Updated: May 11
It's often more challenging to keep well during the cooler months. We're inside more which means less sunshine and Vitamin D production, reduced social and physical activities, increased exposure to bugs and viruses (especially for our daycare kiddos) and more sugar - think carbohydrate heavy meals like mashed potatoes, hot chocolates and warm bread.
But winter isn't the only time we get sick so I wanted to help cover off basic aspects of keeping well and supporting general immunity all year round. It's important to remember that symptoms are not always 'bad' things to be suppressed with medicines, antibiotics and pharmaceutical drugs - these things absolutely have their place - but if we focus on these every time we or our children feel unwell, we're missing the opportunity to build a foundation of immune resilience.
Our bodies have their own innate self-healing mechanisms we can support. One of the most important concepts is consistency, followed by curiosity, given that developing robust immunity is not often about luck but rather a series of choices made on a regular basis. With that in mind, here are some strategies you may find useful to consider.
1. SLEEP AND REST
There is something in following our natural inclination to sleep and rest more, allowing our bodies the chance to heal and replenish.
I also often observe a natural cleaning-out process near the change of each season, which may look like a constant clear runny nose - this may even be a good thing. Our bodies instinctively recognise an opportunity to redirect resources to keeping us well as well as strengthening the 'muscle' that is the immune system. When we sleep, our bodies produce cytokines which are proteins that help our immune systems fight off infections and inflammation. When asleep, our bodies direct resources into the repair and regeneration of tissues but compounds such as cortisol or histamine can keep the body in a hyper-vigilant state, so if you're dealing with feeling awake, alert or incredibly itchy at night, this may be worth exploring further (something I can help with for both children and adults). A lot of people find sleep is improved when taking an epsom salt bath before bed.
It's hard to thrive when we're under stress whether it be emotional, physical or mental so keep mindful of how you are connecting with the world around you as stress can't be avoided but it can be support. Do children, even babies, get stressed? They sure do. It's not the same kind of stress as adult experiences but it's just as real for the nervous systems. Going to daycare can be stressful for a toddler even if they are having fun while they are there - being away from their parents, and in a high sensory environment can be a lot especially for the more sensitive types.
Allergy, intolerance or sensitivity investigation is important if dealing with ongoing skin, digestive or respiratory challenges because the inflammatory response will place extra burden on your immune system which causes stress.
Ever notice how many people anticipate sickness, even before winter had even started? Stay mindful in observing your internal chatter and decide if certain thoughts actually work for you. Doing what makes you feel good helps to create space for feel-good chemicals, and for some just time to process thoughts and feelings is helpful as part of regulation. For me, nothing beats a walk on the beach with my rescue pup (and is a great time to do some grounding).
A balanced nervous system that is not in constant fight or flight mode is important otherwise our bodies prioritise keeping us 'safe' rather than 'well'. Notice how many people get really sick on their first day of holidays? It's like the body knows you now have time for rest so it forces you to pay attention, so giving it the rest it needs regularly will allow you to better enjoy that time off.
3. EAT AND DRINK WELL
Nutrient dense food that is easy to absorb and assimilate nourishes and fuels immunity.
Digestion is a hugely intensive process for the body so when unwell, our bodies can often switch off our appetites to allow that energy to be focused on healing.
Keep hydrated as chronic dehydration can wreak havoc at a cellular level, so drink clean water regularly, add a few grains of himalayan or celtic salt, and support with nourishing herbal teas (such as chamomile) and broths. Check out my chicken broth recipe here.
Eat a wide variety of nutrient dense food. Avoid packaged and processed foods as well as pasteurised milk products, soy, refined sugars, additives, preservatives and other things that are hard for our bodies to break down.
Celebrate fresh seasonal ingredients. Winter is the perfect season to utilise cheaper cuts of meat in the pressure cooker incorporating as many goodies as possible: garlic, onion, leek, turmeric, ginger, apple cider vinegar, lemon, lard/tallow and seasonal greens. I'm a big fan of ethically nourished animal fats and proteins, supported by broths and balanced starches.
A small spoonful of blackstrap molasses daily may also support good minerals, and is greatly enjoyed by kids. It can be added to some warmed milk of your choice or you could try my magic mineral chocolate recipe.
Our digestive system governs around 70% of our immunity so it's important to look after the health of the lining and the gut microbiome. Poor dietary choices and certain medications can affect this so make informed decisions on what you're taking.
Incorporating anaerobic ferments such as sauerkraut, kefir and kvass (not kombucha) to nourish and support.
Need some recipe inspo? Check out my real food recipe ebook.
4. ADDITIONAL SUPPORT
While the most important approach is nutrition and lifestyle based and what we do consistently, sometimes we may find ourselves needing some extra tools. Some quality herbs and supplements may be necessary to help you prevent, or recover from, illness.
Here are my top picks.
Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that help replenish compromised gut microbiomes. These are general suggestions only, probiotics are best tailored to each situation especially if dealing with specific health challenges such as eczema.
Toddlers- LoveBugs Toddler Probiotics
Children- Bioray NDF Belly Balance
Teens- CodeAge Teen Fermented Multi
Many of us know how important this is for immunity and to fight infections, but it's also important for many other health factors. We can't produce our own so we need to include it in our diets in regular amounts however reducing starches also helps us need less Vit C. Food sources include rosehip tea, parsley, citrus fruits, leafy greens, capsicum and broccoli sprouts.
Deficiencies are common, but also directly correlate to many illnesses and imbalances as this hormone has a very protective effect on health. Hopefully you've gotten adequate responsible sun exposure over summer but if you didn't, there are some things you can do to help. My preference is Rosita's Extra Virgin Cod Liver oil but other dietary sources include mushrooms, organic free range egg yolks, salmon and organic beef liver.
An essential mineral and electrolyte required for more than 300 biochemical reactions, it helps to maintain muscle and nerve function, immunity, blood sugar regulation and cardiac health. A high percentage of chronically depressed people exhibit magnesium deficiency. While I'm a huge fan of wholefoods sources where possible, research has indicated that as many as 80% of us are magnesium deficient, so supplementing is often helpful for everyone.
Food sources include dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fish, beans, avocados, bananas, dates and cacao (hence why a chocolate craving usually is seen when magnesium is low). My preferred source is baths or foot baths with epsom salts or magnesium chloride flakes, and magnesium oil on the soles of the feet before bed is also great.
herbal immunity support
This refers to the use of plant-based products such as herbs, roots and fungi to help boost immunity by providing a natural source of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals. Popular herbs used include echinacea, ginger, garlic, elderberry, and turmeric to support overall health and well-being.
These are very general suggestions only and I encourage you to seek urgent medical treatment for any respiratory distress, floppiness or signs of severe dehydration etc.
Sometimes becoming unwell is more about our bodies asking for support rather than just loading up with supplements to manage, so if you find you or your child constantly unwell at all, I'd love to help. Find out more about working with me here.
For more discussions, join me in my Facebook Group, The Healing Tribe.
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Content in this website for informational purposes only and is not considered medical advice. Please see your doctor before making any medical or lifestyle changes. I am not a doctor, this is not medical advice, none of these statements have been evaluated by any authority and and they are not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease.
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