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People often think of immune support after they begin feeling sick.  Don’t get me wrong, immune supportive lifestyle changes and supplements are important to lessen the severity, and shorten the duration, of illness, but why not start an immune-boosting regimen before getting a cold or flu?  Prevention, prevention, prevention!

One: Meditation

When stress hormones surge, the immune system becomes compromised.  Research has demonstrated the regulatory effect that meditation has on the stress response; it works by suppressing inflammation through the reduction of pro-inflammatory gene expression.  In other words, after meditating, the genes involved with the infectious cycle get down-regulated.  The body’s innate antiviral activity increases and antibodies (the immune system’s warriors) surge.  Furthermore, meditation has a positive effect on mood by causing a feeling of greater vitality and decreased distress, so in addition to directly boosting the immune system, it’s a terrific antidepressant!

Two:  Sleep

Too many of us take sleep for granted, but sleep is one of the most important tools we have to strengthen our immune systems.  Sleep serves to initiate the body’s adaptive immune responses, producing long-lasting immunological memory.  Research repeatedly reveals the detrimental effects that prolonged sleep loss has on immune functions…and memory, and mood, and weight loss, and blood pressure…get my point?  Sleep is VERY important!  If you have difficulty sleeping, naturopathic docs are great at figuring out, and treating, the cause.

Three:  Happy Gut

Believe it or not, a very large percentage of the immune system is housed in the digestive tract; therefore, by keeping your gut healthy, you’re actually preventing illness.  A happy gut is dependent upon what you feed it.  Following a whole foods diet and minimizing inflammatory triggers such as sugar, wheat, alcohol, dairy, and individual food sensitivities is your best line of defense.  Populating the digestive tract with good bacteria by taking a high quality probiotic is also smart.  If you have digestive complaints work with your doctor to figure out what’s causing your discomfort and get to the bottom of it so your immune system is ready for battle.

Four:  Vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiency is linked with increased susceptibility to infection.  Vitamin D receptors are actually expressed on immune cells giving vitamin D the capability of regulating the innate and adaptive immune response to pathogens.  You can get vitamin D from the sun’s UVB light, but it’s production is inhibited by sunscreen use and skin pigmentation, plus, over exposure leads to burns and greatly increases the chances of skin cancer.  Also, the vitamin D produced by skin is not active until it passes through the liver and kidneys so suboptimal liver and kidney function can lead to vitamin D deficiency.  Luckily, the active form of  the vitamin, vitamin D3, is easily obtained through supplementation.  Check in with your doctor about measuring your vitamin D level and finding the best dosage for your individual needs.

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