Part 1 - Immune System Support: Beyond Vitamin C
Updated: Apr 23
By: Anne Grier, RN, BSN & Functional Health Coach
My 9-year-old threw himself on the floor for the 3rd morning in a row, very upset that he couldn’t have a friend over to play. I tried to convince him that he should do some reading, I would read to him, or he could practice some math facts. I am trying to homeschool a child that thrives under structure and currently has none. He says every day how unfair this is and because I am his mother, he blames me, says that I am a mean mom. Everyone feels how hard this is, everyone’s structure is gone. We are trying to adjust to a new normal, one where we feel uncertain and have little control over. We do have control over our bodies and our choices, so let’s focus on those.
By now you have likely read a post or two about how to strengthen your immune system. I will share a few of my favorites to make sure you are including them in your life right now. They are important all the time, but especially right now. And they aren’t necessarily easy right now, because we all feel stressed and often with stress comes less sleep and cravings for sugar or alcohol.
To truly support our immune systems, we need to clear, calm, enhance and modulate our immune system. This was taught to me by one of my mentors, the founder of the Functional Nutrition Alliance, Andrea Nakayama. What does that even mean? Let me explain…
We are largely not in control of the situation right now but let’s look at what we are able to control and influence. We can sit in our “circle of influence” and press out or actually influence, rather than letting the concern, fear, unknown press in on us so that we feel no control, we feel pressed in on, in some cases pressed in on so much that we lose breath, feel suffocation. I invite you to explore what you can control; diet, lifestyle and habits to positively impact ourselves, our family and our community.
We start with calm, let’s focus to calm our internal inflammation, calm our nervous system and calm as many lifestyle patterns as we can. To calm our internal inflammation we want to remove the largest inflammatory triggers; gluten, dairy, refined sugar, processed foods, plus any foods that you know are a personal intolerance for you. We want to increase the use of kitchen herbs like garlic, ginger, and turmeric to name a few. And we want to eat as many colors as possible to keep our veggie intake high. And lastly, hydrate to keep the cells and mucous membranes moist. Moist membranes are more difficult for a virus to penetrate.
Calm the nervous system, but allow yourself to feel and not suppress what comes up during this difficult time. Try meditation, to calm the body and mind. Try yoga or continue your yoga practice. Blue Lotus offers online daily classes.
Prioritize sleep, make your bedroom a sanctuary for sleep, leave your phone outside of your bedroom, give yourself an hour before bedtime where the phone is off. Take an epsom salt bath, get yourself in a relaxed state for a good night’s sleep.
Reach out to friends and family, the lack of physical connection is certainly not what our species craves, so in these times make sure to reach out virtually as much as possible.
Calm as many lifestyle patterns as possible, eat and chew slowly, walk in nature, notice your surroundings, hug your children, savor a sunrise.
This is how we will channel our calm.
Next, we go to clear, clearing is a great way to support your overall immune system. Clear body waste, hydrate with water, bone broth, herbal tea, electrolytes. Consider water-rich foods like soups, stews, fruits and veggies. Eat plenty of fiber. Consider digestive supplements. Consume probiotics and prebiotics for a healthy microbiome, ideally in the food form first (think sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha and kefir).
Clear contaminants from our environment, wipe down surfaces like countertops, doorknobs, light switches. Wash hands frequently with soap for at least 20 seconds. Cover your mouth when coughing and sneezing.
Clear inflammation, remove dietary triggers: gluten, dairy, refined sugar, alcohol, processed foods.
Clear stress and anxiety, stay up to date from reliable sources but do not spend the majority of your day consuming media. Practice stress-reducing techniques, call a friend, prioritize exercise.
I invite you to focus your week on the clear and the calm to enhance your immune health.
Next, I will continue the conversation with Part II: How to Enhance and Modulate the Immune System.
We all feel a sense of fear, stress, overwhelm, discomfort and loss of control and I invite you try to create a gentle shift. I invite you to sit in your own “circle of influence” and press out on the uncomfortable feelings, crowd out these feelings with what you can influence and control to boost your immunity.