Supporting your immune system starts with a healthy lifestyle filled with good rest, fresh fruit and vegetables, and daily movement.
What is immunity?
The immune system is a complex network of cells and tissues that act as our own personal defense system. This defense system works to protect us from bad pathogens like viruses, parasites, and bacteria, that would harm us and make us sick. When foreign tissues or cells are found, an immune system response is activated which then fights off and removes them from our body. The cells in your immune system are always on patrol and can immediately identify when a foreign and potentially harmful pathogen enters the body.
This makes our immune system vital to our survival.
What makes the immune system vulnerable? When it comes to boosting your immune system, it’s good to also understand what weakens the immune system which includes the following:
Lack of sleep
Bad pathogens (bacteria or viruses that cause disease)
Immune system disorders like AIDS and Autoimmune disease
Boosting the immune system looks like addressing your daily habits like what you eat, how much you sleep, how well you’re breathing, the stress you take on and more. Let’s explore what helps.
Now, more than ever, it’s important to keep our immune systems strong.
One of the best and easiest ways to stay healthy is through what we eat.
Certain foods and nutrients have been shown to help keep your immune system strong and protect against disease.
Take a second and think about your current diet. Is there anywhere you could improve it to better your health? Maybe you’re eating too much sugar, not enough protein or vegetables. What we eat, where we live, how much we sleep, how we exercise, and even who we live with, all cause chemical reactions that can alter our health status. The largest part of the immune system is located near the intestines, which monitors the intake of food and how the body uses it. This makes it critical for us to consume a balanced diet with the right vitamins, minerals, and nutrients while maintaining a healthy lifestyle. This requires more than just changing the intake of one or two nutrients but involves balancing the entire diet to ensure that there is a balanced nutrition intake at a cellular level. Focus on eating more whole foods to turbo-charge your immune system, such as:
Garlic has potent antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-parasitic properties. The immune-boosting properties of garlic are thought to come from a sulfur compound called allicin which is only released briefly when garlic is crushed, chewed, or chopped—giving it that wonderful smell.
Ginger is another powerhouse for the immune system due to its key ingredient, gingerol, that’s been found to be effective against the common cold, flu and nausea. Because it’s such a versatile food, it’s easy to cook with or simply grate up and add to hot water to make a soothing tea.
The bright golden yellow color of curry powder is due to its key ingredient, turmeric. Like ginger, turmeric is a versatile spice that tastes amazing in food or tea and gives a huge boost to your immune system, and may even help if your immune system is compromised.
Broccoli is another super food that’s nutrient, vitamin, and antioxidant-rich. Broccoli is easy to cook in stir fries, soups and is delicious roasted or eaten fresh while it strengthens your immune system against many illnesses—including cancer potentially.
Blueberries are nature’s candy—and they contain a flavonoid chemical called anthocyanin which helps bolster your immune system. And get this! A study has shown that foods high in flavonoids are particularly important in strengthening the immune function of the tubes and passages leading to your lungs.
Sun exposure of at least 10 minutes per day strengthens your immune system by encouraging your body’s production of Vitamin D, which many people are deficient in. Vitamin D is like a “light switch” for your body because it turns genes and processes on or off that your body needs to stay healthy and boost your immune system. Not to mention the mood-boosting and stress-reducing benefits of getting outside, which helps to let your immune system rest instead of always working to reduce your stress. If it’s the wintertime or you’re just not able to get outside as much as you’d like, taking a Vitamin D supplement is also a consideration.
Sleep deprivation suppresses your immune system, making you more susceptible to illness. Not getting adequate rest has many, negative health effects, and there’s evidence that not getting enough sleep can lower your immune system and make it easier for you to get sick. Proper rest and sound sleep can perform miracles on your mind and body. It is common knowledge that fatigue, stress, and anxiety have a negative impact on health. Intense stress and fatigue trigger a hormonal imbalance that can wreak havoc on your body with far-reaching consequences for your body’s immunity and the diseases you may be exposing yourself to.
Sufficient sleep (seven to eight hours) is not just important to energize your body and mind for the next day. Sleep is necessary to support all of your body’s functions, including your immune system. Studies have shown that people who do not get enough sleep tend to have a weaker immune function. While you sleep, your muscles repair themselves, your brain regenerates, and your body creates proteins that fight infection and inflammation. Research also shows that a consistent sleep schedule allows for more optimal sleep and full-body benefits. Make sure you wind down before you hop into bed. Avoid caffeine too late into the day/evening. You could experiment with different calming routines to help you ease into a better sleep. Do what works for you.