Itʼs Monday morning, you are getting yourself ready for work, walking the dog, making breakfast, packing lunches, thinking about what to make for dinner that evening, as well as having at least 10 other thoughts running through your mind when one of your kids wakes up with a terrible cold. Thoughts change to, “Who will stay home from work to watch him or her?”, “What does my child need to feel better?”, “When will the next family member fall to this illness?”. Sound right? What if you could reduce the number of times this event occurs in your household? By strengthening your familyʼs immune system, the number of missed work and school days can be dramatically reduced. Save your paid time off and sick leave for something fun, like a vacation!
Building the bodyʼs defense system is much easier than one may think. Here is an easy way to start:
Focus on Gut Health
At least 70% of the bodyʼs immune system lives in our digestive system. Because of this, it is of the utmost importance to keep our gut healthy if we want to experience less sick days. To do this, one has to focus on removing foods that donʼt agree with their body constitution, as well as any foods a person is sensitive or allergic to. Adding pre- and pro- biotic foods and supplements are a great way to feed the healthy gut flora we already have, as well as make more good bugs. Examples of these include:
• Non-dairy yogurt (no sugar added)
• Plain Yogurt (if you are not sensitive to dairy) • Kefir (non-dairy coconut is my favorite)
• Raw, Unpasteurized sauerkraut
• Unpasteurized pickles!
• Probiotic supplements
Chinese Medicine also focuses on the importance of a healthy digestive system, as well as digestionʼs relationship to the lungs. Focusing on consuming a majority of your food cooked versus raw allows for the digestive system to not have to work as hard to break down food and turn it in to energy. This is especially important during the colder months of the year.
Stress has a huge impact on the immune system. Long-term stress causes more bad bugs to consume our digestive system leading to poor immunity.
When we are stressed the body releases a hormone called cortisol. An increase in bodily cortisol, over time, has been shown to decrease the bodyʼs defense system. Things that increase cortisol besides stress include, sleep deprivation, caffeine, alcohol, and refined sugar consumption.
While stressful situations are impossible to ignore completely, there are things you can do to help your body handle it more gracefully and reduce the number of times cortisol is being released. These things include:
• Breath work
• Massage Therapy
• Essential oils
• Light walks
• Dietary changes (i.e. reduce caffeine, sugar, alcohol, and refined carbohydrates)
With the never-ending “to do” list that can come with a busy life, taking care of yourself and family when sick with colds and flus shouldnʼt be one of them. Adopt healthy immune system habits now and impact your familyʼs health for life.
About the Author
Stephanie Braunwarth is a board-certified Licensed Acupuncturist with a special focus in womenʼs health, fertility and nutrition. Stephanieeducates her patients about the importance of treating the underlying cause of a health condition and encourages them to take an active role in their health.
Stephanie serves patients at Des Moines Acupuncture Clinic in Des Moines.