May: How to Acclimatize Your Body, Strengthen your Immune System and Prevent Cold’s and Flu’s
( Brittney barber - Dare to Ignite Health)
With winter on our doorstep, May is our last chance to prepare and prevent for the common colds, flu’s and other nasty viruses that like to visit us in the colder months. As the winter months draw nearer I count myself lucky to still spend my late afternoons soaking up the setting sun at Silver Sands just outside of Mandurah. The ever-shortening days that have sadly not escaped my notice are making it apparent that the summer days that have brought us so much warmth and joy, are slowly coming to an end.
Winter is Coming: Acclimatize Your Body and Boost Your Immune System
Do not fret! This isn’t Game of Thrones and the white-walkers aren’t coming to get us, nevertheless, winter can still be a daunting time of year, but believe me when I say you CAN live through a blistering cold winter and come out stronger and healthier than ever.
Acclimatizing is a big word but, it is easier than you think to incorporate into your everyday life, especially living down in the Mandurah and Peel area, where there is so much fresh and local produce and we are surrounded by so many natural sights to get us out and about. It is the simple things like seasonal produce and rugging up rather than turning up the heater, that will strengthen your immune system, preventing colds and flu’s and even give you a head start in combatting the allergies and hay fever that come along with spring.
Finding Balance With a Holistic Lifestyle is the Key to Health
As a health coach, I believe very strongly that the key to good health is maintaining balance in all aspects of your life. To maintain good health in one area, you must maintain good health in the other areas also. I have broken them down into 4 categories for you.
The key to these categories is recognizing that each one affects the other.
As an example, can you look at your own life and recognize what might happen to your nutrition intake when your relationships aren’t doing so well? Personally, I eat a lot of chocolate and processed foods to make me feel better. Soon after, my performance at the gym or in my yoga class will decline because I am not eating the right foods to fuel my body and then we all know what happens when we go to work after all this bad eating and emotional trauma. We are moody, stressed and can’t focus. You get the picture.
In other words, if we want to strengthen our immune systems for the winter ahead, we need to ensure that we are strong in all of these categories, this ensures that we can maintain more balanced and happy lifestyles.
This week, part 1 will be covering the two categories Career and Nutrition and part 2 of this blog series will cover Physical Activity and Relationships.
This holistic method is very individual and unique to you, because our lives are all completely different from the other, so I will give you some guiding suggestions for each category and then you can choose what is right for you to boost your immune system for this winter and to come out even stronger!
Ideally, for strong holistic health we should all be in a line of work that we absolutely love. Unfortunately this can’t always be the case and so I am sure you have all heard that one of the biggest symptoms of working individuals is STRESS. Prolonged experiences of this stressful state can cause adrenal fatigue and can become quite serious.
I will give you a basic 101 on stress. Stress produces a chemical in the body called cortisol. Cortisol is very important for our survival as it lets the body know that we either need to fight or flight, because we are stressed. For example, let’s say you are being chased by a lion, personally I would be feeling pretty stressed as I’m sure you would too. Cortisol is quickly manufactured and pumped around your body, which triggers our fight or flight modes. When we are in fight or flight, we have essentially stopped all of our other functions that support health in our body, like digestion, waste management and healing. Again, this is very necessary if you are being chased by a lion as you want all of your energy to go towards your escape.
In moments where we need to act quickly to survive, cortisol is very important, however, when we are stressed at work and not in a life threatening situation, the cortisol in your body is not necessary. This weakens our immune system because suddenly your body is too busy running away from the imaginary ‘lion chasing you’, instead of defending you from the bacteria that just landed on you from someone sneezing or coughing.
Also, as I mentioned before when we are stressed, important bodily functions are ceased, like digestion, waste management and healing. So if you are stressed a lot of the time at work, then not only are you not getting much good work done, but your body has essentially stopped digesting important nutrients, it has stopped effective toxin and waste management and you are not repairing any potentially damaged cells.
De-stressing and learning to be calm and centred in your work place is extremely good for you health! Here are some suggestions that you might want to incorporate into you work routine to help alleviate stress:
Tip 1: Set your day up for success by creating a wonderful morning
Like the old saying suggests, if you get up on the wrong side of the bed then the rest of your day will follow suit. If you wake up and immediately start cursing the day by thinking of how tired you are and that you can’t be bothered, then there is definitely a higher chance of things going wrong for you; every experience that you have will be tainted by your negative attitude.
By actively creating a great morning experience for yourself, you are dramatically increasing your chances of having a better day. By choosing to put your morning routine aside as some special time to yourself, especially when you have a work day ahead, means that your are empowering yourself to be the best person that you can be and you are actively strengthening your immune system by reducing your stress levels.
