‘Tis the season…for colds, coughs and feeling run down. Often as the nights draw in at this time of year, we can find ourselves getting overtired trying to maintain our summer level of activity when our ancestors (and the bears) would’ve settled down for some winter’s rest.
In fact, when I’m asked about supporting immunity naturally one of the first things I ask is how much sleep someone is getting. Or if they’re making time for restful activities or downtime with people they love. In our fast-paced society we reward ‘busy-ness’ and productivity to the detriment of deep, nourishing rest. If you find yourself repeatedly suffering from one bug or another, it might be time to schedule in some sizeable chunks of quiet, reflective downtime in your calendar.
I’m passionate about supporting our bodies to function optimally through holistic care – and there are plenty of wonderful ways we can ensure the intricate system we know as our immunity is working at its peak. The immune system is made up of cells, ranging from basic to highly specialised, that detect and remove pathogens from the body. Working in tandem with the immune system, our lymphatic system either destroys pathogens in situ or launches a wider immune response within the body. So often when we’re talking about boosting immunity, we’re actually looking at ways we can support our lymphatic system to remove toxins and pathogens more quickly.
Here are some of my favourite ways to beat the bugs and support a healthy immune system all year round:
· Body Brushing
Dry skin brushing is a great way to support the lymphatic system – it speeds up the process of lymph fluid moving through the body to the lymph nodes, thus encouraging drainage of pathogens. It also leaves you with wonderfully glowing, healthy skin as a very welcome aside. Incorporate it into your daily routine before a shower and marvel at the difference it makes in a short amount of time: start with sweeping upward motions towards the heart using a wide body brush working from the feet upward.
· Good Gut Health
With approximately 70% of your immune system located in the gut, it makes sense to prioritise eating the right foods especially as the seasons change and you need an extra boost. A great prebiotic, chicory is lovely roasted or chopped up in a salad. Ensure you’re consuming loads of fibre (vegetables galore) and fermented foods if it suits your body (introduce these slowly if you’re new to them and keep a record of the amount you need to feel good). I’m a big advocate of a good probiotic supplement during the change of season.
Not just good for deterring the autumn’s vampires, garlic is one of the best anti-viral foods out there and a great prebiotic. I love a homemade salad dressing with plenty of raw garlic drizzled over some roasted seasonal veg. Or why not make some pesto – a great addition swirled into a chunky root vegetable soup.
· Vitamin C
I’ve recently written a blog about rosehips and their incredible vitamin C content – 20 times that of an orange and all for free! Find out more about how to make your own rosehip syrup here. If you feel a cold coming on, get your hands on some good quality vitamin C and dose yourself regularly until the symptoms abate.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, rest really is a wonderful reset button for the body and your face will thank you for it as well! You’re probably well aware of this by now but avoiding screen time for at least an hour before bed makes a huge difference to sleep quality so set an alarm on your phone or computer to remind you to put it away when you’re ready to start your bedtime ritual. Which leads me on to having some kind of ritual in place – a nourishing beauty routine, some breathing exercises, reading something calming or listening to relaxing music are all ways to gently wind yourself into a state of sleep readiness.
· Tree Therapy
Among the many, many benefits of time spent outside – and there are more physical, emotional and spiritual advantages than I have space to list here – research shows that certain trees, especially pine, release a natural aromatherapy. Called phytoncides, these organic compounds have antibacterial and antifungal qualities which not only help plants fight disease but have been shown to increase our white blood cell production which in turn helps us fend off viruses. So go to the woods and breathe deep.
· Essential Oils
At Organic Alchemist, I use the purest, organic essential oils and it’s these incredible gifts from nature that imbue my immunity products with a super-charged power when it comes to fighting off illness. The ideal way to cleanse a room and keep hands moisturised and germ-free, the Organic Alchemist Immunity Support Hand Cream and Room Spray Duo is a defence duo! Ingredients include eucalyptus, tea tree, myrtle, and peppermint - antibacterial and antiviral essential oils that maximise protection and support natural immunity against harmful viruses and germs.