Early on in my journey on the autoimmune protocol, I realized that almost every time that I got sick I started having autoimmune symptoms. That just didn’t seem fair. I was trying to do all of these healthy natural things to heal my body and I kept hitting set backs from something as minor as a cold. So I tried to do more to “strengthen” my immune system to avoid getting sick… more flares. Then, somewhere along the way I read enough that it started to make sense.
All of these “healthy” “natural” things that I was doing to help “strengthen” my immune system were actually overstimulating it and encouraging my immune system to do what it had learned to do best… attack my body.
This time of year we see a lot of people talking about “boosting” or “strengthening” the immune system through supplementation of things like elderberry syrup and echinacea. The problem is that while these things can seem to work for others, they work by encouraging the immune system to kick into gear and respond. If you have an autoimmune condition, you are usually trying to actively calm down your immune response so that you can go into remission.
That being said, we all want to avoid getting sick or recover from getting sick as fast as possible, so what are some things that we can do? Here is a list of what I have found helpful, from personal experience.
- Sleep: I know, I know, this is the one that no one wants to hear, but sleep is what allows you to heal and fight off infection in a way that doesn’t put extra stress on your body. Sleep is always important, but making sure that you get enough sleep during the winter months is even more vital.
- Vitamin D/K2: Vitamin D is an immune modulator, not an immune stimulant. This means that it helps to balance the immune system and allows it to function properly. Most of us are deficient in Vitamin D normally and this is made worse in the winter when we can’t get enough sunlight. Vitamin K2 is necessary for the proper absorption of Vitamin D, so the should be taken together. (Here is My Favorite Vitamin D Supplement and K2)
- Probiotics/Fermented Foods: Your immune health is closely tied to your gut health. Probiotics have a healing and anti-inflammatory effect on the gut and fermented foods can help restore healthy gut flora long term, improving your immune health and overall health.
- Neti Pot: Using a Neti Pot when you’re sick can help to relieve sinus congestion in a gentle way, but you can also use it periodically when you are trying to avoid getting sick to discourage germs from taking hold.
- Diffusing Essential Oils– I don’t talk about essential oils on this website a lot because I know that it can be controversial, but they are a tool that I have found very helpful in this area of health. I use my diffuser almost every night along with high quality Therapeutic Grade (Not aromatherapy grade) Essential Oils. Diffusing is a very safe way to get the benefits of an oil without risk of skin sensitivity issues or ingesting them (which I don’t recommend). Some of my favorite gentle, but germ-fighting, oils are Lavender, Tea Tree and Frankincense.
- Epsom Salt Baths: Regular Epsom salt baths allow your body to absorb more magnesium which is great for overall health and supporting sleep but taking a warm bath can also increase your internal body temperature slightly and help the body kill off bacteria and viruses in the same way a fever would.
I hope that all of you stay nice and healthy for the remainder of the winter. Maybe these tips will help you get through this season cold-free and flare free!