Morning routine suggestions:
- Practice Mindfulness from the moment you wake up
By actively being mindful in the thoughts that you think and in your actions, you are giving yourself a gift, the gift of choice. When we are mindless in our actions and when we let our thoughts run away from us we let autopilot take over and we lose consciousness, potentially letting negative thoughts and emotions take over our experiences.
Practicing mindfulness allows you the opportunity to say no to negative thoughts and say yes to the silver lining.
- Chose to wake up earlier so there is more time for YOU
When you are working full-time with the regular 9-5+, you can feel like you never have enough time, especially alone time. By actively choosing to wake up even 10 minutes earlier, you are choosing to set aside some time just for you. In this extra time for you, you can do things like prepare yourself a yummy and healthy breakfast, practice 5-10 minutes of meditation or deep breathing to clear your headspace, you can go for a walk out in the fresh morning air or you can do something you like, like reading, playing music, dancing or creating something incredible that only your mother would love.
Practice positivity from the moment you wake up
If the first thing you think of when you wake up is “I’m tired”, then you will most likely feel tired for the rest of the day. You might be lying to yourself a little bit for the first week of practicing positivity, but your mind will quickly get up to speed with this new path you have chosen to take.
Fun fact: you can actually change your mood into happiness simply by smiling. Our muscles have an emotional memory, like when we frown or smile. If you are patient, maybe for about a minute, then your smile will actually make you feel happy.
More times than not, if I have a bad morning, the rest of my day will follow suit, so try to focus on being calm, centred and positive in your mornings so you can set up the rest of your day on being calm, centred and positive.
Identify your stress triggers so you can learn how to prevent situations from getting the better of you. This will help you maintain focus and clarity so you can make good decisions and be calm and happier throughout your day. Some of my triggers are: driving in peak hour traffic, skipping breakfast, not having a good lunch – I love food – feeling overwhelmed with an unorganised desk and to-do list and having too much coffee.
Write down what triggers your stress button, and then for each trigger write down 1-3 things that you can do to prevent and prepare for these triggers.
These are some things that I like to do to set my day up for clarity and good feelings all day:
- I pack a healthy lunch and make sure that I eat it in a calm environment.
Just like preparing a good breakfast makes me feel fuelled and ready for my day, a good lunch makes me feel like I can get through the rest of the day.
- I add some tea to my coffee routine
When working in an office environment, grabbing a coffee from the lunchroom is a way that most of us steal secret moments to ourselves to escape the phone calls and deadlines, even if it is only 5 minutes. This is great, taking time out for yourself every hour or so, however having a coffee every hour is not so beneficial. Coffee is an aggressive stimulant and doesn’t exactly promote calm although it can give you a kick to focus.
By adding an herbal tea to you routine, you are drinking a natural relaxant to calm and centre yourself.
IMMUNE SYSTEM BOOSTER, try Echinacea Tea. It is full of vitamin C to combat colds and flu’s and it will calm your mind
- Every hour or so, I take 5 minutes to tidy my desk and go for a walk to clear my head space
By maintaining a tidy workspace, instead of looking at paperwork chaos in every direction, I feel like I am more on top of my tasks. No matter how busy I am, there is always time for a regroup and a tidy. 5 minutes of tidying is better than 15 minutes of shuffling, stressing and complaining about how much you have to do.
I also try to go for regular walks every hour or so. This might seem excessive to you boss at times, but believe me when I say you will be at least 2x more productive when you are working. The trick to taking your walks is to make sure that you are not thinking about work, you are not on your phone and no one is bothering you with work business. The point of going for a walk is to have a break, not remind yourself of you to-do list repeatedly.
Focus on your breathing, remind yourself of what you are grateful for and remind yourself of what you are capable of and how amazing you are!
To Sum it Up
Remember, the goal of all of this is to reduce stress as much as possible. Not only will you be giving your immune system a chance to catch up and fight the latest virus going around the office but also you will be more focused and productive and you will be surprised at how your creativity will suddenly soar when your body has nothing to worry about.
Nutrition is a big one, whatever you put in, you get out. If you put in lots of junk food then you might as well be turning into junk food. Reducing processed foods from your diet is very important if you want to strengthen your immune system over the winter months. The less waste management and digesting processed foods your body has to do, the more energy it can spend on healing and maintaining good health.
Here are some simple suggestions that you can choose to incorporate into your lifestyle and regular diet:
Tip 1: Increase ‘real’ foods into your diet and reduce processed foods
Real foods are exactly what you think they are. Real foods are food sources that are grown in the ground or in trees, real foods are food sources that have not been pulled apart and put back together in millions of different ways, making the end product far from what it started out as.
