It's been a really fun and interesting time for me, as I'm noticing more and more people becoming engaged in taking care of their own health. I think this is partially about interest, and partially frustration with accessing care. I sometimes consider how in the past out of necessity, we were able to confidently manage many illnesses and minor injuries at home, and only sent for help or made the trip to a clinic when things got bad. While TikTok is not your doctor, and I'm not suggesting you avoid treatment, it's been bringing forth fantastic conversations and questions about traditional remedies like castor oil (a personal favourite of mine), apple cider vinegar, and garlic or onion mixed with honey. You can read more about some home remedies here.
We've been blessed with a gorgeous, sunny September, but soon the angle of the sun will be such that it's difficult for our skin to harness light to manufacture Vitamin D. (Read about the benefits of Vitamin D here.) We should chat soon to design your supplement strategy for the fall and winter months, as our needs change with the seasons.
I learned years ago from a great herbal mentor that nature provides exactly what we need, all we need to do is tune into the intelligent messages of plants. With that in mind, I noticed a wonderful showing of goldenrod (solidago) this year. Goldenrod is high in quercetin - a helpful allergy remedy, antiinflammatory, antimicrobial and antioxidant herb. It's also used to treat urinary conditions and to break up mucus in colds and flus.
It's fascinating to note that I've seen quite a lot of kidney weakness turn up in blood work and symptoms in patients over the last while. I'm also preparing that we may see quite a lot of lung weaknesses this fall and winter. Even more interesting is to bring in the mind-body-spirit connection, in Traditional Chinese Medicine kidneys are associated with the emotion of fear and lungs with the emotion of grief - and we know both have been extremely prevalent feelings the last few years. All this is to say that I'm taking cues from nature, the abundant crop of goldenrod, and honouring the beautiful relationship between ourselves and our environment, all while thinking about how we can use these messages to prepare for potential health challenges ahead.
Some of the key things to think about when it comes to supporting your immune system right now:
- enjoy the wonderful fresh produce that's still abundantly available, moving into squash and carrots and nutritious comfort foods - soup season is here!
- watch sugar, simple carbs like bread (choose root vegetables instead), and alcohol -> sugar essentially paralyzes white blood cells, our immune soldiers
- flow with the darkness of the season and get to bed a little earlier to avoid being run down
- we clean out a lot of waste and repair our bodies during sleep, it's a crucial part of maintaining health
- Fresh Air
- recycled, indoor air can have a lot of particulate matter so getting outside can be helpful
- you may also want to consider an air purifier and changing your furnace filter every 3 months
- our lymphatic system houses our immune system, and we keep the lymph fluid moving by exercising and hydrating
- for an added bonus, consider sauna therapy or contrast showers as additional lymph support
- Liver Health
- the liver plays a large role in a balanced immune system and clearing infections
- there are many ways to support the liver and with the many demands on it, I suggest regular strategies to optimize it's function: castor oil packs, breathing exercises, milk thistle, NAC, and B vitamins are some of my favourites
Preventative Immune Support
- Vitamin D
- an immune modulator that acts more like a hormone than a vitamin
- general dosing would be 400IU per day for kids, and 2000IU for adults, but needs can vary greatly and dosing should be based off blood levels
- food sources are fatty fish and egg yolks
- Vitamin C
- dosing varies greatly, but there's a lot of flexibility here as you can often go quite high with this vitamin in the short term
- we do not make our own vitamin C so we need to get it from food - there are many food sources (broccoli, peppers, red cabbage, citrus fruits), but additional support might be needed in the fall & winter
- 70-80% of our immune system is in the gut, so maintaining gut health is important for staying healthy
- the type and dose of probiotics varies depending on your individual needs and if you've just been on antibiotics, but in general a 10 billion CFU per day dose of a multistrain probiotic is a good start
- if taking probiotics or eating fermented foods makes you feel yucky, it's possible you have something called small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) - too many microbes in the gut causes bloating and other digestive symptoms, and we may need to do some testing or treatment to shift your microbiome
- food sources: kimchi, sauerkraut, kefir, kombucha, pickles
- herbal teas are a gentle way to introduce antimicrobial and immune supportive herbs into the day: Echinacea, Licorice root (not if you have high blood pressure), Astragalus, Oregano, Thyme, and Elderberry are just a few of them
- add local honey for added antimicrobial benefit and throat soothing
- Homeopathic Remedies
- these are quite individual and nuanced, with a special art to selecting the right remedy
- general cold and flu remedies like Kids 0-9 for younger ones, and Homeococcinum or Oscillococcinum can be great when used appropriately
- I'm also a huge fan of the Dr Reckeweg complex homeopathic remedies
- Botanicals / Herbs
- so many! I mentioned Solidago earlier, but the options are numerous
- preventatively I still like Deep Immune by St Francis Herb Farm (there's an adult and a kids formula), but lots of people like Elderberry or Echinacea too
- I am also enjoying the mushrooms (not an herb) - they have tremendous immune balancing potential, and I find give a deeper layer of vitality boosting from species like Reishi and Cordyceps
- wonderful for the early stages of colds, and clearing congestion
This article is intended for information purposes only and does not replace medical advice.