If you’ve got travel ahead of you, there’s a good chance you’ve thought about ways to boost your immune system — since nothing ruins a trip like a cold. And this post-pandemic period more than any other has put a kibosh on seasonal flus and colds, because you can now get sick any time of year—even summer! Why is it that we always seem to get sick at the worst possible time?!?!
As a functional medicine doctor, I can pinpoint a handful of habits that are sabotaging your immune system this summer, and making you vulnerable to getting sick. No one wants to end up stuck at home while everyone else is out and about!
The good news is that with a few easy changes — such as adding the HAPPY GUT® Detox Duo supplement to your summer routine — you can reverse the cycle and actually enjoy your summer vacation. Keep reading for my best tips.
Summer Habits That Weaken Your Immune System
1. Travel stress
Summer is not without its own stressors, starting with travel. Summer often means packed schedules, long lines, and tons of travel. For those of you with children, the kids are out of school and you’re taking on full-time parenting in addition to your job and other responsibilities. This summer stress can not only be hard on you mentally, but it can also be tough physically. In fact, some experts think that as much as 90% of all illnesses and diseases are caused by stress.
2. Loss of sleep
Long summer days and travel can be bad news for our ability to get adequate shut eye. We’re talking long plane and car rides, noise, jet lag, and late-night eating, and other activities that can all throw our sleep cycle out of whack. Lack of sleep is like getting on the fast track to a cold; in fact, one study showed that people who skimp on sleep are four times more likely to get a cold.
3. Too much alcohol
From hard seltzers on the beach to rosé on the front porch to sugar-bomb cocktails like pina coladas and mojitos by the pool, summer is the time when many of us drink the most. Unfortunately, alcohol can put a damper on the following morning as well as your immune system. One study showed how alcohol disrupts the functioning of the upper airways and immune cells, which is why respiratory infections tend to affect drinkers more severely than non-drinkers.
4. Constant snacking
It’s not just that the alcohol can add up, it’s also the fact that summer often comes with a lot of snacking. Chips, candy, cocktails, cookies, pies, ice cream and baked goods all seem to be part of the summer experience. This can leave us constantly snacking on low-nutrient, high-sugar foods and missing out on real meals that contain vegetables, protein, and healthy fats, which are the keys to a healthy immune system.
5. Lack of exercise
You might think that exercise makes it easier to get sick (You don’t want to run yourself ragged, right?) but the truth is, getting your blood pumping may actually help flush bacteria from the lungs, reducing your chances of getting sick. In addition, the rise in body temperature that occurs during exercise can prevent bacteria and viruses from growing. And yet, many of us fall off our exercise routines during the summer. This happens for many reasons — it might be travel, or the hot temperature outside, or you’re just too busy with the kids. Whatever the reason, staying sedentary over the summer is one reason why many of us come down with a cold.
The good news is that with a little savviness and effort, we can easily reduce the impact the summertime has on our immune system. If you’re looking to make some changes this year, start with these five easy fixes.
The Gut-Immune System Fix
The first thing to know about supporting the immune system is that it’s not simply a matter of taking some vitamin C every now and then and calling it a day. In general, our culture is obsessed with tackling cold symptoms when they start, but a lot less invested in fortifying the immune system in the first place.
If you want to have a healthier immune system this summer and all year long, investing in your gut health is how to get there. It might not seem like the gut and immune systems are connected, but the gut is actually the center of immune health. A study published last year in the British Medical Journal demonstrates this perfectly. The researchers on the study collected blood and stool samples from 100 patients who had a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the last 30 days. Then, the researchers used something called “shotgun sequencing” to extract DNA from the samples to analyze the community of bacteria living in the stool.
After analyzing the samples, the data showed that patients with Covid-19 had a significantly altered gut microbiome composition — including a lack of immunomodulating bacteria like Faecalibacterium prausnitzii, Eubacterium rectale, and several bifidobacterial species compared to those without a Covid-19 diagnosis. Next, the researchers looked at the samples from hospitalized patients with a severe case of Covid-19 and compared them to those with a mild case. The comparison showed that those with severe Covid-19 had elevated concentrations of inflammatory cytokines and other inflammatory markers, such as C reactive protein.
So what does this all mean? First of all, it was a groundbreaking shift in our understanding of immunity and infections.
The type of gut bacteria living inside you can potentially affect how sick you get from an infectious disease.
Again, it’s what I’ve been saying since the beginning — what truly matters is the gut terrain. It also means that it’s important to do what you can to protect your gut, starting today.
5 Easy Fixes for an Immune-Healthy Holiday
1. Skip Breakfast
Intermittent fasting is a great way to give your body a mini reset in the midst of big holiday meals. And all you really have to do is skip breakfast. By leaving a longer gap between dinner and your first meal the next day, you can reduce inflammation — studies show that intermittent fasting reduces inflammation and improves inflammatory disease — and give your gut the rest it needs to repair itself from the damage done by stress and poor dietary choices.
2. Try extended-release melatonin
If you’re changing time zones or having trouble sleeping in a new environment, a melatonin supplement can be a great place to turn. It helps the body get into stage 4 sleep — the most restorative stage — which helps boost your immune system. I recommend trying an extended-release formula, which releases melatonin slowly throughout the night so you don’t wake up or toss and turn. Start with 1 to 3 milligrams one hour before bedtime.
3. Do a 20-minute HIIT workout
Staying sedentary can have pretty big consequences when it comes to fighting off germs and bacteria. The good news is that you don’t need to spend an hour at the gym, run a marathon, or buy a bunch of fancy workout gear to combat this! Instead, a quick high-intensity workout, like a 20-minute HIIT workout, will do the trick. Try this no-impact, zero-equipment 20-minute HIIT workout.
4. Fill up on vegetable dishes first
You grab a plate, and you’re ready to go all in on a summer BBQ — what do you put on your plate first? If your first answer is meat, bread, potato salad or other similar dishes, can I propose an alternative? One of my best strategies for a healthier summer is to stock your plate with the veggie dishes first; that way, you aren’t missing out on healthy antioxidants and fiber that helps fill you up without feeling stuffed.
5. Support liver detoxification
Let’s be honest, even with the tips above, many of us will likely still consume too much alcohol and do things that put stress on our liver and detox systems. Luckily, I designed my HAPPY GUT® Detox Duo for exactly this purpose. By taking these supplements throughout the holiday season, you can have more energy, less brain fog, and reduce the impact of holiday habits on your whole body. With enhanced detox support, your immune system can also function better.
When asked to describe their experience on the Detox Duo, this is what a few clients had to say…
Scott said: “I felt I had more energy. Realized I didn’t need coffee as much as I did.”
Carolee said: “I experienced more energy overall. I hadn’t planned that the weight loss would lead to other positive and lasting changes. I now choose healthier foods (less dairy and carbs, more clean foods) and I was able to establish and maintain a healthy exercise routine.”
I want you to enjoy this summer more than the last two, and that means enjoying it without feeling deprived, while supporting your immune system at the same time. Follow the tips above for a healthier, happy gut summer this year and every year. Email us and let us know how it goes.