They say March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb, but many of us don’t know statistically that March is a peak month for the flu. And of course, we are all experiencing the looming threat of the corona virus. We’re being advised to wash our hands regularly, use hand sanitizers and avoid large crowds. But what else can we do to strengthen our defense against getting sick?
First step is understanding that 70% of your immune system resides in your gut. With that said, if you have any type of gastrointestinal issues that compromise your ability to digest and absorb nutrients, your immunity is going to be functioning less than optimally. Best way to overcome this is to work with a professional to uncover your health issues so you can begin working to improve the overall health and wellness of your digestive track. Once your digestion is functioning normally, maintaining healthful eating and lifestyle habits can go a long way towards protecting you from both getting sick, or if you do get sick, shortening your recovery time.
At the core of healthful eating is not a diet, but rather an approach to nourishment of the body and mind that includes real, whole foods and supplements. That is, avoiding as much as possible, foods that are processed and contain ‘CRAP’ ingredients. (CRAP is an acronym that stands for Caffeine, Refined Sugars, Additives and Preservatives). When working with clients, I often have them write out a food diary to identify what they’re eating each day so we can work on adding in more nutrient dense foods that have a ‘lifeforce’ so they’re getting the most nourishment literally out of each bite. And it’s ok to have a cup of coffee in the morning. We’re talking quality over quantity here.
Additionally, supplementing the diet can also be a way to boost the overall functioning of the immune system. My favorites are: pre & probiotics, Stress B vitamins, Vitamins C & D, zinc, elderberry, magnesium, and olive leaf extract. And anyone who knows me knows I’m a raw apple cider vinegar fan…the ultimate health elixir. A spoonful with your morning water can go a long way towards keeping your body functioning optimally.
As for lifestyle habits, spending time outdoors and getting in regular movement is key to maintaining a healthy immune system. As riders, we are so fortunate to have these areas mostly covered as our sport requires us to be moving and outside on a regular basis. We’re also lucky that our sport includes the type of movement that enables our lymph system (our body’s waste management system) to move in such a way that toxic products that enter our bodies - either through food, beverages, personal care & home cleaning products, polluted water, external and environmental toxins - have a better chance of being excreted regularly.
Another lifestyle habit to consider is developing a regular sleeping pattern. Just like our horses, our bodies and minds thrive on a regular routine. I always suggest to committing to an earlier time to bed that ensures a range of 7-9 hours of sleep. During this rest time, your immune system will have time to detox, heal and be ready for another day. If you’re pressed for time at night, napping can also be beneficial to restore your energy and create a positive mindset.
Lastly, stress management is surprisingly important. Ever notice you feel really run down during periods of high stress when your fight or flight system is in overdrive? When we’re under long-term periods of either emotional or physical stress, our bodies are having to work that much harder to maintain the internal stasis of all of our bodily systems and must utilize a ton of nutrients to do this. The more you can slow down your mind and maintain positive thoughts, the stronger your immune system will be. I love doing yoga, meditation and journaling to create better feeling thoughts and calm the nervous system.