Q: I’m a teacher and I get sick at the beginning of every school year! It makes for a rough start. What can I do to break this cycle?
—Katie M., Twin Falls, Idaho
A: It can be hard to reel in the summer schedule, which often includes late nights, gardening, prolonged hikes, and having fun with friends and family. Even though most folks are more active in the summer, they may also get a little sloppier on making every bite count in terms of optimal nutritional value. Why does this matter? It can impact your immune system, increasing your susceptibility to illness.
To bolster your immune system, start with the basics, as always: Stay well- hydrated, keep a regular schedule that allows for 8 hours of sleep each night, and eat a healthy diet. If you want to occasionally have some ice cream, a sloppy Joe or fresh corn on the cob slathered in butter, that’s fine. Just don’t make a regular habit of sugary, fried, or processed foods.
4 Ways to Boost Your Immune System Naturally
Try this 10-day detox program before school starts up, to flush out your system and boost immunity:
1. Eat two meals daily
If you’re a breakfast person, your two meals of the day should be soon after arising, and then an early supper that’s wrapped up by 5 p.m. If you’re not ravenous in the morning, your scheme would be a brunch around 11 a.m., and then a light dinner around 6 p.m. This way, you can give your digestive system a rest for at least 14 hours daily, 10 days in a row. If this schedule works for you, you can even adopt the two-meals-daily plan semi-permanently.
2. Try cold-water walking
Begin your day with a full 12-oz. glass of water. Then in the bathroom, as you are brushing your entire naked body with a long-handled dry skin brush (always brushing towards the heart from all directions), fill the tub ankle-deep with cold water. If you don’t have a tub, use a large plastic container that you can easily stand in. Walk in place for 60 seconds in the cold water. This is wonderfully invigorating! Who needs coffee after morning cold-water walking? I like to brush my face with a softer, smaller skin brush while enjoying my cold-water tonic. Once you get used to this, you can sit down in the water and splash up under your armpits for a few seconds before getting out.
3. Plan five days of food
Since 80 percent of your health is determined by the food your choose to eat, let’s think further about those choices. I recommend planning at least five days of food to start your cleanse, while allowing for some adjustments, if needed, for the second half of the program.
First meal of day
The first meal of your day should ideally be the main meal, focusing on vegetables, clean protein, and some good fats. If you’re an appropriate weight or underweight, add some healthy complex carbs such as steel-cut oats, quinoa, brown rice, or a baked sweet potato. If you wouldn’t mind losing a few pounds, ditch the carbs.
Keep a glass container of chopped veggies to add to an omelet, or if you’re vegetarian, organic tofu for the first meal scramble. Lightly oil a pan with olive oil, coconut oil, or ghee, and sauté the chopped onions, scallions, garlic, ginger, and spices. Next add the mix of chopped veggies: celery, red pepper, leeks, sliced mushrooms, and grated beets. Avoid nightshades (tomato, potato, eggplant). Whip up 1–4 eggs, depending on your appetite, with 1–2 Tbs. nut milk, yogurt, or water. I love a dash of nutmeg with eggs. Pour the eggs over the cooked veggies, and add a handful of spinach. After 3–4 minutes on a medium-low flame, flip the whole thing over so the spinach wilts. Serve right away, and add toppings as desired: nutritional yeast; toasted flax, sunflower or pumpkin seeds; pulverized kelp powder; a dash of turmeric; and maybe some sprouts. Yum.
Second meal of day
Your second meal should be lighter. In the summer, there’s nothing like a huge fresh salad. Start with local green, if possible. Add sprouts, chopped veggies (like the morning batch but add kimchee or other pickled produce). Slice an avocado. Add cucumbers. Consider topping with a can of small fish. The SMASH fish are the healthiest—salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardine, and herring. These are small enough to have not bioaccumulated heavy metals, which is unfortunately a concern with larger fish all over our small planet.
To reduce your heavy metal load, focus on SMASH seafood choices: salmon, mackerel, anchovies, sardines, and herring.
4. Get 45-minutes of exercise per day
Walking is terrific, especially up hills or stairs. If you feel uninspired about movement choices, try something new! Flow yoga, Pure Barre, stand-up paddle, spinning, ultimate frisbee—there are hundreds of options out there. Explore! The key is to do something every day. And drink most of your water during exercise, not with meals.
To start the school year in top shape, you need to eat right, drink plenty of water, and get enough sleep. It’s also very helpful to poop every day. Don’t hesitate to use a light, non-habit-forming laxative at the end of the day if you didn’t have a complete bowel movement. I recommend magnesium (start with 250 mg, but you may need more, especially women who lose a lot of magnesium in menstrual blood), Senna, or Swiss Kriss. Rehydrated prunes and apricots are very effective for some people. Try eating 2–4 at bedtime before tooth brushing, or as dessert after dinner.
Beyond your 10-day cleanse, always remember to take time to care for yourself. There is no better use of your time.