Our immune systems are made up of many different cells, tissues, and organs and it develops throughout childhood into adulthood. This array of complex systems is our bodies own defence mechanism working cohesively every minute of the day to give us protection against pathogens (bacteria, viruses, parasites) and without it we would be open for attack.
Sometimes due to stress, lack of sleep or a period of unhealthy eating a sneaky little germ can invade and make us sick. We would all like to know how to prevent getting ill but as immunity is a complex system it is not as easy as attributing it to one answer. The best way to strengthen your immune system is to make daily choices that support immune health and become aware of what weakens the immune system as well.
NOTE: Nutrition and supplements wont stop you from getting sick or catching a bug but they will strengthen your immune system and make you less susceptible.
The first line of defence is a healthy lifestyle
Choosing colourful vegetables and fruits which will be chocked full of micro-nutrients that are needed by the cells of the immune system to be a fully functioning army. Here are some key nutrients that should be incorporated weekly in your diet to support a strong immune system.
Zinc is an essential trace mineral which plays an important role in how our bodies function and keeps the immune system strong. It affects multiple aspects of immunity and is crucial for normal functioning of the immune system. It is ideal to take a zinc test to assess whether you are deficient in zinc and plan a supplemental regimen to get your levels optimum again. Zinc is found in nuts, seeds, and shellfish.
Vitamin A enhances immune function and plays a role in protecting against bacterial infections. Found in yellow and orange foods, liver, and eggs.
Vitamin C is an old favourite, best to be taken prophylactically to ensure greatest results. Found in an abundance of fruits and vegetables. If you are eating your 7 plus a day you should be getting sufficient Vit C.
Use seasonal fruits and vegetables, Mother Nature was onto something when she made the autumn and winter foods packed with immunity-boosting Vitamin A & C.
Throw garlic and ginger into your foods at least twice a week if not on a daily basis. Garlic is a natural antiviral, anti-fungal, antibacterial. It's been said that while building the pyramids the Egyptians ate a clove of garlic a day for strength and stamina.
Remove sugars in the form of simple carbohydrates (pastries, cakes, sweets etc.). Excessive sugar will deplete the body of vital nutrients as a rule, leading to further inflammation and making it harder to fight infections. Studies have also shown that sugar will suppress the immune system for 1 to 2 Hrs after consumption, reducing the capacity of the white blood cells.
Your gut houses 70% of your immune system.
Your gut is actually part of the outside of your body, being a long tube from one end to the other. It forms a protective barrier to pathogens but that only works if there is plenty of good bacterial micro-flora. The immune system of your gut eliminates pathogenic microorganisms and simultaneously builds a symbiotic relationship with good bacterial micro-flora. Keeping your gut healthy is imperative for strengthening your immune system.
Consume daily prebiotic foods (garlic, artichoke, onion, oats, legumes) which feed the good bacteria in your gut as well as ensuring you are populating your gut with probiotics found in (miso, sauerkraut, kefir, cultured yogurt, kombucha).
Remove anything which you know aggravates your gut. This makes your intestinal cells work overtime and can flare up immune reactions.
When your cells and the mucus membranes of your nose and mouth are dry it is easier for viruses to attach.
Make sure you are consuming at least 2 Litres of water daily and add electrolytes in the way of mineral drops of a splash of lemon and Himalayan salt to your water. This helps hold the fluid in the cells making them hydrated enough to deter pathogens.
Stress wreaks havoc on a number of areas of our lives and there is an obvious relation between psychological stress and a dysregulation of the immune system. Stress is needed and normal in small doses but chronic stress causes prolonged inflammation and immune cells to negatively change the way they respond. There is a way to reduce the impact of stress and it’s weakening effect on the immune system.
Start with a deep belly breath and get into the habit of breathing slowly and deeply, especially when you are feeling tense. This switches on the parasympathetic nervous system and switches off stress signals.
Go for a walk or a jog around the block this release endorphins and feel-good hormones which can mitigate the feelings of stress.
Hug your loved ones for at least one minute this releases oxytocin-the love chemical.
When your immune cells attack and disable viruses, bacteria, and other foreign objects they send them to the lymphatic system to remove them out of the body. Your lymphatic system does not have its own pump, like the heart is to the cardiovascular system instead it relies on gravity, muscle movement, hydrotherapy and breathing to move the lymph fluid. The best ways to get the lymphatic system moving is by moving your body everyday.
Massage, specifically a lymph drainage massage.
Dry skin body brushing before you jump into the shower.
Go for a 30 min walk around your neighbourhood
Use a rebounder
Lastly the kingpin of all great lifestyle habits is a well rested good night's sleep.
A good night's sleep reduces stress, helps you make better food choices, and gives the body a chance to go into repair and recovery mode. While you sleep the immune system releases certain proteins that are only abundant during the sleep cycle, they modulate any immune responses such as reducing inflammation and help make any changes necessary for a stronger immune response when you awake.
Establish a good night-time routine.
Set a bed time and wind down for 1 hour before.
No screens for 1 hour before sleep, instead read, meditate, or journal.
Keep your room cool and dark as this helps you stay asleep longer.
Chamomile tea, lavender oil, warm baths all promote sleep.
These tips are to help support you and your wellbeing at home. If you have an ongoing health condition it is advised to see a professional healthcare practitioner that can help you get to the root cause of your problem.