic home cleaning involving products like baking soda, lemon juice and vinegar, or you can easily purchase ready-made solutions in many health food stores or retailers.
Health is a journey, not a destination. If these ideas were a reminder of what you already knew, great! If they were completely new to you, don’t be overwhelmed by all of them, pick one and start slowly adding them into your life. You are more likely to stick with the changes if you implement them gradually so that they become part of your lifestyle. If there is something you absolutely don’t want to give up or change, then strive to implement the rest. You’ll still be maximizing your chances for health, and as you move toward a healthier lifestyle other improvements won’t seem so daunting.
Melissa Vecchio, DC, FICPA
Inner Harmony ~ Family Chiropractic & Wellness Centre
308 Hurontario Street
Collingwood ON L9Y 2M3
Melissa Vecchio, DC is a Chiropractor, writer, and professional speaker practicing in Collingwood, Ontario. She is also the co-founder of the Holistic Living Network, a resource and social network for individuals interested in natural living.