Fall Immune Boosting Tips
A guest blog by Luke Destefano, of Destefano Wellness
As the autumn season recedes into winter, Mother Nature initiates her inward turn. The perennial plants and trees release their leaves, the animals burrow, and the human tribe also adjusts its rhythms to the seasonal down-shift.
Winter, for many of us, means less physical activity, a change in diet, limited social interaction, and these changes can often lead to modulations of our natural immunity. This is why the late fall and winter are often a time when many people catch colds and viruses, so I’d like to share some ways to keep yourself vital as we move through the winter season.
Food is our best medicine, though our modern diet is much more nutrient deficient than that of our ancestors, which is where supplementation comes into play. While the whole spectrum of vitamins and minerals play a role in immune health on some level, the important ones to focus on are Vitamin C, D, and Zinc. These nutrients are the foundation of a healthy immune system.
Not all supplements are created equal. There is no regulation whatsoever in the supplement market, and there are a lot of subpar products out there. It’s important to get your supplements from a highly reputable company, or they can contain mold, heavy metals, other contaminants, or be derived from inferior sources. Vitamin C, if not from citrus, is best in the form of Ascorbic Acid. Zinc should be in the form of zinc picolinate, and Vitamin D3 in the form of cholecalciferol. For the vegans out there, it’s good to know that cholecalciferol can be derived from either lichen or lambs wool, so make sure you check your source.
Vitamin D is also very unique in that is technically considered a hormone. It also requires Vitamin K and Magnesium in order to be absorbed, or it could potentially build up to potentially toxic levels. We can get our vitamin K from dark cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, kale, and chard. Cacao is a wonderful source of Magnesium, not only because it’s an important cofactor for Vitamin D, but because it helps bring the nervous system into a relaxed, parasympathetic state, activating the ventral vagus nerve, and promoting detoxification, digestion, and rest. Herbal teas like dandelion, burdock, and nettles will help support the liver as well. Adaptogenic herbs and mushrooms like Reishi, Ashwagandha, and Chaga are all powerful allies for immunity and stress reduction.
Cacao is a nutrient-rich plant as well as chock full of antioxidants, ranking high on the ORAC scale. Cacao has been linked to a positive influence on stress levels, inflammation, and immunity. Pure cacao will deliver a more positive impact on these functions, so you could try brewing up your ceremonial cacao drink with the other herbs & mushrooms mentioned above.
Another major and often overlooked factor of immunity is the health of the gut microbiome. 85% of our immune system lives around the gut, and the small intestines are home to an incredibly rich ecosystem of bacteria, yeast, viruses, and parasites. The key to a healthy gut is a BALANCE of diversity and promoting the health of the beneficial microbes, and a strong intestinal wall. One of my favorite wintertime preparations for a healthy gut is bone broth. Bone broth is the perfect food for feeding the healthy bacteria of the gut. It’s warm, nourishing, and rich in collagen and other minerals that support a healthy gut lining, preventing the leakage of bacteria and pathogens from the gut interior into the bloodstream, which weakens the immune system. Make sure you get bones from organic, grass-fed, and well-loved animals.
The winter months are not without their challenges, but they offer us a rich opportunity to turn inward, to re-align our compass to what we value, and devote some time to self-care. When we hold this intention of tending the heart’s fire, the winter can be a time of deep healing, awaiting the promise of the coming spring when blossom into our fullest expression once again! May the blessings of mama cacao keep you warm and nourished, connected to your beloveds, and offer you a clear path back to the heart.