How to Not Get Sick This Season
With November brings Cold and Flu Season. As a cancer survivor with a possibly permanently compromised immune system, not getting sick has been my number one focus. It is vital for you cancer survivors who want permanent remission (as well as everyone else) who don’t want to get sick this cold and flu season to do what we can to boost our immune systems!
It may seem obvious to want a strong immune system. But how many of us actively focus on ways to build it, or even know how to keep it strong? Doesn’t it just work on its own? Yes it does! Amazingly, despite all of our lifestyle habits that actually wear it down, our immune system cells keep plugging away. But we can make it easier on our immune systems, even help them get stronger to fight the various Cold and Flu bugs going around through healthy lifestyle habits.
I spent a lot of time in the hospital during my two cancers. Hand sanitizer was everywhere. To this day the smell of it brings me back to my cancer fight. And although I generally think there is too much killing of the good bacteria in and on our bodies through antibiotics and antibacterial soaps, I make an exception with hand sanitizers. There are just too many nasty bugs going around this time of year being passed around via hands.
Below you will find 5 healthy habits that I practice to get through the Cold and Flu Season that go beyond the basics that hopefully you all know and follow: washing hands, using hand sanitizer, avoiding people who are actively sick, and getting adequate rest. Those are essential habits that cancer survivors and anyone who has ever had a compromised immune system should be practicing every day. Hopefully they have been drilled into you as the new normal. Here are a few more lifestyle habits that you may not know or bear repeating if you do.
How to Not Get Sick This Season
Our bodies are amazing. We have a built in system to keep us well fighting germs, viruses and even cancerous abnormal cells. It is the incredible immune system! There are two types of immune system cells: B-cells and T-cells. These are highly specialized defenders of our body.
B-cells create antibodies that kill bacteria in their tracks. T-cells are the super killers. They float around looking for invaders or abnormal cells. Some of them even send instructions to the immune system requesting the most effective weapon to kill the invader it has discovered. Others kill the invaders directly.
- Heal your gut. You may be surprised that I put this first. I feel this is the most important because 80% of your immune system is in your gut. Chemotherapy and antibiotics wreak havoc on the good bacteria that live in our gut so it’s important to focus on rebuilding them. By the way, they also play a part in all sorts of other important functions like regulating our hormones and moods. Consider trying a course of a reputable probiotic and definitely try eating probiotic rich foods like yogurt, kim chi, kefir, sauerkraut, miso, and kombucha. My doctor’s favorite probiotic brands are Vital Nutrients, HMF Forte, Klaire Labs, and MegaSpore.
- Eat right. Lay off immune system stressors like sugar and processed grains, avoid beef and processed meats, and increase immune boosters in your diet like fruits high in vitamin C, and lots of vegetables especially dark green leafy greens and mushrooms.
- Manage stress. Stress is arguably the number one cause of illness in America because of how destructive it is to our immune systems. Sadly our cultural habits of working long hours, deadlines, traffic, and politics add greatly to our daily stress levels. It’s very important to learn how to manage stress. Try healthy stress management practices like yoga, meditation, and exercise (and lay off the unhealthy ones like smoking and drinking). Deepak Chopra has just begun a new free 21-day meditation series called Energize Your Life that is great for beginners who have never meditated before. It’s not too late to join! Go to chopracentermeditaion.com to register.
- Get Vitamin D. I recommend taking a supplement of D3 all year but especially in the Fall and Winter when the sun is less prevalent. It seems we are all deficient in this important vitamin-like hormone, especially if we don’t spend a lot of time in the sun. The immune system’s cancer fighting T-cells are activated by vitamin D so let’s make sure we are turning them on!
- Be happy and connect with people (preferably while exercising). Laughing has been shown to be good for your immune system and you may be surprised to learn that happiness and human connection have been hailed in a recent Harvard study to be the most important factor in human longevity. If you can combine exercise with being friends like going for a walk together or playing a sport with others, you boost your immune system even more with the huge immune booster, exercise. Give hugs, laugh with your friends, notice the joy in life.
Let me know in the comments below which Tip you’ll try first!