Guide to Winter Immunity

Fall and winter don’t have to be cold and flu season. Try these natural tips to improve your chances of fighting illness and staying healthy all year long.


| November/ December 2017


Late fall and early winter offer many wonderful things: The start of the holiday season, a time to slow down and get more rest, long cozy evenings spent around the fire. But as winter gets nearer, we also tend to notice a few undesirable side effects: namely, increased illnesses that can seem to spread like wildfire in our workplaces, community spaces and schools.

Although nearly all of us will catch a stray bug here and there, we can take many steps to bolster our immunity, thereby avoiding or significantly shortening the length of illnesses and enhancing our well-being throughout the season. What follows are some of our favorite ways to avoid illness, both preventive daily measures and emergency tactics for when that scratchy throat hits. Use these tips and enjoy a winter season with less illness and more contentment.

Eat for Wellness

One of the most important ways we support our immunity, year-round and against both acute illness and chronic disease, is with our diets. Eating a wide array of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, high-quality protein and healthy fats helps boost the health of every organ and bodily system, making us more resistant to stress and illness. While scientists are quick to point out that no one “immune-boosting” food is a silver bullet for illness avoidance, certain micronutrient deficiencies are linked with increased rates of infection, so making sure to take in plenty of vitamins and minerals through daily consumption of whole foods is critical to our health.



One specific food group that researchers are finding may be directly linked with our immunity is the family of foods containing beneficial bacteria. All types of traditionally fermented foods, including sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, kombucha, fermented pickles, miso, tempeh, yogurt and natto, help maintain a healthy balance of bacteria in our bodies — together, these bacteria are known as our microbiome. While scientists are still learning all the mechanisms involved in our microbiome’s relationship with our health, the research is fairly solid to support a distinct connection between thriving gut bacteria and resistance to illness. To take advantage of the effects, try to eat a small amount of fermented foods every day, and include a variety of probiotic-rich foods to build the most diverse population of healthy bacteria in your own body. (Check out the book The Cultured Cook by frequent Mother Earth Living contributor Michelle Schoffro Cook for a huge array of fermented food recipes.)

Manage Stress, Manage Illness

vyoruby
11/2/2017 2:00:39 PM

Great article! Though, as an herbalist I would like to point out a few very dangerous side effects with using Astralagus incorrectly. Astralagus contains formononetin which can actually promote cancer cell proliferation. It should be charred or honey fried if used in individuals with cancer. Secondly, using Astralagus when a pathogen is present will prevent the body’s ability to push it out. In Chinese Medicine this knowledge is fundamental to using it correctly. If chills or fever are present, DO NOT USE ASTRALAGUS. Use during an acute invasion will create an entirely different and more pervasive set of unwanted symptoms.








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