Annnnd summer is done. Fall is in full gear, and before you know it, winter will be knocking on the front door, unless you live in the sun all year round -- in which case, my suitcase is ready and waiting at the door, invitations welcome.
Wherever you are on this Earth, fall is the time to get things back on track, to reinstate that healthy foundation for the coming winter so that dreaded office cold or ‘flu doesn’t come near you.
Getting sick once in a while is completely normal, and even healthy. It’s when you repeatedly get sick during a short time period that you may want to give your immune system a helping hand.
With that said, here are some tips to reinforce that foundation and support your immune system so that your vitality thrives this winter!
Although we can make Vitamin D ourselves, in Canada and other typical winter climates we simply don’t get enough sun to make this crucial vitamin all year round. And although it’s called a “vitamin,” it really acts as a hormone-like substance in the body. It’s involved in bone health (in calcium regulation), immunity, blood sugar management and nervous system health, among many, many other attributes. It’s important to supplement with this each and every day, especially if you are in colder climates.
A daily dose of 1000-2000 iu is generally considered safe for most people. I do however encourage you to have your Vitamin D levels tested with a practitioner, as many of us actually require a higher dose to get our levels up.
In my opinion, Vitamin C is an incredible and underused supplement for overall health. We get Vitamin C from veggies and fruits (some of my favourite sources are broccoli, bell peppers, kiwis and raspberries). But as many of us generally don’t eat enough of these foods, coupled with the fact that the nutritional value of modern produce is considerably less than it was fifty years ago due to soil depletion, Vitamin C is one of the staple supplements that I recommend.
It is crucially important for your immune system, blood pressure, skin health and your adrenal glands (you actually use up more Vitamin C when you’re stressed out, so I always add a little extra C during times of stress). And the best part is that Vitamin C is a really affordable supplement.
500mg, 2 - 3x per day is generally considered a safe dosage. Vitamin C is water-soluble, so it’s used up in the body in about 4 hours. Because of this, I advise one with breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner!
Flax seeds are an incredible food, rich in plant-based omega 3 (anti-inflammatory), lignans (which promote healthy estrogen balance in the body) and soluble fibre (which serves as food for the bacteria in your gut and promotes healthy bowel movements).
One to two tablespoons of ground flax seeds per day go a long way to better health. Tip: keep flax seeds in the fridge, especially if you buy them pre-ground. The wonderful fats in flax can become easily oxidized and rancid if left unrefrigerated.
Eating an antioxidant rich diet is essential when it comes to building a solid foundation. What antioxidants do, at the basic level, is protect our cells from damage from something called free radicals. You can think of antioxidants as little bodyguards that take the hit so your cells don’t have to. Our body produces free radicals as a natural byproduct of biological processes, but free radicals can also be caused by other things like air pollution, stress, sugar, fried foods, alcohol, as well as mold in the home.
Free radicals are rampant in our bodies, and can cause quite a bit of destruction, inflammation and premature aging. But that’s okay! We have the tools and knowledge to help neutralize them - consuming loads of antioxidants! The biggest source would be, you guessed it, veggies and fruits. They’re packed with them. Chocolate (dark, above 80%) counts too!
If you wanted to UP your intake even further, consider adding a powdered greens drink like VegeGreens or a powdered berry drink like PhytoBerry. I alternate between the two. Having those on hand are also a great way to supplement some antioxidants on days where veggie intake has been a little low.
Get your Omegas
Health foundation essential right here. Inflammation is at the root of almost all disease, so it is essential to include anti-inflammatory foods on a daily basis. Fish oil, or concentrated algae-based oil, is a potent source of the antiinflammatory omega 3s, EPA and DHA. These are powerful, potent and essential for long term health in all categories. So remember to take these every day! A good ballpark would be getting 2000-3000 mg. combined EPA/DHA. This normally would be 4 softgels or 1 - 2 tsp of liquid fish or algae oil!
You can do everything right in your diet and still have crummy health if your stress levels are through the roof. Stress causes inflammation in the body, and if you remember what I said above, inflammation leads to disease. While a small amount of stress is useful and actually of benefit to the body, lots of stress is a bad thing. So it’s essential for your health that you do things on a daily basis to mitigate your stress load. Examples include exercise, deep breathing, meditation, drinking calming teas like Holy Basil, keeping a gratitude journal, affirmations, and spending more time with friends (ones who ONLY lift you up and don’t drain you).
Make Sleep Important
Sleep is the all time great healer. It allows your brain to detox, and your body to reset. Please make it a priority and aim for 7-9 hours per night. We know this is important, I don’t need to tell you that. But if you need that extra push - here’s this: not getting enough sleep increases your hunger hormones and reduces your brain's ability to sense when you’re full. So essentially, you just want to keep eating. It’s one of the reasons why lack of sleep is associated with an increased risk of weight gain. So that’s fun.
I know that all of this might seem like a lot, but once you get into the habit of things, it becomes nothing more than a normal routine. Even if you implement only some of these things (please include Vitamin D), you will support your system and support your foundation for the coming winter.
Here’s to a healthy winter and a wonderful you!