- Shop in the fruits and vegetables section
The easiest way for me to tell what is real food is by shopping mostly in the fruits and vegetable section and to avoid as much packaged food as possible.
- If the ingredients sound like rocket-science, it is NOT real food
If you can’t understand or read the ingredients list then these foods have definitely been apart of a massive processing science experiment. By avoiding processed foods you are giving your digestive system and your waste management organs like your liver and your kidneys a chance to catch up and do their job efficiently.
- Acclimatize your body by eating local (grown within 100km) and seasonal foods.
There’s a reason that certain fruits and vegetables grow well in winter and why others grow well in summer. The same can be said for us when we eat these select fruits and vegetables.
- For autumn try these vegetables: beans, beetroot, broccoli, cabbage, capsicum, carrots, cauliflower, celery, chilli, cucumber, eggplant, kale, lettuce, onions, parsnip, peas, pumpkin, radish and the list goes on. Check out this link for the entire seasonal list in Perth: seasonalfoodguide.com/perth-wa-seasonal-fresh-produce-guide-fruits-vegetables-in-season-availability-australia.html
- Eat warm meals and drinks as opposed to salads and iced beverages.
This is a bit of an obvious one but can easily be over looked. By eating cold food and beverages in cold weather, you are making you body work harder to warm you up, as you body will have to use valuable energy warming you instead fighting against colds and waste management. Warm your body up naturally with more soups, stews and bone broths, hot teas and drink luke warm water.
- Turn the heater off and rug up!
This piece of advice is not so obvious. By letting your body actually feel the surrounding environment, it is then more effectively able to adapt and prepare for the weather ahead. Constantly sitting by a heater can cause harm to your body by giving off slight radiation and by not regularly introducing your body to the elements it will essentially ‘lose practice’ and go into shock when you do have to go outside, increasing you chances of colds and flu’s.
I always keep at least one window in the house open slightly, and the colder I am, the more clothing I put on.
- Get outside in the elements as much as you can
We are a part of nature and we thrive outside. Our bodies love the sun and are very adaptable in terms of keeping warm and staying cool. By getting outside more, you are exercising your body’s ‘thermostat muscle’. Plus think of the benefits of good ol’ fresh air.
Tip 3: Boost your immune system by eating foods rich in ZINC and Vitamin C
Zinc and Vitamin C both play a very important role in helping you fight and prevent colds and help you to maintain a strong immune system.
- Here is a list of seasonal fruits and vegetables high in vitamin C for Autumn and Winter: oranges, kiwi, strawberries, guava, red and green capsicum, kale, brussel sprouts, broccoli
You could also try that Echinacea tea for an extra boost.
- Check you zinc levels
Zinc plays a very important role in maintaining a healthy immune system, however you can have too much or too little. I would recommend Zinc Test if you’re really not sure. Living in Silver sands, I visit my local health food store, Mandurah Health Supply, they have an array of wholesome Zinc products and they have a great Zinc Test.
You can also eat these wholefoods that are high in Zinc as a safer option than taking a supplement: oysters, pumpkin seeds, spinach, cashews, cocoa, chickpeas and mushrooms.
For a closer look into why broth’s and zinc are so good for you, check out this blog link written by Georgie from Newellness (add link to georgie’s blog for more info on zinc and broths). She is a certified Naturopathic Doctor and Herbalist with a vast knowledge in staying healthy and maintaining a strong immune system.
The goal here is to acclimatize your body with warm meals, seasonal fruits and vegetables and make sure you are getting enough Vitamin C and Zinc. Not only are these practices natural but they are also easy and inexpensive to bring into your regular routine.
Give winter a run for its money!
Even by adding one of these suggestions into your routine will set you up for success this winter, but remember that these are all just suggestions and that we are all different in what we need to stay happy and healthy. Be creative and do your own research to choose what is right for you. When you do decide to try some of these suggestions to boost your immunity, go slow and don’t try to take on too much at once. The greatest revolutions come from the smallest of changes.
If you’re not sure about something or a just looking for some good advice, I would recommend asking the team at Mandurah Health Supply, the team is very friendly and knowledgeable in helping you chose the right remedy for you.
Keep a look out for Seasonal Living Part 2 where we have a look into how we can strengthen our immune system by strengthening our relationships and maintaining our physical activity levels best suited to you.
If you enjoyed reading this check out my blog at www.daretoignite.weebly.com or if you’re looking to into how you can improve your holistic health, send me an email at email@example.com and I would be happy to have a chat with you.
Happy winter everybody!
Love Brittney aka Brittlz