There is so much information out there on how to boost your immune system, but many methods require spending a bunch of money on herbs, supplements, and "cure-alls". I've compiled my top 10 methods that I go to in PREVENTING illness.
Creating VARIETY in the your immune boosting remedies seems to be the key. Something that works one time of year may not work other times. Our bodies love variety! This can be said for the kind of exercise we do regularly, our 'go-to' yoga poses, our diets, stress release, regular meditation, and especially when it comes to those immune boosting herbs. So let's switch it up!
1. YogaMed is my medication!
I know the thought of getting to your mat every day seems out of reach sometimes, but if you can carve out 15 minutes each day, you may find more time and space to do all of the things in your day with grace and ease. Your practice may look like lying in supported butterfly for those full 15 minutes, moving through a few sun salutations, sitting for 5 minutes to observe your breath with 3 or 4 go to stretches, or even doing child's pose in bed! Any sort of awareness practice is helpful towards reducing your fight or flight response which shunts blood from the internal organs. When we become more connected to our breath and our bodies, we begin to slow down, become more present, and increase our ability to respond vs. react in times of stress. "Psychological stress can impact many systems in the body, including weakening the immune system and increasing chronic inflammation. Inflammation is natural part of the immune response and in the short term can be helpful to heal wounds, injuries, and infections, but chronic inflammation can do more harm than good." --from an article from Psychology Today. You can click the link to read the full article. Yoga and meditation also helps me to notice where I'm at in time and space. Taking the time to notice my emotions, aches and pains, and mental clarity (or cloudiness) helps me to take the appropriate steps throughout my day to do what's best for myself. If you only have 5 minutes, take it for yourself!
2. Hot Baths for Detox
If you aren't really a "bath person" you may want to consider trying again. If you don't have epsom salts, not to worry. Many of the benefits of an epsom bath simply come from submerging yourself in hot water for an extended period of time. Hot baths encourage muscles and organs to become more thixotropic which encourages nutrient waste exchange in our blood vessels. More waste exchange encourages faster recovery from muscle tension caused by activities or sports as well as encourages your body's ability to rid itself of unwanted foreign invaders. If you'd like to add a more anti-microbial effect, add some Bragg's Apple Cider Vinegar to your bath. You can also add a pre-blended essential oil of your choice for some Aromatherapy. Another great addition I love to do, is bringing your favorite crystals and candles around to create a relaxing and healing atmosphere. Stimulating our relaxation response will inevitably strengthen your immune system.
3. Gratitude Practice for a Full Heart
When we are spread thin, stressed out, overwhelmed, and on the run it can be hard to remember the important things in life. Take a couple minutes either at a meal with a loved one or roommate or even while you're doing your morning removal to think about who and what you are grateful for. I cannot stress enough how important this is to overall well-being. When we are busy its easy to forget how amazing life can be and how abundant you are. Cultivating abundance and humility is also contagious! You may observe how noticed someone may feel when you have expressed gratitude or appreciation for their presence. Even if you are experiencing a tough time in your life, you can express gratitude for the wisdom that will come. Not only does this sort of practice cultivate connectivity and compassion in your community, it also feels so good! What are you grateful for? Maybe you start a gratitude journal today!
4. REST and LISTEN
When there seems to be a lot going on and you're noticing that your body is feeling fatigued or run down, this is the time to STOP, take a breath, and slow down. This is when the immune response becomes the most compromised! Its okay to choose to stay home and skip that big party everyone is talking about. It's perfectly appropriate to skip that endurance workout or vinyasa class that may run you down physically. You are totally allowed to not pick up that extra shift because you feel you may be "coming down with something." The greatest gift we can give ourselves is listening hard to what our bodies are telling us, REGARDLESS of our created story around why we can't. Your body and mind in the now and the future will thank you for this. So instead of going out on the town for your friend's birthday when you already feel run down, go home, watch a good movie, do some light stretching, or read your favorite book, your body will thank you .
5. Fresh Air, Lifestyle, and Exercise
A study in 2018 found that spending time in, or living close to, natural green spaces is associated with diverse and significant health benefits. It reduces the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, and preterm birth, and increases sleep duration. If you are reading this and live in Crested Butte, Colorado, you are probably patting yourself on the back. Fortunately, living in the place we do, cultivates a culture of outdoor adventure and recreation! If you don't live in a place so close to nature, it would behoove you to get out into your closest green space and smell the fresh air. Spending time outdoors is an essential part of my mental, emotional, and spiritual practice. After spending extended periods of time in the woods (usually a day or more), I experience a feeling of uplift, clarity, and oneness with the world. The incessant use of technology and instant gratification dulls the senses and instincts. Humans did not evolve in suburbs or cities or with toilets or phones attached to their hands, but amongst the land. Time spent in nature is time spent rewilding and reconnecting to your humanity.
6. Diet, Diet, DIET
I am not here to promote a certain diet or fixed regimen for your overall health. A good rule of thumb to follow is a fruit and vegetable and fat rich diet with as little processed foods as possible. I have made it a health priority to eat mostly Organic, Non-GMO, and seasonally local. Yes, it is unfortunately more expensive, BUT there are more nutrients available without the use of pesticides that are detrimental to our microbiome. It is also the long term preventative approach vs. getting sick later in life. If these are new terms to you, you may do some research for your own educational benefit. I do not encourage veganism, Paleo, KETO, Vegetarianism, or any other diet that restricts what your body may be telling you. I encourage just that, LISTENING.
