It’s Winter time again and that means many of us begin to focus on strengthening and supporting our immune systems. Winter is notoriously dubbed “flu season” which might be because we are often kept indoors and in close contact with one another, viruses like influenza can survive better in cooler climates, and we have shorter days and less sunshine.
In Traditional Chinese philosophy the term Yin and Yang explains the balance and dualism found in all aspects of life. Yang refers to heat, light and the sun, whereas Yin refers to cold, darkness and the moon. Using this concept we understand that Winter is Yin - the time in our year where we can slow down, go inwards and appreciate a shift away from action and intensity.
Colloquially many people refer to Winter as their hibernation and that is because it feels so natural to go into a Yin state. To support your immune system, I suggest rather than booking out your social calendar and busying yourself with tasks, to instead try listening to your body and give it the down time that it needs, really leaning into rest.
Along with slowing down, you can support your immune system by incorporating some or all of the following:
Many of you may have heard of this herb before and its potency in relation to the immune system. Echinacea is most powerful as a preventative as it increases our immune system’s readiness and improves surveillance for invaders. Echinacea root is wonderful as a treatment for viral infections, most specifically during the acute initial stages where it can halt and throw off attackers. When taking Echinacea, a good quality extract should tingle in your mouth - this tells us that the alkylamides (medicinal chemicals) within the herb are active and bioavailable.
This nutrient enhances the activity of many of our immune cells and as one of the body's most potent antioxidants, Vitamin C scavenges free radicals or toxins and removes them from circulation which reduces the chances of our cells being damaged. When we are sick we have an increased need for Vitamin C as our immune cells, which are busy fighting off pathogens, are using it up much quicker than when we are healthy. It is suggested that viruses in our body will replicate or ‘reproduce’ every 3 hours, making it necessary to dose Vitamin C frequently during these initial stages of viral infections.
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble nutrient that comes in two forms: Vitamin D2 mainly from yeasts and mushrooms which have been exposed to UV and Vitamin D3 which is synthesised in the skin of animals, including our own, from UV exposure. Vitamin D is found in food, mainly animal products, however, the best source is directly through our skin from the sun. Studies have also shown that the closer to the equator and therefore sunnier you are, the less likely you are to develop a number of immune-related conditions.
The general rule of thumb for getting enough Vitamin D is to expose your “solar panels” (the areas of our body with the most surface area such as your thighs or your back) to the sun for approximately 15 minutes per day dependent on your skin tone - the lighter your skin, the less sun time you need and vice versa.
Along with Yin and Yang, Traditional Chinese philosophy and other traditional cultures recommend eating particular types of foods in alignment with the seasons. Winter is cold and dry, therefore to avoid our body falling into this state, it is recommended we eat warm and moist foods. Think of soups, stews, dahls, curries and porridges rather than smoothies, salads or raw foods. Along with the temperature of your food, adding herbs and spices that have warming qualities is also recommended for the Winter months. This includes ginger, cinnamon, chilli, cloves and cumin.
Immune Protect Tea
The beautiful clinic I work from, Halsa Health, has its own beautiful range of herbal tea blended for a range of different health concerns. Our Immune Protect tea is a beautiful addition for flu season to not only keep you hydrated and warm but to give you the medicinal benefits of licorice root, echinacea, thyme, ginger and chamomile. I recommend having 1-2 x cups per day as a preventative and up to 3 cups if you are feeling sick.
If you would like further immune support or would simply like to try some of the recommendations above, please get in touch.