With everyone on high-alert about their health, now, more than ever, is a great time to double down on strengthening your immune system and staying healthy. Here are 5 quick ways to get started.
A strong immune system is the key to a healthy life. Unfortunately and contrary to popular belief, there are no shortcuts to a healthy immune system. So, instead of taking supplements that promise you fast results, fortify your immune system by incorporating some minor lifestyle adjustments into your daily routine.
A healthy immune system readily fights off pathogens and invaders, defending you against the foreign viruses and bacteria. But there are a whole host of factors that can adversely affect our body’s ability to protect itself, such as lack of sleep, prolonged periods of stress, a poor diet and/or sedentary lifestyle, to name a few.
Luckily for us, there are several simple, daily lifestyle adjustments that we can make to bolster our immune systems and help our bodies fight off illnesses. Read along to find out more.
Maintain a Healthy Diet
If a robust immune system is the goal, then a healthy, balanced diet is nothing short of crucial. Be sure to follow a high-fibre plant-rich diet that incorporates plenty of vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, and lean protein to stimulate immune cell activity and lower your risk of disease.
There are also a variety of natural herbs that can benefit the immune system, such as echinacea, garlic, and ginseng. Many plant-based spices such as thyme, clove, cinnamon, and oregano can help to strengthen the body’s resolve to fight infections and can be easily included in your daily meals.
Vitamin C is often touted as a natural cold remedy – and for good reason. vitamin C helps to encourage the production of white blood cells known as lymphocytes and phagocytes, which in turn help to protect the body against infections. However, unlike other animals, us humans cannot produce it on our own, we must consume it. That’s why it’s recommended that you incorporate vitamin C rich sources into your diet. High vitamin C foods include citrus fruits, broccoli, kale, papayas, strawberries, tomatoes, spinach, and kiwi fruit.
Lean proteins are another important component of a healthy diet. The amino acid found in protein is instrumental in the creation of immune cells. So, to increase your body’s ability to fight diseases, be sure to incorporate different sources of lean protein into your diet, such as skinless chicken, fish, lean beef and turkey, beans and legumes, plain Greek yogurt, amongst others.
Lastly, never underestimate the immune-boosting power of micronutrients. To ensure a functional immune system, try to incorporate the following micronutrients into your everyday diet: Vitamin A, B6 and B12, C, D, and E, as well as folate, copper, zinc, selenium, and iron.
Prioritise Quality Sleep
It is on rare occasions that people prioritise sleep. However, as unimportant as you might think sleep is, it is undeniably one of the most important factors in improving your immune system. In fact, studies have shown that people who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus.
In order for your body and brain to repair, restore, and reenergise to a healthy level, it is highly recommended that you get a minimum of seven to eight hours of quality uninterrupted sleep a night. While you’re sleeping, the immune system releases protective, infection-fighting substances like antibodies and cytokines, which are crucial to combating foreign invaders such as viruses and bacteria. If the body is deprived of sleep, however, it may actually decrease the production of these protective substances, negatively impacting your body’s ability to defend itself against illnesses. Regular poor sleep puts you at risk of serious medical conditions like obesity and heart disease, and may leave you experiencing side effects like poor memory and focus, weakened immunity, and mood changes, all of which negatively impact both your mental and physical health.
To help you get a good night’s sleep, consider the following tips:
• Minimise screen time before bed
• Don’t consume caffeine late in the day
• Get regular exercise (but not within 2-3 hours of bedtime)
• Reduce irregular or long daytime naps
• Don’t eat late in the evening (and definitely avoid sugary foods before bed)
• Wind up your work an hour before bed
• Try to relax before going to sleep i.e. listen to soft music or curl up with a book
• Optimise your bedroom environment (the ideal sleep environment is cool, quiet, and dark)
• Have a consistent sleep pattern i.e. go sleep at the same time each night, and get up at the same time each morning (yes, even on the weekends)
Having trouble sleeping? Try these four sleeping apps.
Research has shown that regular exercise not only improves brain health and sleep, but it also increases your chances of living longer whilst reducing the risk of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. On top of that, physical activity helps your body manage blood sugar and insulin levels, strengthens bones and muscles, and boosts your overall mood and mental health. It also improves blood circulation, which promotes the movement of immune cells throughout the body.
Did you know?
Working out for a minimum of 10 minutes a day can do wonders for your stress levels! When we exercise, our bodies release chemicals called endorphins, famously known as the “feel-good” hormone. Most immune cells have endorphin receptors and rely on endorphins to function properly. As the body’s natural pain relievers, endorphins trigger a positive feeling in the body which not only boosts your mood but releases stress and tension, too. They also stimulate the immune system by activating white blood cells which help to protect us against disease and infection.
To get started on exercising, settle for workouts that you actually enjoy. You don’t want exercise to be a chore, so it’s crucial that you establish a workout routine that you’ll actually stick to. Start small with a low-impact workout suitable for beginners. As you progress, you can start replacing the easier exercises with more advanced variations. A great place to get started is yoga. As a total mind-body workout that combines strengthening and stretching with deep breathing and meditation, yoga offers countless health benefits, and can help to boost mental health, reduce stress, lower blood pressure, improve sleep, fight against heart disease, ease arthritis pain, and encourage your body’s natural healing process, amongst others.
You cannot ignore the importance of water in overall health and wellness. For one, drinking water daily helps to flush out toxicity in your body. Secondly, the lymph, which transports immune cells, is made up of 96% water. So while the consumption of water boosts the functioning of the lymph, dehydration, in contrast, impairs the functioning of the lymph, further weakening the immune system.
To replace the water you lose through breathing or urination, you should commit to drinking eight 8-ounce glasses a day (about 2 litres or half a gallon). If pure water is your worst nightmare, then you try different variations like adding lemon juice to the water. Lemon is a natural source of that all-important vitamin, which means that it not only adds taste but also boosts the immune system. On top of that, water with lemon can work to prevent the common cold, and helps with detoxification and digestion.
The good news here is that all beverages, since they’re primarily water, can contribute to your fluid requirement. So consider the following water alternatives when looking to fulfil your 8 a day: coffee, tea, fruit juice, vegetable juice, sports drinks, and low-fat milk.
Stress is a normal part of life. However, when it goes overboard and becomes chronic, you may find yourself feeling exhausted and weak, making your body vulnerable to infections. That’s why it is important to manage stress levels in order to maintain a robust immune system.
There are several tried-and-tested ways to ease stress, some of which include:
• Deep breathing exercises
• Exercise, in particular yoga
• Spending time with loved ones
• Spending time with animals
• Listen to soothing music
If you come to realise that the stress is, in fact, not manageable, seek guidance from a therapist to help you on the pathway to healing. Therapy can help to unearth root issues, get in touch with your inner self, and deal with stressors.
Staying healthy is crucial, and the steps outlined above will help you in your journey towards building a healthy immune system. So commit to your new and improved lifestyle today by embracing a healthy diet, exercising regularly, prioritising quality sleep, and minimising stressors as best you can. Oh, and always remember that water is life, so stay hydrated, and the rest will follow.