The perfect storm: you’re tired because you only got 5 hours of sleep (had to finish off the series), on your streetcar to work you watch a cute, but snotty kid lick the pole you’re holding on too, your office mate really should have stayed home as he creates a symphony of nose-blowing beside you, and it’s your boss’s birthday- cake and coffee for lunch. The odds are not in your favour given the circumstances but you’re a fighter, and so is your immune system. Here are 5 things you can do to be that annoying person who takes personal days - not sick days.
1.Sleep. You knew that, right? Hopefully I can shed some new light (or perhaps darkness) on the subject. Restful sleep is essential for optimizing our immune response- and our modern lifestyle can drastically disrupt our sleep. Do you lie in bed scrolling through Instagram and Facebook? Maybe Netflix is streaming? This had become habit for me up until about 3 years ago when I attended an integrative health symposium in NYC. One of the lecturers emphasized the extent that both the light from our devices and the electromagnetic fields they emit can adversely affect our bodies and sleep patterns. I quickly implemented a “no phones or laptops in the bedroom rule” and I’ve been sleeping like baby ever since. You may be thinking- I can’t do that, my phone is my alarm- so it has to stay in my bedroom. No problem- set it to airplane mode and wifi off. Your alarm will sound, but your phone won’t be lighting up, vibrating or buzzing or searching for wifi or network signals beside your head all night.
2.Supplements and Herbs. Vitamin C- you knew that too, right? Good. Enough said. Not so fast- do you know which vitamins? In which form? How much? Not all supplements are created equally. However, Vitamin C is a great start- you can safely supplement with about 2000 mg daily (be sure to take it in divided doses as it can cause diarrhea if taken all at once). How many oranges would be equivalent to 2000 mg? The answer is 25 oranges. Vitamin D also plays an important role in immune function. Canadian guidelines recommend that we supplement with 1000 IU daily year round- however, many people are deficient and their MD/ND may recommend a much higher daily dosage. I often order a vitamin D blood test when there is concern of deficiency. Zinc is another vitamin that supports our immune system- dosages will vary per individual, and also note that taking zinc supplements on an empty stomach may cause nausea. Further supplementation and the inclusion of herbal protocols is best done under the supervision of an ND.
3.Sugar-free. Yes, hold off on ALL that sugar, Sugar. Sugar suppresses the immune system. Imagine a dodgeball game between Team Virus and Team Immune Cell. Team Immune Cell drinks a couple of soda pops or sport drinks (just as sugary) to give them a boost. Unfortunately, it has the opposite effect, and Team V is victorious- Team IC gets smoked, they played like they were blind folded! Here is some science for you: a study showed that healthy volunteers who ingested 100 g of sugar (equivalent to about 2 cans of Coca Cola) caused a significant decrease in the capacity of immune cells to engulf bacteria.
4.Broth. Good old fashioned chicken soup. Broths keep us warm and hydrated- and they are pretty darn comforting. Chicken soup has been shown to have in-vitro anti-inflammatory effects aiding with the thinning of chest congestion, mucous and improving coughs. Here’s a link to the study. I recommend making your own broth from scratch, and amping it up with a tried and true combination of Chinese herbs to brew up a Change of Season Soup.
5.Reduce your exposure to germs. Wash your hands, and wash them often. Give sick people their space- be supportive of the utilization of sick days and working from home. If you do get sick, reduce exposing your sickness to others- especially those who may not be able to mount adequate immune responses (the elderly, individuals with chronic illness, infants).
If you feel like you are chronically getting sick and it takes you a long time to get better, it may be a good idea to have a thorough assessment done with a Naturopathic Doctor.