It’s empowering to know you’re taking the right steps to optimize your health and wellness–especially during stressful times. When life gets busy, the last thing you need is a stuffy nose or persistent cough weighing you down! By taking small steps towards a healthier life, you can make sure your immune system stays strong and resilient.
We teamed up with our Naturopathic Doctor, Dr. Saira Kassam, to get her best tips about healthy immune function. They’ll enhance your body’s natural ability to defend itself against potential illness. Keep reading to learn simple changes you can make in your diet and routine starting today!
1. Manage Your Stress
Did you know that there’s a difference between short term and chronic stress? Short term stress is what you might feel before writing an exam or a big deadline at work. It’s been shown to suppress cellular immunity (which kills infected cells and eliminates infection) and preserve humoral immunity (which creates antibodies to attack foreign antigens).
In comparison, chronic stress is long-term and can have more negative effects. It’s associated with the suppression of both cellular and humoral immunity.
“Managing your stress is really important because it has been proven to have a huge negative impact on the immune system,” Dr. Kassam says. “It affects hormones like cortisol, which can actually suppress your immune system. Making sure you’re finding ways to manage stress is really important.”
There are a variety of ways you can manage your stress. Some of our favourites include meditation, gentle exercise, and self-care activities. Carving out a little bit of “you time” each day will add up in the long run.
2. Get Enough sleep
Number 2 is a big one, and that’s getting enough ZZZ’s. According to Dr. Saira, when you don’t get enough sleep, you’ll throw off your circadian rhythm (the 24-hour internal clock that runs in the background of your brain.
This is important because your circadian rhythm plays a specific role in enhancing immune defence, especially in the formation of immunological memory.
“8 hours is what’s recommended on average,” Dr. Kassam shares. “It was also found that immune cells were reduced during periods of reduced sleep–so it’s really important for making sure your immune system is working optimally.”
HealthOne tip: if you are travelling between different time zones on a regular basis, try consuming 2–3mg of Melatonin to reset your circadian rhythm.
3. Eating for a Healthy Immune System
The food you eat is what fuels your body. It’s also what can make or break a healthy immune system.
One of the biggest foundations of an immunity-friendly diet is getting enough protein in every meal. According to Dr. Kassam, this is necessary for building your immune system and keeping your immunity strong. “The same with healthy fats–make sure you add things like avocado, chia seeds, and eggs,” she adds.
You should also up your intake of fruits and vegetables because they provide the nutrients and vitamins that your immune system needs. Choosing a wide variety of foods from every colour of the rainbow will not only look more enticing but provide you with a wider range of these health benefits.
Some of the key vitamins that can support your immunity are Vitamins A, B6, C, D and E. Reach for berries, citrus fruits, kiwis, apples, kale, onions, spinach, sweet potatoes, and carrots–and have fun with it!
4. Grab Vitamin A
Vitamin A, also known as the anti-inflammation vitamin, not only enhances growth and development but also maintains eye vision and enhances the immune system.
The best way to get more vitamin A is through your diet. We recommend foods like carrots, sweet potatoes, liver oil, spinach, broccoli, and mango which are all rich in vitamin A!
5. Step Out into the Sun
Did you know that vitamin D is also essential for maintaining a healthy immune system? Research shows that if you're deficient, you may be more susceptible to infection.
The easiest way to increase your vitamin D levels is by spending more time outdoors. Our bodies naturally produce vitamin D with exposure to the sun, so try adding at least a 10-minute walk into your daily routine. During the cold, winter months when your time outdoors may be limited, you can consider using a vitamin D supplement.
6. Go for Garlic
Garlic lovers unite! It’s an excellent way to boost your immunity because it releases allicin, a powerful antibacterial and antifungal compound. It also helps boost the proliferation of T cells, which are an essential white blood cell in the immune system.
Garlic has been proven to ward off cold and flu viruses effectively thanks to high levels of zinc. How you choose to enjoy it is completely up to you! Chopped or minced fresh garlic can be added to tons of dishes. One of our personal favourites? Garlic bread on whole wheat bread–it has added zinc which just so happens to be a great immune booster.
Our last immune-boosting tip is to move your body–but no gym is required! A moderate exercise like choosing the stairs instead of elevators, or spending a few more extra minutes walking your dog can go a long way.
Exercise can control hypertension and diabetes, reduce anxiety and stress, and slow down the aging process. In terms of immunity, it also slows down the release of stress hormones (which we covered the details of at the start of this blog post!)
When you exercise, there’s a good chance you’ll feel motivated to make other healthy choices. You might decide to make a fruit smoothie full of immunity-supportive vitamins instead of having a processed dessert like you normally would, for example.
Small things can all add up to help you live a long, healthy life with a strong immune system. Sometimes, though, people need additional support and guidance with their health. Dr. Kassam, our Naturopathic Doctor, is passionate about helping people on their unique health journeys. Let’s uncover a bit more about naturopathic care and how it can support yours!
What is a Naturopathic Doctor?
A naturopathic doctor is a skilled and experienced doctor who can help you in many ways. In order to practice as a naturopathic doctor, a person must complete an undergraduate degree followed by four years of study in an accredited naturopathic medical program. After graduating and passing several exams, they’re able to become registered with the College of Naturopaths of Ontario.
Naturopathic doctors can treat a variety of health issues. Rather than focus on providing pharmacological solutions (like prescriptions and medications), however, they evaluate how different areas of your life may be affecting your health. They spend a longer time with their patients so they can dive deep into their health history and understand the underlying root cause of their health problems.
What Does a Naturopathic Doctor Do?
Every naturopathic doctor has a unique approach to treatment. They also vary in terms of the areas of health they specialize in treating. For example, Dr. Kassam’s main areas of expertise include hormones, digestion, weight, fertility, and women’s health.
“I really love to figure out that root cause and then put the pieces of the puzzle back together using natural remedies,” she says. “A big thing about my practice is I’m a firm believer in testing and not guessing. I love doing bloodwork, stool test, hormone testing... I find this really important to understand what’s happening within.”
After assessing your health during an in-depth appointment, she’ll create a unique treatment plan to help you achieve your goals. For some people, that might be to reduce their bloating and improve their gut health. For others, it might be to improve their energy levels or lose weight in a sustainable way. Every person’s treatment plan is unique to them and their health. But typically, Dr. Saira’s recommendations are centred around supplements, diet and lifestyle changes, IV therapy, tinctures, and/or acupuncture.
Need a Naturopathic Doctor in Toronto?
If you think you’d benefit from additional support on your health journey, it’s always a good idea to visit a professional. A naturopathic doctor like Dr. Kassam will assess your individual needs and provide high-quality care to support your health and wellness.
When your immune system is strong, it allows you to tackle so many other areas of life more effectively. Work, hobbies, exercise, and even socializing can all be performed so much better without a pesky cold or flu bogging you down.
We hope these immune-boosting tips from our naturopathic doctor help you! And if you’re interested in working directly with Dr. Kassam, we invite you to book a free 15-minute consultation.
We look forward to helping you live a healthier life.
One life. Live inspired.