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I want to get healthier. Where do I start?

As we are fast approaching the end of the winter season (Yay!) we can start thinking seriously about improving our health. Spring is the prime time for new beginnings, naturally, the days get longer, there is more sunshine, we have more energy and we are more likely to follow through new habits and routines. Also, improving our health and our immune system is the best gift we can give ourselves. Here are a few steps to begin a healthier, happier life:

  • Sleep. Sleeping well is essential to optimal health. Sleep restores and heals the body. Our body needs a proper rest to function well. Begin with going to bed half an hour earlier and aim to get eight hours a night. There are various relaxation and breathing techniques we can do throughout the day to help with everyday stress and to encourage the mind to rest at night. For example, box (or square) breathing, involves exhaling to a count of four, holding your lungs empty for a four-count, inhaling at the same pace, and holding air in your lungs for a count of four before exhaling and beginning. Repeat 2-3 times.

  • Whole foods and diet that is nutrient-dense. Our immune system needs nutrient-dense whole foods to function at its best. Many people fall ill because their body cannot fight infections due to nutrient deficiencies. Introduce an extra portion of vegetables, salad and herbs to your daily diet.

  • Sugar and refined starches. We should focus on upgrading the quality of our diet. Now is a great opportunity to cut sugar and starch down or even out of our diet as these foods suppress the immune system. Many studies have shown that limiting starch and sugar can help the immune system function better and overall health will improve.

  • Eat protein the right way. Not eating an adequate amount of protein can cause malnutrition especially if you are vegan, vegetarian or elderly. Protein is critical for our immune system and according to Dr. Hyman, we should eat approximately half your body weight in grams of protein a day. If you consume meat – choose organic animal protein. If you are plant-based – choose legumes (beans), nuts and seeds or try tofu and tempeh from non-GMO soy for the highest protein concentrations.

  • Garlic, onions and spices. Garlic and onions are natural antibiotics that help kill bacteria and fungus in the body. Add cumin, oregano, turmeric and rosemary to soups, vegetable dishes and sauces.

  • Fruits and vegetables. Eat 2 servings of fruit and a rainbow of vegetables every day as they are high in vitamins C, A, and phytonutrients that support the immune system. Aim for 5 handfuls of veg such as leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, Brussels sprouts or cauliflower), peppers, sweet potatoes, and squash.

  • Fermented probiotic and prebiotic foods. Choose from sauerkraut, kimchi, natto, miso, tempeh, unsweetened natural yogurt or kefir. These natural probiotics support your gut microbiome and immunity. For even better gut health include prebiotic foods such as asparagus, artichokes, plantains, dandelion greens, leeks, onions, garlic, bananas, apples, flax seeds, and seaweed.

  • Water and warm fluids. Stay hydrated. Filtered and mineral water helps detoxify the body so drink plenty. Eat home-made vegetable soups – they are quick and easy to make. Drink green tea and herbal teas like ginger and turmeric. You can add lemon and a little bit of honey.

  • Get regular exercise. Mild to moderate exercise, a brisk 20-minute walk helps boost the immune system. There are plenty of workouts or yoga classes online to choose from.

  • Meditation and relaxation. According to many studies, practising meditation reduces stress and increases our chance to fight infections. Taking hot baths with Epsom salts and guided breathing helps relax the body and mind. When performed before bedtime, it improves the quality of sleep.

  • Connect with friends and family. Being with loved ones is essential for mental and emotional health. If you cannot meet in person, do it on zoom or over the phone.

Based on Dr Hyman and functional medicine.

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