As winter approaches, the sniffles begin! We are all familiar with the signs of a cold coming on: sinus pain, tickly throat, and a general feeling of heaviness. Getting sick is the last thing anyone wants, which is why it is imperative to keep your immune system happy and healthy!
A healthy body is reliant on a strong immune system. Luckily for us, there are a number of ways to boost the immune system, both by avoiding any potentially damaging habits and by implementing natural immune boosters and embracing attitudes that reinforce immunity.
WHAT IS THE IMMUNE SYSTEM?
The immune system is the body’s natural defense system that helps fight infections and protects the body against diseases or any other potentially harmful foreign bodies. The immune system is made up of antibodies, white blood cells, and other chemicals and proteins that attack and destroy substances such as bacteria and viruses that they recognize as foreign and different from the body’s normal health issues. The immune system functions to neutralize and in turn remove pathogens such as bacteria, viruses or parasites that enter the body. It also identifies and counteracts any harmful substances from the environment, and fights against any of our body’s own cells that may have changed due to an illness.
When working optimally, the immune system recognizes an assortment of threats, including viruses, bacteria and parasites, and differentiates them from the body's own healthy tissue.
5 WAYS TO BOOST THE IMMUNE SYSTEM
In addition to the plethora of benefits, we reap from regular exercise, keeping you in shape, boosting your mood, keeping your heart healthy, completing moderate exercise can also improve our antibody response to infections! Exercise has been proven to boost your immune system and to aid your body in fighting off harmful diseases and even the common cold.
Exercising regularly can have a number of benefits. Keeping fit will keep your heart stronger, allowing it to pump more blood through your body when exercising. It will also ensure that your lungs are better equipped at handling oxygen and supplying it to the rest of your body. Of course, more exercise also means stronger muscles. Your immune system functions in the same way. Doctors have discovered that exercising can boost your immune system by delivering a boost to the cells in your body intended to attack bacteria. Consequently, through keeping fit, your immune system is better armed to treat bacteria that may make you sick.
We are not suggesting that you need to become a super athlete in order to boost your immune system. Making sure that you are exercising regularly throughout the week is enough to boost your immune system. This could be walking, hitting the gym, or doing some yoga regularly. Try to include more exercise daily to help reinforce your immune system over time.
EAT A NUTRIENT-PACKED, WELL-ROUNDED DIET
Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein will keep your immune system in tip-top shape. As Hippocrates famously said, “let thy food be thy medicine, and thy medicine be thy food.” The health of our immune systems is directly connected with what we eat. To safeguard immunity, aim to eat as many colorful portions of fruit and veggies as possible, and be sure to drink lots of water. The following ingredients can add a little extra immunity boosting blow to your meal plan:
Ginger has powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. It has proven to boost immune function and prevent cellular damage.
Garlic is an immune system trooper! It protects the body from infections and disease. It can also help to lower blood pressure and encourage healthy cholesterol levels.
Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-bacterial, detoxifying and fantastic for digestive health.
Citrus Fruits are a superb source of vitamin C, which helps to protect the body against bacterial infections.
Lean Protein helps to nurture your immune system, heal the body and contributes to recovery.
Mushrooms have shown to increase the production and activity of white blood cells, in turn making them more aggressive which is very beneficial in the fight against infections. Shiitake mushrooms are amongst the most potent for immune boosting effects!
Probiotics are the friendly bacteria that live in our guts. They are found naturally in selected fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, kimchi and sauerkraut, they are also available as a supplement.
It is very important to preserve the body’s equilibrium of good bacteria; good levels of probiotics serve to protect against a variety of illnesses and have proven to boost immune system function. Research into the success of probiotics has validated that they are safe and has yet to find any adverse side effects.
GET ENOUGH SLEEP
Sleep deprivation can have an extremely detrimental effect on your immune system. Poor sleep is linked to lower immune system function and reduced number of germ-fighting cells. Chronic sleep deprivation has also been linked to heart diseases, gastrointestinal problems, amongst other medical illnesses. Research has shown that even short-term lack of sleep can have a significant impact on our immunity.
Our immune system is very closely tied to our sleep, there are a number of disease-fighting bodies that are released or generated when we sleep. Our bodies require these hormones, proteins, and chemicals to combat disease and infection. Poor sleep reduces the availability of these substances, thus resulting in higher susceptibility to each new bacteria or virus we encounter. This can also cause us to fall ill for longer periods of time as our bodies are deficient in the necessary resources to fight off whatever is making us sick.
MANAGE YOUR STRESS
Chronic stress has been proven to suppress our immune system, consequently making it more difficult to fight off foreign invaders. When we are stressed, our bodies respond by releasing a hormone called Cortisol. Cortisol impedes the ability of certain white blood cells to prosper and receive the necessary signals from the body. It has also shown to reduce an important antibody. Stress weakens the body’s defense and directly increases our susceptibility to stress-related illnesses.
Sleep deprivation and stress often go hand in hand, both are equally important to maintaining a healthy immune system, and one is often a factor of the other. There are many things we can do to reduce stress and hopefully, in turn, improve our sleep. Exercise and particularly yoga are fantastic remedies to alleviate stress naturally and encourage good sleep.