As my friend Sharlene Styles points out on her blog, seasonal changes can be challenging for those of us whose immune systems might not be functioning at full capacity.

Photo by RomarioIen/iStock / Getty Images

Photo by RomarioIen/iStock / Getty Images

Sharlene notes that our immune system is our most powerful protection against illness and dis-ease, and it isn’t our exposure to a virus so much as our body’s ability to handle that exposure that determines our health.

Boosting our immune system is the most effective way to fight off harmful bacteria and viruses, and to stay healthy even as one season gives way to another. It is important to remember that the single biggest contributor to a weakened immune system is STRESS. This certainly applies to emotional stress, but it also applies to other aspects of our lives that serve as “stressors” on our body, including:

1. Diet

Nutritional deficiencies are among the most common contributors to a weakened immune system, particularly vitamin and mineral deficiencies, as well as the deficiencies of good gut flora and reduced levels of stomach acid (which are necessary for absorbing nutrients from our food). Consuming too much processed food, alcohol, wheat, dairy, and sugar also contribute to a deficient diet.

2. Lack of sleep

Sleep is essential for balancing our bodies and maintaining a strong immune system. Sleep deprivation leads to a reduction of natural killer (NK) cells that ward off bacteria and other pathogens, making us more vulnerable to illness.

3. Sugar

Consuming too much sugar has a negative impact on the effectiveness of our white blood cells, which keep us safe from viruses and other foreign invaders. Vitamin C is necessary for white blood cell protection, but because Vitamin C and sugar (glucose) have a similar chemical structure, too much sugar in the bloodstream leads the body to start absorbing sugar instead of Vitamin C and this deprives us of the benefits of Vitamin C as a powerful antioxidant.

4. Toxins

The natural role of our immune system is to fight off foreign invaders such as chemicals, pollutants, pesticides, herbicides, and so on. Too much exposure to these harmful elements will cause our system to go into overdrive, which will have a negative impact on its natural ability to defend itself.

5. Negative Emotions

Finally, emotional stress has a very real impact on our physical state. Emotions such as fear, anger, and guilt affect not only our mental state but also our physical ability to fight off viruses and bacteria by causing a spike in cortisol, which suppresses the immune system. Although they still cannot fully explain why, studies show that a positive attitude actually boosts our immune system.

Keeping these factors in mind, effective strategies for boosting our immune system include:

  • Regular exercise

  • Getting enough rest and sleep

  • Eliminating sugar from our diet

  • Consuming alcohol only in moderation

  • Finding ways to reduce stress

  • Washing hands frequently and thoroughly, and practicing good hygiene in general[1]

  •  Consuming plenty of fermented foods and/or probiotics in order to nurture good gut flora

  • Eating a colourful variety of whole foods, including fruits, vegetables, and lean protein

For more information, visit Sharlene at and if you need some extra help, she’s also available for appointments!

[1] Maintaining a clean environment is not only good for your health, but also for the value of your home! In a recent survey by OREA, 7 out of 10 home sellers in Ontario said that ‘cleanliness’ is very important to retaining a home’s future resale value. In comparison, half said that a new/renovated kitchen is very important, while 46% said the same for a renovated bathroom.