Support your immune system naturally
You may be feeling fine right now but even the healthiest of us can easily succumb to a cold or flu at this time of year, resulting in days off work and missing out on quality time with your family and doing the things that you love.
As each year’s cold and flu season is seemingly worse than the previous year, we need to nurture our immune system and our immune health, to ensure that when we are feeling under the weather, our immune system will come into play and help heal us.
Many factors can contribute to ill health in the cold and flu season. Diet, nutrition, and lifestyle practices have been demonstrated to play an integral role in our immune health and how we respond to infection.
Diet is key, and fueling our bodies correctly with vitamins and minerals, is essential in ensuring our immune defenses are there when we need them most, supplementing where needed to aid in boosting our natural immune defense.
Key nutrients that contribute to our immune health
Zinc is essential to help your body fight off unwarranted viruses, the production of antibodies and supports your immunity overall. It is a required mineral that is essential in metabolizing and absorbing nutrients and aiding in your body’s growth and repair functions.
Zinc can be predominantly found in fish, seafood or egg yolks, but can also be found in pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, and legumes such as red lentils.
2. Vitamin C
Vitamin C is a vital nutrient that has many impressive health benefits that contribute to immune defense by supporting various cellular functions of both the innate and adaptive immune systems. It also aids in the production of collagen and helps reduce the severity of the common cold.
Some of the best sources for Vitamin C include lemons, limes, mandarins, oranges, kiwi fruit, carrot, tomatoes, red capsicums, and herbs (thyme, rosemary, parsley). Vitamin C contributes to immune defense by supporting various cellular functions of both the innate and adaptive immune systems.
Glutamine is a critical fuel source for immune cells, including white blood cells and certain intestinal cells, and stimulates wound healing. It is a building block of protein and has a critical part in the immune system – and has a special role in intestinal health as well.
This powerhouse amino acid can be found in seafood, red cabbage, dairy products, nuts/seeds, greens, soybeans, and eggs.
This is a naturally occurring compound, it’s antioxidant properties may help reduce inflammation and repair damaged cells. The antioxidant compounds bind to and neutralize free radicals – aiding your body in naturally fighting that cold and maintaining general health.
Quercetin can be found in sources such as red onions, leafy green vegetables, broccoli, apples, peppers, and green tea.
5. Vitamin D
Vitamin D is one of the most significant nutrients for immune function, where complications from viral infections and autoimmunity are often associated with Vitamin D deficiency. Vitamin D can be obtained from some foods but is generally formed in the skin when it is exposed to the UV rays from the sunlight.
Exposure to sunlight, consumption of oily fish, cheese, eggs, and fortified foods (ie. mushrooms).
Hydration plays an incredibly important role in gut health, mucosal tolerance, healthy blood pressure, and so much more! Water not only oxygenates your blood, but it also aids in flushing toxins from your body. Drinking adequate water ensures that your body can carry blood and oxygen to all of the cells of your body, ensuring that your body’s systems will be functioning adequately. Aim for at least 2L per day, you can boost your water intake by adding natural flavours to your water, such as lemon and ginger or fruits like strawberries and blueberries.
While we know that diet plays a major role in ensuring our immune system is up to scratch, there are a number lifestyle habits and factors that also play a huge role in our bodies natural defense against free radicals.
Lifestyle habits that impact our immune system:
Studies show that chronic stress leads to the production of hormones that can suppress your immune function. Stress symptoms not only impact your physical health but chronic stress can impact your thoughts, feelings and behaviour. Chronic stress may also contribute to other health problems such as; high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity and diabetes. Yoga, mindfulness, and self-care practices are a good place to start!
Some simple ways you can ensure you are managing your stress levels:
- Outline your working hours: amidst the current work from home climate, it can be difficult to separate home and work life. However ensuring that you have set working hours, will ensure that you are creating that time to spend with your family, and practicing self-care, which brings us to tip #2
- Set time aside each day for self-care: this doesn’t have to include a full spa day regime, but rather small acts of kindness towards yourself, to ensure you are not burning out. Find some small activities you can do alone – and enjoy doing. This could be applying a simple face mask, taking a relaxing bath and enjoying a cup of tea (in peace and quiet!)
- Setting boundaries: It can be really easy to say ‘yes’ to all of the tasks thrown at you, but setting boundaries is a must to keep stress at bay.
2. Rest & Recovery
Rest is essential to support your immune system & general well-being. When you’re run down, this is when your body is most susceptible to infections. It is important to have a system in place, that gives your body enough time to be able to recover from your day and recharge for the next day ahead. Melatonin is a ubiquitous natural hormone-like compound produced in the pineal gland, that has several functions in our body including, immunity, stress response and the aging process. Aiming for at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night is ideal, research shows that lack of sleep contributes to increased susceptibility to infection, and impacts your immune defense.
3. Toxin Exposure
Our body is bombarded with countless toxic compounds daily. Our daily exposure to toxins via food and water, the air we breathe, our personal care and cleaning products is enormous. Our bodies are designed to deal with small amounts of toxins and process them out through our natural detoxification systems. The problem arises when our body can no longer keep up and toxins begin to accumulate.
When it comes to reducing your total toxic burden, we recommend:
- Reducing your exposure – consume a clean diet with minimally processed foods, filter your water, be mindful of ingredients in personal care and cleaning products.
- Enhancing your body’s ability to detox – focus on gut health, dry brushing, infrared sauna, minimise exposure to radiation via everyday technologies including mobile phones and Wi-Fi.
Studies show that there is a direct relationship with moderate exercise and immune function. Regular and habitual exercise can aid in improving your immune regulation. Getting regular exercise can assist your immune system to ward off infection. Particularly in the cooler months, it can be difficult to exercise outside, opting for online workouts can ensure that you are still partaking in physical activity. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise a day.
5. Good Hygiene
Especially in light of the current pandemic, creating and maintaining good hygiene habits – both in public and private is increasingly important, to protect yourself and others from spreading germs. If you are feeling unwell, do make sure to cough into your elbow or a tissue, wash your hands with hand and body wash or soap, or opt for hand sanitiser if you do not have access to a restroom. It is important where possible to not go to work or school if you are feeling unwell.
Please remember that our team is here to support you on your health journey, if you are looking for tailored immune support, consider booking in with our in-house naturopath Eman Allouche for an in-depth approach catered to your health needs.
Be sure to always consult with your relevant health practitioner before beginning a new therapy.