While we are firmly in his grip, Michigan was a little slow to embrace Old Man Winter this year. Personally, although I means it’s bad news for our farmers, I didn’t lament for a moment the extra days of snow-free walks through the woods and sunny, blue
With the constant, drastic changes in temperatures it seemed like everyone was hit with some sort of bug. There was lots of talk about the flu season and the flu shot. People would get better. And then get sick. Again.
What’s that about?
Well, simply put, whenever there is a massive change your immune system has to adjust. When you combine a massive climate change with a change in diet; such as an increase in heavy and sugary foods, then the immune system has even more to sort through.
photo credit – on canva
All this change weighs on the immune system, and over time, lowers it. Let’s toss in a nearly complete absence of the sun (UGH!) until March and, friends, you definitely have lowered immunity.
Lowered immunity means a heightened susceptibility to sickness, flu and otherwise.
Let’s talk immune system.
When I was in elementary school my understanding of the immune system was fueled mostly by cold medication commercials. You know, the ones where you take the medication and then there is magically a force field around the body, with these hard-core angry-looking characters? If I could remember what commercial it was exactly, I would tell you, but for now feel free to use your imaginations. It really was as silly and extreme as you’re thinking. But hey, I was in 2nd grade. 😉
Contrary to how the commercial would have my 8-year-old self understand, though, the immune system isn’t an invisible force field at all that can be strengthened by any medication. The roll of medication, instead, is symptom alleviation via suppression. Helps us feel better in the immediate, but hinders the body’s innate efforts to resolve the imbalance within the body.
Anatomy of an Immune System
The home of the immune system, believe it or not, is in the gut. Where colonies of happy, beneficial bacteria live. This bacteria can be sustained or destroyed by many things. Antibiotics, stress, unaddressed grief, anger, and other “hard” emotions, sugar, refined foods, mineral and vitamin deficiencies, are ALL foe to your happy, beneficial bacteria. These all diminish, and at times, downright
paralyze, your immune system.
Your body has more than beneficial bacteria on its side, though!
Here’s a not-at-all-exhaustive list:
- Your skin. Your skin is an excellent, excellent barrier to infection.
- Your eye lids. They not only keep your eyeballs moist, but they also shield the sensitive little organs from impending, microscopic doom.
- Those little hairs in your nose. They catch all sorts of mean-spirited microbes, constantly.
- Mucus. I mean, as obnoxious as a runny or stuffy nose is, I promise that it’s a well-intentioned effort to either: run those villain microbes out-of-town OR keep them from entering, at all. (Hello stuffy noses and sneezes!)
- A fever. For real. Did you know that a fever literally serves to cook the life out of a viral infection? For instance: at 104° your body is activating white blood cells to head on out to annihilate the villain viruses reeking havoc on your immune system.
- Rest. Betcha never thought of sleep as an immune system friend. Truth, though. Sleep, especially around times of change and stress, allows the body to repair and help maintain homeostasis, which is why, when you don’t sleep for several days in a row, you end up feeling run down and then catch some manner of sickness. Your body’s like… “YEAH… If you’re not going to slow down, you’re going to be forced to slow down. Have fun with that.” Except it’s not fun at all. Better to deal with that as a preventative. Just think, by getting 7-10 hours (depending on your individual needs) of sleep per day, you are nurturing your body and preventing illness.
Your body has a brilliant, inspired, and complex system in place to protect you from illness, and respond in haste when the protective measures aren’t quite enough.
photo credit – lolostock on canva
What can you do in these colder months?
So much. And much of it is simple, and intuitive.
Do it. 7-10 hours/night does a body so much good. (Your individual needs may very. Consider how much
sleep makes you feel amazing.)
Avoid foods that lower the immune system. This includes sugary (and sugar substitute-full) foods, processed food, food-like items, and caffeine. Focus on warming, whole foods. For instance, a chili made from fresh veggies and grass-fed meat. Because it is SO cold out it’s important to balance the cold with some warmth. Winter is a time for warm, nourishing foods as we combat the winter prompts us to slow down and look within.
What about friends to your immune system? Whole foods, like fresh fruit, veggies, lacto-fermented foods like kimchi and sourkraut. Homebrew or locally sourced Kombucha.
It’s easy to remember in the Summer, but it’s just as important in winter’s cold, dry climate.
When boosting your immune response there are MANY herbs that can be helpful. Popular herbs to use are elderberry, echinacea, and garlic, but there are many more as well.