Immunity boosting ideas are trending right now thanks to COVID-19. As you’ve no doubt read, many of the things we can do to stay well are spectacularly simple: was your hands frequently, don’t touch your face, don’t shake hands and maintain a safe one-and-a-half metre distance from others.
You can find an excellent guide to keeping yourself well written by GPs for the general public. And, there also some simple lifestyle habits you can adopt to support your precious health and hopefully avoid the doctor’s office in the coming months.
Chances are you’re not drinking enough water. It’s easy to forget especially when the weather cools down. But staying hydrated is important when coughs and colds (let alone the coronavirus) are going around. Aim for two-to-three litres daily, says herbalist, nutritionist, educator and energetic healer Erin Lovell Verinder.
‘Hydration support your body to clear toxin, and free radicals and viruses’, she says. ‘Water increases the production of lymph fluid, and lymph fluid plays a key part in waste collection – overall assisting our wise bodies to eliminate bacteria. Water also moistens airways, creating a protective barrier – an innate part of immunity’.
HARNESS THE POWER OF HERBAL TEA
‘Drinking and eating your plant medicines is a super easy way to weave medicinal plants into your every day’, says Lovell Verinder. ‘Making a herbal tea is by the far the most simple way, you can supercharge it simply by brewing it longer for extra medicinal power. Using herbal powders in smoothies and learning more on kitchen herbalism is a wise to support yourself, your friends and family’.
And, if you want to take things to the next level, try making your own making herbal honeys, syrups, vinegars and pastilles using recipes in Lovell Verinder’s new book: Plants For The People: A modern guide to plant medicine (which includes a whole section on immunity).
SHOULD WE AVOID TOO MUCH BLACK TEA AND COFFEE?
‘Yes, focus on reducing stimulants when you are actively seeking to boos immunity and calm your nervous (system) down’, she says. ‘Green tea or matcha (far less stimulating for most, yet still containing caffeine) are far better options, and also add an antioxidant cocktail to boost immunity and health’.
Practicing sleep hygiene is an important as washing your hands, especially if you find it hard to get to sleep. ‘Sleep hygiene is paramount’, says Lovell Verinder. ‘Turn off all screens one-to-two hours before sleep, welcome in the yin of the even, low warm light, meditation and relaxation to usher in sound sleep. This is medicine for your immune system. Strung out weary people get sick way more often! Get eight plus hours of sleep ideally’.
Establishing a bedtime routine will help set the stage for deep slumber. Taking a warm shower or bath (not too hot) causes a body temperature that it said to help induce sleep.
THE MAGIC OF MAGNESIUM
If you have trouble staying asleep they try taking magnesium supplement to relax your muscles and slow your thinking by increasing levels of the calming neurotransmitter GABA. ‘Magnesium can usher in a deep nights sleep’, Lovell Verinder says. ‘It is such a key mineral to decompress the nervous system and support stress levels’.
If you’re looking to upgrade your nightcap, Lovell Verinder suggests gentle nerviness. ‘The class of herbal medicines that support the nervous system) are perfect pre-sleep’, she says. ‘Think lavender, chamomile, valerian, lemon balm, skullcap, oat straw and passionflower’.
BREATH AND STRESS LESS
Note to self: you don’t have to listen to every single news bulletin if uncertain times are starting to affect you. Try a one-day news fast and see how much better you feel (hint: even better than a juice fast). ‘Stress truly is your worst enemy’, says Lovell Verinder. ‘Visualisation is so powerful, do not succumb to doomsday mentality, light up your energetic field with positivity and love’.
The sitting outside, silently in the sun (vitamin D also improves immunity) for 10 minutes a day. Deep breathing helps by massaging our vagus nerve (the nervous pathway between out gut and brain) which in turn helps on our parasympathetic nervous system, lowers cortisol, slows our heart rate and improve digestion.
EAT THE RAINBOW
Now really is the time to eat the rainbow. ‘Eat like a queen, nourish your body’, says Lovell Verinder. ‘A whole foods diet with a tonne of varied veggies, fruits, great quality proteins and fats, full of nutrient – dense foods will arm your immunity and health with strength’.
She also recommends plenty of probiotic rich, laco-fermented foods. ‘Focus on cooked warming nourishing foods, soups, stews, broths, casseroles, curries. These foods stoke the fire within and are in alignment with seasonal eating. Avoiding more raw cold foods is key to support our bodies in the cooler months’.
Lovell Verinder’s top five immunity boosting plants are: garlic, Echinacea, reishi (mushromm), astragalus and oregano. ‘Cook with..garlic wherever possible, male a garlic-heavy green pesto and spread it generously’, says Lovell Verinder. ‘reishi mushroom is naturally quite buitter and tastes best in a warming tonic. So make a chai spice, or golden turmeric milk and add some ground reishi in there’.
‘if your can get your hands on fresh oregano, it is perfect as a tea with fresh lemon and manuka honey to be drunk on the daily. Be sure to brew it with a lid on to trap in the very helpful volatile oils of the plant. Echinacea and astragalus can be taken in a tincture, capsule, or drunk in a tea. Seek a great immune tea blend, and you will see these two often are included, ‘Lovell Verinder advise.
Reduce Your Sugar and Alcohol Intake
Sugar lowers our immune function and causes inflammation. Retrain your taste buds to get their kicks from natural sources of sweetness. Vitamin C-rich citrus fruits, barriers and papaya are an excellent place to start – stock your freezer with them. Homemade treats also allow you to use alternative sweetness such as rice bran syrup which doesn’t cause the same spikes in blood sugar as refined sugar or even maple syrup[.
Avoiding alcohol during cold and flu season is smart practice given that it’s been proven to weaken the immune system and make our prone to infections.
MOVE IT, ONE WAY OR ANOTHER
Exercising outdoors ticks so many boxes: fresh air, vitamin D, endorphins! And you get to avoid potential germs that may be flying through the aircon at the gym. If you get to avoid potential germs that may be flying through the aircon at the gym. If you really can’t bear to miss your weights session – tuck some antibacterial hand wipes into your tights and wipe liberally. Or if going to the gym is just too much for you then try streaming a yoga class or workout at home to get your lymphatic system (aka our body’s sewage system) pumping for better health.
‘Research shows the positive impact exercise has on immunity but go gently’, says Lovell Verinder. ‘Do not push yourself, that actually has the opposite impact if you are feeling weary. Move intuitive.
WHAT ELSE CAN WE DO TO SUPPORT AND CALM OUR NERVOUS SYSTEM?
‘Practising presence is so important’, says Lovell Verinder. ‘Simple ways to support and calm your nervous system are meditation, conscious breath, and connecting to nature. Activate self-care practices, take a bath, journal your worries away, listen to your favourite music, eat well, cook yourself a nourishing meal, move your body gently, sleep and rest. Many herbs are super supportive allies to support stress, anxiety and tension. Brewing up a pot of tea with nervine herbs such as lemon balm, passionflower, oat straw and chamomile can be a lovely way to untangle a hyper nervous system’.
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