Dare I say that we're fiiiiinally getting through the worst of the cold & flu season? This undoubtedly has been one of the worst seasons on record. People are still trying to get rid of bad flu viruses and the weather seems to not want to warm at all. This means your immune system needs an extra boost right now.

We're a very reactive society - we tend to talk about helping our immune systems once we're already sick. But what about being proactive and keeping our bodies as healthy and squeaky clean as we can? Studies show you can successfully slide through the sick season unscathed, with just a little TLC for your immunity.

Here are some easy and quick tips to keep you on the healthy side of life:
*Consult your physician before taking any herbal supplements, especially if you are pregnant, nursing, or taking any medications

1) Gut health
Hands down, your gut health is your #1 marker for your immune health.
Probiotics are at the top of this section. You have single strain and multi-strain varieties. Be careful though with the advertising - more is not always better with bacteria. Many capsules and yogurts will advertise "8 different strands!," which really means there are 8 different bacteria strands that likely will compete with each other for the right to live in your gut. Some people are sensitive to that, and can feel quite sick or compromised. Regardless what you choose, make sure that you have the Lactobacillus (helps with carbs and lactic acid) and L. acidophilus (anti-carcinogenic, antimicrobial) species.
ACV. Apple cider vinegar is immensely popular for helping neutralize your stomach acid. I personally love Bragg's ACV far better than any other label. Mix one teaspoon of ACV with a few ounces of water and enjoy that on an empty stomach in the morning, within 30 minutes of waking up. You can also add a bit of honey to the ACV if it's particularly strong for you.
Marshmallow root extract. This herb has been documented all the way back to ancient Egypt. It's widely used to soothe the mucous membranes of the respiratory tract. It's commonly used for dry cough, constipation, diarrhea and minor stomach ulcers. Dilute one dropper of the liquid with 8oz. of water one time a day.

2) Stress
Chronic states of stress can wreak havoc for your immune system. Stress causes chronic inflammation that is harmful to tissues in your body, and it suppresses your immune cells that are needed to fight infections. Some studies have suggested there is a link between chronic stress and autoimmune diseases, as well as the growth of pre-cancerous cells.
Although many find it difficult, meditation is one of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to ease stress. There are many apps to guide you with this, as well as meditation centers. Start with an easy goal, like 2 minutes, and increase it by 1 minute every other day. Make it part of your routine. Other accessible ways to destress include putting your legs up the wall (helps calm your nervous system, EFT or tapping... and there is always acupuncture :).

3) Sleep
We are terrible at sleeping. I'm even writing this blog after midnight; I'm guilty of it, too! It's so crucial to receive at least 7-8 hours of sleep (new parents, I'm sorry, I know that doesn't include you quite yet). Sleep and the circadian system have a strong regulatory influence on the immune system. Research shows that numbers of T-cells (the good guys that fight infection) increase during sleep cycles. Also, proteins called cytokines are also produced when you're catching zzz's. Cytokines are essential messengers during an immune response and help your system react quickly and effectively.