As the temperatures drop and you find yourself layering up, if you frequently struggle with seasonal sniffles or feeling under the weather, then you might be dreading the season. Believe it or not, you can still feel your best during the dry winter months. By naturally balancing your immune system, you can improve your odds of staying well after the cold temperatures strike.
In order to help your immune system function at its best, it’s important to understand how it works in your body. While you may think of your immune system as a series of networks or nerves, 80% of your immune response resides within the G.I. tract. This means that optimizing your immune system really starts with a healthy gut environment.
Meet Your Tiny Friends—Gut Bugs
Have you ever heard of your “gut bugs?” These are the 100 trillion live bacteria in your gut right now. While that may sound a little frightening, the majority of your gut bugs, aka beneficial bacteria, are your friends. In fact, in a properly balanced microbiome, around 80% of the bacteria that dwells in and on you actually works on your behalf - positively influencing your health and enhancing your natural state of wellness. By having the right balance of microbes in your system, you can improve your chances of staying well.
The problem arises with modern dietary practices and lifestyle factors. Instead of growing and consuming our own organic vegetables and consuming fresh, lean meats like our ancestors did for thousands of years, many of our foods and medications are filled with things like:
Instead of the natural fruits, vegetables, and whole grains that the human body is meant to consume, we are eating foods that have been mass produced in factories. Paired with toxins in the environment and exposure to many other unnatural lifestyle factors, these practices can have a significant effect on the amount of good bacteria in your microbiome. This good bacteria is also known as probiotic bacteria, and because our bodies are essentially one giant superorganism, strong probiotic colonies are imperative to human health and wellness.
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Strengthening your probiotic colonies can help optimize your immune system to help you live healthier days. You see, your immune system is exactly that - an intricate system that requires harmony and balance to keep you healthy.
Dr. Philip Sherman of Harvard Medical School published a scholarly article which postulated that probiotics can even boost your levels of T-cells (a white blood cell that is critical to your immune function). By eating fermented foods and taking a high-quality probiotic supplement such as Hyperbiotics Immune, you can add living, beneficial bacteria to your microbiome, enabling your gut environment - and thereby your immune system - to find balance and happiness once again.
In addition to caring for your small but powerful gut bugs, there are many other steps you can follow to promote a strong and balanced immune system.
Be a Veggie Lover
Phytochemical plants are naturally infused with bioavailable vitamins that can help to balance your immune system and positively influence the health of your gut environment. Dark green vegetables like broccoli, spinach, and kale, along with red and yellow-hued vegetables and fruits can supercharge your system with Vitamin C, E, and beta-carotene.
Prebiotic foods (natural fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds with specific, fibrous compounds) work to nourish the probiotic bacteria that resides within your body - which means that the more prebiotic foods you eat, the stronger your probiotic colonies will be and the more healthy and balanced your immune system can become. Some prebiotic foods to try include almonds, bananas, whole grains, endive, garlic and kiwifruit - just to name a few.
As well, green tea is one of nature’s gifts when it comes to immune health as it’s packed with antioxidants and can help keep you healthy, hydrated, and nice and toasty during the winter months.
The winter has a wicked way of keeping us cooped up indoors - which is one reason why we end up feeling not-so-hot. And while typically thought-of for bringing about seasonal health maladies, research has shown that exposure to the cold can actually increase your immune system response and influence human health overall.
While the research still continues, preliminary studies show that exposure to cold temperatures is actually good for our vasculature (our blood vessels) and can boost the production of endorphins in the body. Researchers at Rutgers University have shown that endorphins can stimulate immune cells and promote a healthier system in general.1 That’s one reason why cryotherapy (low-temperature medical therapy) is growing in popularity.
As well, some residents of Russia, Finland, and other low-climate countries are passionate about cold-water swimming and the health benefits that accompany. Finnish researchers studied 10 women who consistently doused themselves in water with temperatures just above freezing and participated in a series of cryotherapy sessions. The results showed a major jump (as much as threefold) in their levels of norepinephrine - which is a chemical in the nervous system that’s been associated with heightening the immune system response.2
Breathe Deeply and Relax
Feelings of stress can jumpstart your central nervous system which triggers the release of adrenaline and cortisol when it comes to your “fight or flight” response. But when stress becomes chronic, the central nervous system fails to return to normal and this can take a major toll on the body and the immune system.
A brief, five minute meditation in a quiet place may be all that your body needs; make sure you put your phone away so it doesn’t distract your thoughts. As well, massage, which promotes relaxation, can also be beneficial as it can increase your circulation to nourish your cells with more oxygen and blood, and activate the right chemical reactions in your body that can restore balance to your nervous system.
Researchers from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles found that people who received a 45-minute massage saw an increase in their number of lymphocytes.3 Lymphocytes are white blood cells that play a large part in defending your overall health and wellness.
As you take care of your health (and your microscopic gut bugs), you can increase your chances of enjoying the change of seasons and the holidays with your family. By taking natural measures and keeping your body stocked with the right bacteria, feeling under the weather doesn’t have to become your new normal during the winter months.
1. Zhang, C., Murugan, S., Boyadjieva, N., Jabbar, S., Shrivastava, P., & Sarkar, D. K. (2014). Beta-Endorphin Cell Therapy for Cancer Prevention. Cancer Prevention Research,8(1), 56-67.
2. Leppäluoto, J., Westerlund, T., Huttunen, P., Oksa, J., Smolander, J., Dugué, B., & Mikkelsson, M. (2008). Effects of long‐term whole‐body cold exposures on plasma concentrations of ACTH, beta‐endorphin, cortisol, catecholamines and cytokines in healthy females. Scandinavian Journal of Clinical and Laboratory Investigation,68(2), 145-153.
3. Rapaport, M. H., Schettler, P., & Bresee, C. (2010). A Preliminary Study of the Effects of a Single Session of Swedish Massage on Hypothalamic–Pituitary–Adrenal and Immune Function in Normal Individuals. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine,16(10), 1079-1088.
Julie Hays is the Communications Director here at Hyperbiotics. Health writer and mama of two little girls, Julie's on a mission to empower others to live lives free of the microbial depletion many of us face today. For more ideas on how you can maximize wellness and benefit from the power of probiotics, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.
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