When the air becomes more crisp, temperatures begin to drop and noses start to run again in the fall, that's when a lot of us think that we should start to focus on bolstering our immune system. We certainly don't want to fall prey to and become sick from some respiratory illness, stuck in bed!
However, if we wait until the fall to start bolstering of our immune system, we're actually running behind the optimal time for immune boosting. And we're leaving ourselves more susceptible to respiratory illness, even though we think we're protecting ourselves. It's not as stark as putting on Neosporin after a cut has already become infected, but it's certainly not optimal.
So when should we start to focus on immune boosting each year?
Answer: the summer!
Starting to build your immune system during the summer for the upcoming cold and flu season is a proactive approach that can offer several benefits. Here's why it's important:
1. **Time for Immune Boosting**: Strengthening your immune system takes time. By beginning in the summer, you allow your body ample time to adjust and enhance its defense mechanisms before the cold and flu viruses become more prevalent in the fall and winter.
2. **Preventive Measures**: Taking steps to support your immune system before the cold and flu season hits can help reduce the risk of getting sick or experiencing severe symptoms. This can lead to fewer missed school or work days and an overall improved quality of life during the colder months.
3. **Consistency and Habits**: Building good habits and routines during the summer can carry over into the rest of the year. When you establish healthy behaviors early, such as maintaining a balanced diet, staying hydrated, getting regular exercise, and managing stress, you're more likely to continue these practices when cold and flu season arrives.
4. **Vitamin D Production**: Summer is a prime time for your body to produce vitamin D, which plays a crucial role in immune function. Exposure to sunlight helps your skin synthesize vitamin D, and higher levels of this vitamin are associated with better immune responses. Since many people experience vitamin D deficiency during the winter months due to reduced sun exposure, building up your levels during the summer can be beneficial.
5. **Availability of Fresh Produce**: Summer is a season abundant with fresh fruits and vegetables, which are rich in essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that support immune health. Incorporating these nutrient-dense foods into your diet can provide your body with the resources it needs to fend off infections.
6. **Stress Reduction**: Summer often offers a more relaxed atmosphere, with vacations and outdoor activities that can help reduce stress. Chronic stress can weaken the immune system, so taking advantage of the summer to unwind and engage in activities you enjoy can contribute to a healthier immune response.
7. **Immune Memory**: Giving your immune system a "workout" during the summer by exposing yourself to mild challenges can help it build a memory of past pathogens. This memory can lead to a quicker and more effective response when you encounter these pathogens again during the colder months.
Remember that building a strong immune system is a long-term process that involves multiple factors, including a healthy lifestyle, proper nutrition, adequate sleep, regular exercise, and stress management. Of course, while starting during the summer can provide a head start, these practices should ideally be maintained year-round for optimal immune function.
The summer is also a good reason to come in for acupuncture, as acupuncture can help to boost the immune system.
Acupuncture has several mechanisms that could potentially contribute to immune system strengthening:
1. **Regulation of Immune Responses**: Acupuncture is thought to help regulate immune responses by influencing the production and activity of immune cells, such as white blood cells. It may help balance the immune system by promoting the release of certain immune-modulating molecules, such as cytokines.
2. **Reducing Inflammation**: Acupuncture has been suggested to have anti-inflammatory effects. By reducing inflammation in the body, acupuncture may contribute to a healthier immune response. Chronic inflammation is associated with various health issues and can weaken immune function over time.
3. **Stress Reduction**: Acupuncture is known for its potential to reduce stress and promote relaxation. Chronic stress can suppress the immune system, making the body more susceptible to infections. By helping to alleviate stress, acupuncture may indirectly support immune function.
4. **Enhancing Blood Flow**: Acupuncture involves inserting thin needles into specific points on the body. This process is believed to stimulate blood flow and improve circulation. Proper blood circulation is essential for delivering oxygen, nutrients, and immune cells to different parts of the body, which can aid in immune system function.
5. **Neurotransmitter Regulation**: Acupuncture may influence the release of neurotransmitters and hormones, such as endorphins and serotonin. These compounds can impact immune cell activity and overall immune function.
6. **Balancing Energy (Qi)**: Traditional Chinese medicine theory suggests that acupuncture helps balance the flow of "Qi" (pronounced "chee"), the body's vital energy. An imbalance of Qi is believed to lead to health issues. By restoring balance and promoting the free flow of Qi, acupuncture might contribute to improved immune function.
Even though it's already August, there is still plenty of time to come in to start prepping the body for cold & flu season. It's important to note that early fall is a time when there are a lot of additional stressors (i.e. getting the kids back on a routine as school has started up again!) that can make us even more susceptible to illness.
Good thing acupuncture is great for stress management as well as immune building!