There is much you can do to live a healthier and happier life
By Deb Dittner
When you look at the healthcare system today, you see mostly the use of Western medicine.
There is definitely a time and place for Western medicine but it doesn’t always answer your questions and concerns. It is often best to look at the root cause of a symptom.
For example, say you have a headache. Does that mean you have an analgesic deficit? Of course not. You may have a headache due to lack of sleep, dehydration, or eye overuse. Might an analgesic help? Yes, but proper sleep, drinking water, or not staring at a computer screen for long periods may be what is necessary.
The same adage goes for our immune system. If you become ill, you may need medication to aid in the symptoms. But if you take care of your body, mind and spirit on a daily basis, you may fight off the illness or not acquire it all together.
The most important way for you to be healthier is to boost your own immunity. There are a number of ways in which you can do this and you can start today. Boosting your immune system will help you get through stressful times. It will help you get through times when those around you may not be well. It will help you to live a full life and a life full of those things you most desire.
To start…you can’t fix your health until you fix your nutrition. 70% of the immune system resides in the gastrointestinal tract therefore eating whole nutrient dense foods is what the body needs. What are whole nutrient dense foods? Foods that are whole such as broccoli, kale, blueberries, wild caught salmon, nuts, seeds (chia, flax, hemp), cabbage, garlic, onions, beets, legumes, green leafy vegetables, asparagus, avocado….and the list goes on. Well, you get the idea, right?
Foods that basically have one single ingredient, meaning the specific food itself. You want to avoid as much as possible highly processed foods, those “meals” that come in a box with lots of ingredients, and those that contain dyes, added sugars and other toxins. By eating iron-rich foods (spinach, kale, broccoli, celery, apples, bananas, lean proteins such as eggs, chicken and fish) you will also boost the oxygen levels in your blood. Iron is needed for your red blood cells and the transportation of healthy blood throughout the body.
Hydration is also necessary to boost immunity. More than 70% of your body is made of water which needs to be replaced on a daily basis. By drinking half of your body weight in water will do the trick. You lose an average of about two cups of fluid daily through sweat, breathing and other bodily functions, so replacement is needed to oxygenate the blood and remove carbon dioxide therefore hydrating the lungs.
Physical movement causes you to breathe more heavily and deeply as your lungs absorb more oxygen creating more energy in your cells. The more you move using the muscles in your body, the increase in overall endurance. The more endurance you obtain, the better you will feel. Pick a form of physical movement that you enjoy. You can start with walking, yoga (chair yoga), or tai chi and progress to lifting weights (even soup cans or water bottles).
There are so many options out there and plenty of apps to choose from as well. Down Dog is one of my favorite apps for yoga and has added HIIT (high intensity interval training) and meditation apps. You choose! If walking (then maybe jogging to running) is the direction you choose and you are outdoors and not on a treadmill, you will also obtain additional amounts of oxygen to the lungs. Be cautious though if you live in more polluted areas.
It is necessary to avoid smoking and excess alcohol intake in order to boost your immunity. Smoking decreases the lung’s capability to take in oxygen therefore damaging the lungs and respiratory system. To aid in the respiratory system boosting immunity, slow and deep breathing exercises will increase the amount of oxygen in the blood. A simple four count breathing technique (inhale for the count of four, hold for the count of four, exhale for the count of four for a minimum of four rounds) will aid in relaxation, decrease stress levels, and improve your oxygen intake. Breathing through the nose is recommended versus mouth breathing as the nose can filter out allergens and dust, add moisture to the air you breathe in and produces nitric oxide to dilate blood vessels distributing oxygen to your body.
A restful night’s sleep of seven to nine hours will also increase immunity. Create a bedtime routine that will allow for the sleep you need. Avoid stimulation (watching TV, computer or exercising) for a minimum of one hour before bed as these are stimulants for the brain not allowing it to shut down appropriately. Consider a soothing cup of tea, an Epsom salt bath with therapeutic grade essential oils added or reading a book.
By integrating the above suggestions into your daily routine of care will allow you to boost your immunity and live a healthier and happier life.
Deborah Dittner is a family nurse practitioner and health consultant. Her mission is to transform as many individuals as possible through nutrition and lifestyle changes.
For more information, check out her website at www.debdittner.com or contact her at 518-596-8565.