Despite the fact that your world teams with infectious microorganisms, most of the time, you’re reasonably healthy, right? Thank your immune system, which defends you from disease-causing microbes. Now, step beyond gratitude to optimize the function of that system.
- Get enough sleep and manage stress. Sleep deprivation and stress overload increase the hormone cortisol, prolonged elevation of which suppresses immune function. Clinical Spa can reduce not just your muscular discomfort but also your stress once you are able to go.
- Avoid tobacco smoke. It undermines basic immune defenses and raises the risk of bronchitis and pneumonia in everyone, and middle ear infections in kids.
- Drink less alcohol. Excessive consumption impairs the immune system and increases vulnerability to lung infections.
- Eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds, which will provide your body with the nutrients your immune system needs. A study in older adults showed that boosting fruit and vegetable intake improved antibody response to the Pneumovax vaccine, which protects against Streptococcus pneumonia.
- Consider probiotics. Studies indicate supplements reduce the incidence of respiratory and gastrointestinal infections. Fermented milk products have also been shown to reduce respiratory infections in adults and kids. Our Jane Iredale has Skin Care Supplements with Probiotics too.
- Catch some rays. Sunlight triggers the skin’s production of vitamin D. In the summer, a 10-15 minute exposure (minus sunscreen) is enough. However, above 42 degrees latitude (Boston) from November through February, sunlight is too feeble and few foods contain this vitamin. Low vitamin D levels correlate with a greater risk of respiratory infection. A 2010 study in kids showed that 1200 IU a day of supplemental vitamin D reduced the risk of influenza A. However, a 2012 study that involved supplementing adults with colon cancer with 1000 IU a day failed to demonstrate protection against upper respiratory infections.
- Go for the garlic. Garlic is a broad-spectrum antimicrobial agent and immune booster. Because heat deactivates a key active ingredient, add it to foods just before serving.
- Eat medicinal mushrooms, such as shiitake and maitake (sometimes sold as “hen of the woods”). A recent study showed that a concentrated extract of shiitake enhanced immune function in women with breast cancer.
- Try immune-supportive herbs. If you get recurrent infections, consider taking immune-supportive herbs such as eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticocus), Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng), American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius), or astragalus (A. membranaceus).
- Make an echinacea tincture. This is good to have on hand when respiratory viruses overwhelm your defenses.
To a pint jar add 1 cup ground root of Echinacea purpurea root, a species shown to enhance immune function and moderately reduce cold symptom severity and duration. Add 1½ cup vodka and stir. If there isn’t 1 to 2 inches of vodka layered above the ground root, add more vodka. Shake daily.
After 4 weeks, strain through cheesecloth into a clean jar.
At the first sniffle, take ½ teaspoon of tincture diluted in water every two hours while awake. After two days, reduce the dosage to ½ teaspoon 3 times a day for the duration of the cold.
Take the following steps to cope with a disaster:
- Take care of your body– Try to eat healthy well-balanced meals, exercise regularly, and get plenty of sleep. Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs. Learn more about wellness strategiesexternal icon for mental health.
- Connect with others– Share your concerns and how you are feeling with a friend or family member. Maintain healthy relationships, and build a strong support system.
- Take breaks– Make time to unwind and remind yourself that strong feelings will fade. Try taking in deep breaths. Try to do activities you usually enjoy.
- Stay informed– When you feel that you are missing information, you may become more stressed or nervous. Watch, listen to, or read the news for updates from officials. Be aware that there may be rumors during a crisis, especially on social media. Always check your sources and turn to reliable sources of information like your local government authorities.
- Avoid too much exposure to news– Take breaks from watching, reading, or listening to news stories. It can be upsetting to hear about the crisis and see images repeatedly. Try to do enjoyable activities and return to normal life as much as possible and check for updates between breaks.
- Seek help when needed– If distress impacts activities of your daily life for several days or weeks, talk to a clergy member, counselor, or doctor, or contact the SAMHSA helpline at 1-800-985-5990.
Brilliant Massage & Skin, Burlington, Vermont