Top tips to keep your immune system thriving
When cold and flu seasons hits, it can feel like it’s inevitable that you’re going to get sick. So what’s the secret of all those people who manage to get through the cooler months in good health? They have a secret weapon called a strong immune system! The good news is you can have one too. Putting these practices into place will help strengthen your immune system naturally, so you can get out of autumn and winter unscathed!
Prioritise your gut
We are all exposed to germs but the decider of who ends up sick and who doesn’t is how strong your internal defence system is, which lies largely on your gut health. If you have a good inner ecology – meaning plenty of good bacteria – your immunity will be high.
To help create this beneficial digestive balance, make sure you include both prebiotics and probiotics in your diet. Probiotics are the good bacteria and prebiotics function as a food source to help the probiotics establish and thrive in your body. A high quality supplement is always a good idea.
Help your body give the cold and flu season the flick this year by fortifying your immune system with a diet high in vitamins A, B2, B6, C, D, and E, as well as Zinc and Selenium. These nutrients are important for a strong immune system and are abundant in fresh fruits and vegetables. Nutritionist and author of The Healthy Life, Jessica Sepel advises to eat a well balanced diet. “Be sure to include plenty of fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, fish, eggs, legumes and lean red meat.”
Make time to relax
The fight or flight response that occurs in the body during times of stress may be designed to protect us from dangers, but over the long-term these same protective responses can wear down your immunity. “You become vulnerable to illness,” says celebrity nutritionist Kimberly Snyder. “Some experts estimate as high as 75 percent of all doctors visits can be directly attributed to stress!” This means it’s important to make time to relax or do stress relieving activities to keep your stress levels in check and bolster your immune system.
Sugar is inflammatory and suppresses immune function, making it a no-go when you’re focused on building your immune strength. “Avoid processed sugar and products (including agave), which decreases immunity and causes spikes in blood glucose,” warns Kimberly.
Hydration, hydration, hydration! Make sure you are drinking at least 2 litres of good quality water each day, in addition to herbal teas to help keep your health and immunity high. Bonus points for adding antimicrobial lemon juice to your water.
Plenty of rest
Having at least 8 hours of quality sleep a night is essential for good health and plays a large role in natural immunity. “Research shows that when you are deprived of sleep, inflammatory cytokines rise while t-cells decrease. These two responses weaken your immune system, making it more difficult for your body to fight off cold and the flu,” explains Kimberly. Make sure you get plenty of shut eye.
When building the immune system up, Jessica recommends including specific supplements that support you. “Zinc is crucial for immune function as a zinc deficiency may cause a weakened immune response, predisposing you to a longer or more severe cold. Zinc and vitamin C are nutrients essential to good health and have a growing body of scientific evidence to support their benefits in boosting immunity and strengthening the healing process.” If you suspect that you’re coming down with something, dose up!
Research has shown that exercise actually helps to improve the immune system, so there’s no excuse for hibernating on the couch just because it’s cold. “Pursue moderate exercise. Take a brisk walk during the day, go hiking, bicycle, practice yoga or find some other activity you enjoy and can pursue regularly,” says Kimberly. “One caveat, however. Over-exercising can lower immunity, so there’s no need to become a workout warrior.”