Top 8 tips to Boost Your Immune System
With the approach of winter and the cold season, many people are fearful of getting sick. Viruses, colds and flus spread quickly throughout the population during winter season.
The health of your immune system has a considerable impact on your chances of catching something. It is very important that our immune system is extremely strong in order to protect itself from infectious agents. The question is: how to improve immunity? How to avoid dangerous diseases and illnesses?
Here are 8 ways to help strengthen your body’s immune system:
1. Look after your gut
Did you know that about 70% of your immune system is localised in our gut? That’s why, the most important recommendation would be to look after the health of our gut.
Having a diet rich in vegetables and fruit, whole grains for added fibre, will help to keep your gut functioning at its best. We can also look after our gut by feeding it with good bacteria (probiotics and prebiotics) to help restore the balance of healthy bacteria in the gut microbiome. Examples of probiotics include Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium. Probiotics can be found in some fermented milk products, such as yoghurt, kefir, kombucha, kimchi, or sauerkraut.
In addition, eat foods that contain prebiotics as well such as Jerusalem artichokes, asparagus, leeks, onions and garlic.
2. Eat fruit and vegetables from a rainbow of different colours
Did you know that each colour provides you with a different array of nutrients? That’s right! Therefore, make sure you include plenty of green, red, purple/blue, yellow/orange and white/brown fruits and vegetables in your diet every day. Some examples of the immunity boosting nutrients found in fruit and vegetables includes:
Vitamin A (or carotenoids) is what gives fruits and vegetables their yellow/orange colour, so foods like mangoes, pumpkin, carrots, sweet potatoes and kumara are naturally a rich source of this nutrient. However, you can also find vitamin A in cabbage and some green foods, such as dark green leafy vegetables.
Vitamin C appears to support a decrease in the length of time and severity of symptoms associated with upper respiratory viral infections. Vitamin C also provides antioxidant activity to support healing at sites of inflammation. An excellent source of vitamin C is citrus fruit, berries and kiwifruit. Many vegetables are also excellent sources of vitamin C, such as broccoli, kale, asparagus, bell peppers and leafy greens.
Phytonutrients are compounds found naturally in plants with specific biological activities that support human health.Phenolics (found in most fruit and vegetables) and flavonoids (berries, onions, Brussels sprouts, citrus, kale and parsley) are common phytonutrients which are known to have immune benefits.
3. Eat a good balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fats
The omega-3 fatty acids, which are produced in your body from the essential omega-3 fat ‘alpha-linolenic acid’ have been studied for their effects on the immune system and inflammatory response. Diets low in omega-3 fatty acids are associated with chronic inflammatory conditions and autoimmune diseases. In order to achieve a more beneficial ratio of omega-3 fatty acids in your body, it is important to decrease the amount of omega-6 fatty acids in your diet, while increasing the amount of omega-3 fatty acids. This can be accomplished by reducing your consumption of meats, dairy products, and refined foods, while increasing consumption of the omega-3 rich foods such as wild-caught cold-water fish like salmon, flaxseed oil, walnuts, and leafy green vegetables.
4. Eat foods rich in vitamin D
Vitamin D can modulate the innate and adaptive immune responses. Deficiency in vitamin D is associated with increased autoimmunity as well as an increased susceptibility to infection.
Concentrated sources of vitamin D include eggs and shellfish such as shrimp and oily fish.
Oily fish is also good source of high-quality protein, needed for making immune chemicals. Wild game and lean, grass-fed meats are also acceptable in moderation, as they contain higher proportions of essential fatty acids too.
5. Keep hydrated
While not technically linked to supporting your immune function, your fluid intake can help to ease the symptoms of colds and flu – it prevents the throat and nose lining from drying out. Warm fluids are especially helpful as they can help moisten your throat and loosen mucus.
Turmeric teas (and add a dose of lemon for added vitamin C!) have been used for years as anti-inflammatory in boosting immunity. Try to drink at least 8 glasses of fluid each day. This includes the water found in a glass of plain water, cups of herbal tea, soups and other beverages.
6. Avoid prolonged stress
Getting sick after a stressful event isn’t just a coincidence. Your brain and immune system are in constant communication with one another, which means that psychological upsets can result in physical symptoms. Your immune system is intrinsically linked to your stress levels.Avoid prolonged stress asthis can slow wound healing, reduce the immune response and the ability to form antibodies. Take time to relax and laugh.
7. Avoid simple sugar
In addition to washing your hands frequently and staying warm, perhaps the best way to prevent illness is to avoid eating excess sugar. Sugar weakens the immune system by depleting your body of vitamins and minerals, impairs your white blood cells from doing their job, which is to scavenge up bacteria that can make you sick.
The best way to reprogram your body to not reach for sugar or sugary carbohydrates is to go completely without sugar for 30 days – no cheating, no wavering – just 30 days of cleaning your body, letting yourself get rid of weak, unhealthy cells, and building healthier cells for a more youthful, strong body.
The process is scary and difficult, yes, but it’s well worth the effort.
8. Maintain good hygiene practices
Your mother was right, wash your hands as it is one of the fastest ways to pass on or pick up germs is from door handles and surfaces that others have touched. Think how many other hands have touched doors in public places, trolleys in the supermarket, railings and handle. Get into the habit of washing your hands especially after using the bathroom and before eating.
To learn more about how to boost your immune system naturally through dietary intervention and lifestyle recommendations please contact me and we could discuss how my nutritional protocol could help you.
- Gupta C., Prakash D., (2014). Phytonutrients as therapeutic agents. [Online]. Accessed December 2018.
- Jennifer N. Morey, Ian A. Boggero, (2015). Current Directions in Stress and Human Immune Function. [Online]. Accessed December 2018.
- J Investig Med., (2012). Vitamin D and the Immune System. [Online]. Accessed December 2018.
- Motunrayo, E. Brain D. E., (2016). Omega-3 rich diets alerts T cell affinity and decreases anti-viral immunity. [Online]. Accessed December 2018.
- The World’s Healthiest Foods (2018). What Foods are Good for My Immunity. [Online]. Accessed December 2018.
- Warner, W., Petrucci, K. (2018). Avoid sugar an immune suppressor, to boost immunity. [Online]. Accessed December 2018.