On the whole, our immune system does a phenomenal job of defending us against microorganisms, viruses and bacteria which can make us sick. But due to numerous lifestyle, dietary and physical factors, sometimes it fails. It is certainly possible to intervene in this process and help your immune system do its job, to keep you cough and kleenex free. Here is a list of our favourite tried and tested methods.
1. Sleep, sleep and more sleep
Slip into bed earlier and get more sleep! It seems so simple but in fact, this is when our immune system is repairing and rebalancing itself. Getting a full seven to nine hours of deep, restful sleep can make a world of difference to your immune system as we reconnect, rebuild and restore. There is a reason that you feel rundown when you haven’t had enough sleep, and this is because a lack of sleep actually suppresses our immune system. More of a reason to hit the pillow earlier.
2. Catch some rays
Few people know that by harnessing the power of the sun, we can effectively help to strengthen our immune system. Sunshine on our skin triggers the production of vitamin D, which we need to stimulate our immune regulatory cells. It has been well established that low Vitamin D levels are associated with higher risks of infection, making you more susceptible to contracting colds, flu’s and viruses. In warmer months, a 10 – 15 minute daily exposure to the sun light is generally adequate.
3. Keep it calm
An overload of stress affects the body negatively in so many ways, and a spike in the hormone cortisol is your immune system’s worst nightmare. To put it very simply, cortisol puts a blindfold over the eyes of your immune cells, diminishing their function. Science has well established the undeniable link connecting stress levels and immune function, which is why you may find yourself more susceptible to illness when you have too much on your plate. All the more reason to do a calming guided meditation or attend a yin yoga class.
4. Consume functional foods
Food really is medicine. It is well documented that certain foods can contrastingly hinder or elevate our body’s immune function. Nutrient status is an important factor contributing to immune system competence, and of course undernutrition can down regulate immune functions that are fundamental in protecting us and helping us recover quicker. Choose to include foods high in antioxidants such as berries, beetroot, spinach, broccoli and citrus fruits.
When it comes to immunity, garlic is your friend! Add as much garlic to your meals as you can. Mushrooms are also powerhouses at boosting the immune system, so include a variety whenever possible. You can also try a homemade immune boosting tea! We love using freshly grated ginger, with a squeeze of lemon juice and manuka honey added, all which have fantastic immunity benefits.
5. It’s all in the gut
Think of your gastrointestinal tract as your immune system’s headquarters, it’s the first line of defense between you and anything potentially harmful or dangerous that you ingest. Nurturing your gut flora is one of the best ways to ensure healthy immune protection. Consuming fermented products to populate and balance your gut bacteria help to do this, such as good quality pot-set yoghurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, kombucha, miso and tempeh to name a few. If you’re finding it difficult to regularly include fermented foods in your diet, a good quality multi-strain probiotic from your local health food store will do the trick.
6. Move that beautiful body of yours
Beyond the countless other benefits of regular exercise, increasing your heart rate actually strengthens your immune function. Ideally, being physically fit will certainly help you to be immunologically healthy. Exercise increases your blood circulation, which helps to get those sedentary white blood cells moving. However, it is important to not over exercise as your body sees this as a stressor, which can have a negative effect on your immune system. Like all things in life, it’s about balance.
7. Essentially healthy
We all know that essential oils smell beautiful, but did you know that the latest research is encouraging us to include them in our medicine cabinets as well? Pure oils of lemon, clove, eucalyptus, tea tree and oregano can all help with various health concerns where your immune system could use a boost. We love diffusing essential oils throughout our home and office, which is a great way to neutralise airborne pathogens. It is extremely important to mention that essential oils are very powerful and should be used diluted with the utmost diligence.
8. Sweat it out
Our final tip to bullet-proofing your immune system is to try an infrared sauna. The latest research is revealing that getting into a sauna once or twice per week can in fact decrease your chances of getting sick. Shocking our body with an elevation in temperature can do wonders for our immune health, also assisting our detoxification capacity, which is certainly an added benefit.