Let’s face it cold and flu season is coming. So far we have all been healthy in our home but it’s only a matter of time before we get hit. I know that as Noble gets older and spends more time playing with other kids he is learning to share toys but that also means sharing bugs.
With a two year old it’s impossible to stay germ free, especially because Noble likes to suck his thumb, and who knows what he has touched before putting it in his mouth. Thankfully we have been able to avoid getting sick because I put a strong focus on prevention.
At the Canadian Health Food Association (CHFA) we know how important prevention especially this time of year. It’s officially NHP Week or as we like to say at CHFA a week of healthy a lifetime of health.
So to help keep everyone healthy and happy and to celebrate NHP Week we identified the four pillars of optimal health and happiness; nutrition, exercise, sleep and mindfulness. Below you will find a brief overview of each pillar and why each is so important. You can find even more information at chfa.ca
Lack of proper nutrition has been linked to decreased immunity and increased risk of illness. Which is why getting proper nutrition is important all year-round, but especially during cold and flu season when our immune systems are working overtime. That’s why it’s essential to eat a balanced diet rich in healthy and organic whole foods as much as possible, and to supplement with NHPs when necessary.
Our immune system not only depends on macronutrients such as protein, carbohydrates and fat to build antibodies, we also need micronutrients like folic acid, vitamins A, C, E, B6, and minerals including copper, zinc, selenium and iron.
In additional to getting these macro and micro nutrients there are some specific foods that have been proven to help boost the immune system, nuts, kimchi, garlic and reishi mushrooms are all foods that you should incorporate into your daily diet during the winter.
We all know how important exercise is, but it’s especially important this time of year. Unfortunately as the temperature starts to drop a lot of us want to go into hibernation which means even less physical activity than normal. It’s important to fight the urge to say sedentary because engaging in 30 to 60 minutes of moderate exercise daily can actually improve your body’s immune response.
Research suggests that exercise can protect your immune system from certain illnesses by flushing out bacteria from your lungs and airways, improving circulation, causing mild fluctuations in body temperature to fight infection and releasing stress-reducing endorphins. In fact, a recent study found that daily brisk walks can cut your number of sick days by more than half, so get a quick break in during your workday and get outside.
Evidence continues to grow even stronger in showing that sleep plays a critical role in enhancing our immune defences and that our immune system may actually be correlated with our sleep patterns. For example, getting insufficient sleep has been linked to obesity, hypertension and cardiovascular problems. In fact, sleep deprivation can impact the activity of our immune cells, making it difficult for your body to identify and fight cold and flu bugs. Yet many of us are not getting enough. The percentage of adults who sleep less than six hours per night is currently greater than at any other time on record.
I recently conducted the below interview on BT Calgary where I talked about the importance of sleep and some natural health products that you might want to consider especially if you are having problems falling and staying asleep.
Mindfulness is the art of awareness. Becoming present to what is actually happening right now, both internally and externally. Practising mindfulness has a number of positive impacts on the immune system, including reducing inflammation markers and stress hormones, and has also been shown to increase some immune cells and improve activity in the areas of the brain responsible for co-ordinating the immune system.
Incorporating mindfulness into your lifestyle can actually help to minimize the occurrence, length and severity of the flu or common cold. Some aspects of mindfulness can be simple to include in your everyday routine, such as paying attention to your breathing, tuning into your body’s physical sensations and practising mindful meditation.
Together, nutrition, exercise, sleep and mindfulness all play an important role in keeping your immune system strong and ready to fight off bugs when they attack. Ensuring you are following all four pillars will keep you and your family happy and healthy this winter.
How do you keep yourself and your family healthy during cold and flu season? What do you do when they do get sick? Please share your comments below.