Photo: Mother Helping a Boy Blow His Nose

by Tandis Bishop

Autumn is the favorite season for many Hawaii residents. Our autumn weather is as nice, if not better, than summer, with its calm temperatures and warm waters. However, the arrival of the cooling atmosphere also means the arrival of cold and flu season. Even if you can’t completely avoid getting sick this season, you can still lessen the duration and severity of a sickness with a strong immune system. Here are some tips to keep strong and healthy during the fall and winter months. You can considerably boost your immune system by following even a few of these suggestions:

  • Eliminate refined white sugar! This is one of the most important, if not the most important way to boost your immune system. Sugar weakens the immune system by decreasing the ability of white blood cells to fight infection. There are some healthier sweeteners available (in moderation) such as stevia or agave. Avoid artificial sweeteners. And be careful to read your labels, as refined sugar can be found in all types of food products.
  • Enjoy seasonal fruits and vegetables. Nature provides all the foods needed during this time of year to stay healthy. Fall vegetables include sweet potatoes (and other root vegetables), winter squash, kale, and cabbage family veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage), as well as local avocados, beets, and green beans. Fresh fruits available in the cooler months are also health-promoting, such as pomegranates, concord grapes, pears, cranberries, apples and local tangerines. These foods are very nutritious, and are packed with antioxidants, fiber, essential vitamins, minerals and cancer-fighting plant nutrients.
  • Take immune boosting supplements. There are lots to choose from such as vitamin C, astragalus, elderberry extract, probiotics, medicinal mushrooms, and other herbal supplements. There are supplements available for kids, too. You can take many of these supplements together for well-rounded support. Our Wellness team members are happy to help find the supplements you need for a healthy immune system.
  • Drink your lemons. Lemon is the ideal food for restoring acid-alkali balance. Drinking freshly squeezed lemon juice in water, or adding it to tea, salad dressings (in place of vinegar), baking or cooking, helps maintain the body's internal "climate" at a pH which supports healthy bacteria instead of the viruses and harmful bacteria which thrive in more acidic environments. Apple cider vinegar is another great way to improve your body's alkalinity, but the taste of lemon is much more pleasant!
  • Get enough sleep. Recent studies show that lack of sleep can lower your immune system.1 Sleep loss not only plays a role in whether we come down with a cold or flu. It also influences how we fight illnesses once we come down with them.2 Everyone’s body is different so the amount of hours needed may vary. But whatever your body’s sleep requirement is, get it!
  • Drink your water. This may be common sense but it’s easy to get dehydrated in Hawaii, even in the cooler seasons. So remember to drink (in ounces) half your body weight in pounds. (i.e. body weight in pounds, divided by 2 = number of ounces of water per day)
  • Take it easy on coffee and alcohol. To stay healthy and fight disease, decrease your intake of coffee and alcohol, in order to not overwork your liver. Coffee is also a diuretic which will rob your body of valuable vitamins and minerals, and it dehydrates you.
  • Enjoy a plant-based diet. A vegetarian diet tends to be high in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients….and lower in fat and cholesterol. All of which can result in better overall health and longevity. Visit our Go Veggie page for recipes and helpful information on eating a plant-based diet.