Getting to know what your individual needs are based on the climate you live, the time of year, the time of month, and even an increase in activity level is, in my opinion, a holistic approach to nutrition. I also make use of certain supplements to stimulate brain function and add any nutrients that I may not be getting through food. Supplements are important for humans at this time due to the decrease in nutrient availability in the food we eat. Most farming practices, the accumulation of toxins in the soils, as well as the bacteria in our guts to make more nutrients available make this so. See another post for a more in depth view of my go-to's! In general, avoid sugar, avoid alcohol, avoid pesticides and processing, eat lots of vegetables, eat your good fats, and send that food love and kindness!
7. Getting enough SLEEP
I cannot stress the importance of a good nights sleep (at least 7 hours). Dr. Brant Cortright is one of the leading Neuroscience researchers on Neurogenesis and holistic approach to preventing serious diseases and depression through healthy brain function. You can find more about his book here. In a nut shell, after at least seven hours of sleep, your brain stem releases a flushing like mechanism that alleviates any plaque that has formed on the brain during the day. Plaque can be caused by many things. It has been shown that it is the build up of this plaque that is linked to terminal illnesses such as Alzheimer's and Dementia. If you think about it evolutionarily with a bit of common sense, we wouldn't need to do it every night for such long periods of time if it wasn't essential to our well-being and survival. You may have already experienced the benefits of a restful night's sleep: alertness, attentiveness, higher energy levels, an increase in your overall well-being. Think now about the times when you didn't get a good night's sleep multiple days in a row and how you felt. So get to bed early and greet the next day with vigor and vitality.
8. Elderberry Syrup
Now, I know I mentioned earlier that it's not about shelling out a bunch of money for some supplements, but if you can't make this one yourself, it's worth the money. I use elderberry almost everyday during cold and flu season when I notice so many around me getting sick. I also will use it multiple times per day when I'm actually exhibiting symptoms. Its a powerful kick to your immune system and helps me get better so fast! There are many different brands out there with a variety of ingredients added.
My recommendation is to find a syrup that is sustainably sourced, local, and is free of added sugar or fillers. Usually the more expensive option means its more purely extracted. If I haven't been able to harvest wild berries in the Front Range of Colorado to make my own syrup, I usually will check my local apothecary first. Dancing Willow Herbs in Durango, Colorado makes an amazing syrup from local berries that can also be purchased online. If they don't have it, New Chapter Elderberry Syrup is also a great alternative and a reliable brand. The berries and flowers of elderberry are packed with antioxidants and vitamins that may boost your immune system. They can help tame inflammation, lessen stress, and help protect your heart, too. Some experts recommend elderberry to help prevent and ease cold and flu symptoms.
8. Osha Root Tea
I harvest Osha in mid to late August in the alpine valleys here around Crested Butte. It is everywhere! Not to be mistaken by Poison Hemlock, Osha typically grows above 7,000 ft of elevation. It is part of the parsley family with leaves resembling that of carrots. To help with identification when you're first learning, I recommend taking a local class with Rooted Apothecary or obtaining a good plant guide. Once the plant is identified, the root can be harvested with a knife to make the cleanest cut. I referenced, Mountain States Medicinal Plants, by Brianna Wiles for additional harvesting guidelines. Detailed benefits in this book of Osha as well as many other lovely wild plants are explained.
Osha is great for a wet cough as it has a drying affect, making it a great addition to your winter wellness kit. Since Osha can be found in your backyard pharmacy, it is a great introductory into ReWilding your pantry with wild herbs. Using your local plants to help your body heal itself is often my go to approach. Their chemical components and medicinal properties often provide us with the medicine we need to heal specific to where we live. You can also often find Osha in a tincture form at your local health food store if harvesting yourself is not an option.
To Brew: Take a root piece and boil for at least 20 minutes on high, covered to trap any medicine in the vapor. Strain and Enjoy with your favorite honey!
9. Turmeric Tonic
1/2 tsp Ground or fresh Turmeric
1/4 tsp Coriander
1/4 tsp Ground or fresh Ginger
1/4 tsp Black Pepper
1/8 tsp Cayenne Pepper
2 Tbsp Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar
Add hot water, lemon, and honey to taste!
10. Massage from your favorite bodyworker!
Before I decided to attend Mountain Heart School of Bodywork, I had no idea how essential regular bodywork was to my overall well-being. I've listed many of the benefits on my website, but I'd like to list a few reasons why massage is part of my own health program.
I love and need touch, even when I think I don't. It feels so good to be taken care of by another.
Massage releases all of the emotional holding in my body which allows me to move through life with lightness and more ease.
Massage also flushes the immune system and re-programs the nervous system, I feel revitalized!
I love to recreate A LOT! Lots of physical activity often leaves my body stiff, and massage helps to prevent long term adhesions so I can keep playing as long as I can.