Now more than ever, our immune systems need to be hardy to ward off infections and keep us healthy. Here, we outline some of the ways you can boost your immune system.
Our immune system protects us from disease caused by bacteria, viruses and toxins and helps rid foreign bodies from our system. It creates a barrier to antigens from entering the body, while producing white blood cells and other chemicals and proteins to fight foreign substances that do make their way in. Therefore, a healthy immune system is a goal we should all strive for. Here are just eight simple steps you can take to give your immune system a health boost…
1. Eat a rainbow
Eating a diet rich in flavonoids, antioxidants and polyphenols (which can be found in abundance in berries, spinach, kale and broccoli) will give your immune system a big boost. Antioxidants in particular are important for decreasing inflammation and combatting free radicals in the body. Vitamin C is another great immune system booster, so load up on citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruit, limes and lemons; red bell peppers are also loaded with vitamin C. Garlic also has a huge impact on the immune system, as it contains allicin, which helps fight bacteria and infection. Mushrooms, meanwhile, contain beta glucans, which have been linked to the immune system, and contribute to the production of white blood cells. Almonds and sunflower seeds are rich in selenium, which helps support the normal function of your immune system.
Your skin is your body’s biggest organ and protects it from infection; vitamin A is needed to support your skin, so eating a diet rich in vitamin A is essential. Sweet potato, squash, pumpkin, carrots, spinach and kale are all good sources. Other great ingredients for your immune system include turmeric, ginger, green tea, chia seeds, flaxseed and fermented foods (more on that later). So get cooking and eat up!
2. Get a good night’s sleep… regularly
Getting between six and eight hours’ rest each night can have an enormous effect on your immune system. Furthermore, having a good sleep routine, where you go to bed and wake at similar times each day, will improve the quality of your sleep. Numerous studies point to the impact screens can have on your sleep, so turn off the phone, laptop, tablet and TV a good hour before you turn off the lights. Wondering how you’ll spend that hour? Meditation, reading, journaling, talking with your loved ones or even tidying up will all do the trick and you’re likely to find you’ll drift off much more easily.
3. Give it a D
Vitamin D plays a huge role in the health of your immune system and sunlight is the best source of this vitamin, but you want to avoid overexposure to the sun’s harmful rays so to boost your vitamin D intake, eat plenty of oily fish and consider taking a supplement.
It may be easier said than done, but managing stress can have a massive impact on your immune system. Long-term stress promotes inflammation in the body and can lead to anxiety, depression, poor sleep, high blood pressure and digestive issues, all of which can affect your immune system. Finding some way to cope and manage your stress is essential for a multitude of health reasons, the immune system being just one.
5. Water up
It is recommended the average adult should drink at least 2 litres of water every day. This is essential for your kidneys to function properly, you’re adequately hydrated and your body is able to flush out harmful toxins. It also helps carry nutrients to blood cells, supporting your immune system.
6. Don’t smoke and watch your alcohol and sugar intake
There are some things that can instantly give your immune system a knock. Alcohol and tobacco, in particular, impair your immune system, so not smoking and drinking in moderation is a big step towards building a healthy immune system. Also, minimising your sugar intake can reduce inflammation in the body while helping you maintain a healthy weight, thereby reducing your risk of obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes – all of which weaken the immune system.
7. Boost your gut health
Probiotics – which can be found in fermented foods like natural yoghurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, tempeh, kombucha and kefir – are live microorganisms that help repopulate the gut with good bacteria and protect against harmful organisms while regulating the immune system’s response.
Regular moderate exercise has a massive impact on our overall health, but specifically, it can help you sleep better and reduce stress, thereby helping your immune system as a result. Plus, regular exercise may also reduce inflammation and help your immune cells regenerate. Try walking, cycling, swimming, hiking, running, yoga, dance… whatever works for you. It’s important to find a type of activity you enjoy that fits into your lifestyle so you can keep it up long term.