Sniffles, sneezes, stuffy head, fever, body aches – oh it is the season for all the illnesses to hit.
If you have diabetes it makes it even harder to manage glucose levels. Typically a cold or flu will raise insulin needs due to the stress it causes in the body. We work so hard to keep things managed that it becomes more struggle with an illness. Since we can’t do too much about exposure to what is floating in the air, or what our kids bring home from school, we can do some things to try to strengthen our immune system. Did you know a healthy immune system actually starts in the gut. Yes, our digestive system is about 70% of our immune system so if we can load up and add things that keep our digestion healthy as well as allow it to absorb all the good stuff we eat, it will be a great start to preventing invasion from these nasty bugs.
Follow these tips to give a boost to your immune system without additional medications and visits to the doctor. Using these year round can keep you on a path to overall health even when the weather isn’t nasty.
- Keep the Vampires away – Eat Garlic.
Garlic is a natural immune booster and antimicrobial which is great for the gut bacteria.
Cut out the Carbs – unhealthy carbs that is.
Packaged carbs and food in general are so processed that they have lost a lot of the good vitamins and minerals that they grew with. These refined sugars make you work harder to control BG levels and they also make your body work harder to process them since there isn’t a lot of good stuff left in them for the body to use. Try to eat whole grains like quinoa, wild rice, and oats and add in a lot more veggie based carbs. Cut back or cut out simple sugars like candy and aim to look for lower glycemic whole foods.
Eat more plants – Veggies are powerhouses of nutrition.
Very nutrient dense and calorie poor which is good for BG control since you can eat a fair amount, without as much need for loads of insulin, and they are super great for immune health. Full of antioxidant power and loaded with phytonutrients that work at the cellular level to impart signaling to keep the immune system functioning healthy, these should be incorporated into all meals. You can even try a green smoothie between meals – perhaps the afternoon, if you want to add more at a time when most people crave a snack. The green veggies are considered a Super Food – spinach, kale, greens of all kinds – packed with so many good nutrients that we should be eating these at least once per day!
Sounds so simple – but this helps to really flush things out of the system. For diabetes it helps to keep hydrated if you are sick (and even when you are well) as good hydration can help keep BG in target.
Get some sunshine -Vitamin D that is!
Typically our body makes Vitamin D when our skin is exposed to sunlight and this plays a role in putting our white blood cells to work – important because these protect the body from illness. Since we don’t typically get enough Vitamin D from sunlight (due to use of sunscreen and depending on where we live) and those with diabetes tend to be low in Vitamin D already, it is important to take Vitamin D daily. Get your level tested – optimal range is 50-70 (while a lab will tell you 30-100 is normal). If your level is 30-50 aim to take 4000IU per day and get it retested in 8-12 weeks to see where the level is. Once optimized use 2000IU daily to maintain the level. If level is <30 then take 8-10,000IU per day and get tested in 8-12 weeks to reassess. Optimal type of supplement is a liquid drop which get absorbed through the mouth and works better than pills.
Move your body.
While it isn’t food, it is important to list activity as a benefit to building the immune system. Moderate exercises like yoga, walking or swimming are great options and don’t require a lot of equipment to do daily.
Eat some Florida oranges – Vitamin C of course.
The body doesn’t naturally make Vitamin C and it isn’t stored in the body either, so it is really important to eat foods that have a good amount on a daily basis. Eat the rainbow is what my Mom used to say to us – she was right. If we eat a variety of fruits and veggies, aiming for 3-4 colors at a meal we are sure to get a lot of vitamins including C. Good sources are oranges, bell peppers, kale, strawberries, pineapple and Brussel sprouts. Vitamin C helps control stress hormone production in the body (which depresses our immune system) and it is a great antiviral. It also helps boost levels of antibodies in our body that prevent viruses from getting into our cells and making us sick.
Eat Healthy Fat.
Plant based foods with a good source of EFA’s include spinach, avocado, broccoli, cauliflower, beans, nuts and seeds. The best way to get more omega-3 fatty acids in your diet is to add chia seed oil, flax seed or coconut oil to a smoothie. Coconut oil/milk also contains some wonderful antibacterial and antimicrobial qualities that are good for the gut, the skin and for boosting the immune system.
Eat your Kraut
Any fermented foods are essential for keeping your gut healthy. Try sauerkraut (best if homemade), Kimchee, pickles, miso, or kefir.
Eat Indian Food – or just add Turmeric.
This general immune system booster is 5 to 8 times stronger than vitamins C and E, and even strong enough to deal with free radicals and oxidative stress in the body. To get the full benefit of turmeric, make sure to eat it with black pepper or cayenne.
Switch the coffee for tea
Black tea has antioxidants that have been shown to increase interferon production in just a few weeks. Green Matcha tea is the most nutrient-rich green tea. It is a stone-ground powder, completely unfermented with more than 10 times the antioxidants of wild blueberries. Tulsi tea, or holy basil herb, has been used for thousands of years to support immune health and heart health.
- Sleep – catch your zzz’s
Rest ensures our body has enough time to restore and rebuild cells and this helps to keep our immune system primed for avoiding illness.
- Wash your hands!
Make sure to wash hands when you come home from being out.