As your kids come home from their first day of school, they may be bringing back more than graded papers and an empty lunchbox. The beginning of the new school year also marks the beginning of cold and flu season, and supporting your immune system now is the best defense against sniffles and sneezes later. Let’s take a look at what’s inside your immune system toolbox:
- Positive Outlook & Stress Management: Yes, yes, we all know that stress weakens our immune response… but few of us ever actually do anything about it. A stress-free life is not a realistic goal, but striving to be more intentional in our response to stress will greatly improve your mental and physical health. The key to effective stress management is to find ways to steer your mind and body away from a fight-or-flight response, and into a place that feels safe and peaceful. There are many different approaches, from deep breathing, exercise, enjoying nature, to meditation or prayer. Experiment and find the techniques that work for you.
- Sleep: You may not be able to adjust your schedule to add more hours of sleep to your nights – but you can make those hours of sleep more restful and productive! Dim the lights and avoid screentime a few hours before bedtime, and give yourself permission to have some ‘wind down’ time before hitting the hay. Stick to a regular sleep schedule as much as possible. If you can, schedule in a cat nap.
- Fresh air and sunshine: Countless studies confirm what Mom always told us – playing outside is good for you! Look for opportunities to get some fresh air. Eat lunch outside, open the window at the office, and hang the leash someplace visible to remind you to take the dog out for a walk (your pup will approve, too!).
- Fruits and Vegetables: Mom’s voice is chiming in here again, too. Eat your veggies! Don’t be afraid to fix them the way you like them. A little extra butter and salt to make those green beans delicious even helps with the absorption of certain nutrients! Bon Appétit!
- Good hygiene: These days you’ll see the message posted on highway billboards – WASH YOUR HANDS! It’s common and old-fashioned, but it’s still one of the best ways to prevent nasty stuff in the world from going into your body.
- Vitamins C, D and Zinc: All of these vitamins have been promoted by the Institute for Functional Medicine as nutraceuticals that support the immune system.*
- Palmitoylethanolamide (PEA): This biologically-active lipid is not only in human breast milk and many foods we all eat, but is also produced on-demand by the body in response to injury and infection.* However, our western diets and lifestyles may impact our PEA levels, and increasing it with a supplement is a great way to support a healthy immune system.* In six different placebo-controlled, double-blind trials composed of 3627 people, PEA was shown to support a healthy immune response.*
*Keppel Hesselink, J M et al. “Palmitoylethanolamide: A Natural Body-Own Anti-Inflammatory Agent, Effective and Safe against Influenza and Common Cold.” International journal of inflammation vol. 2013 (2013): 151028. doi:10.1155/2013/151028 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3771453/