Are you giving yourself the best chance of protecting yourself from illness? Going into survival mode, we often overlook our body’s innate defences against illness and virus: THE IMMUNE SYSTEM.
Think of a system in our body that is dedicated to fighting off germs and potential illness, you would want this system to be super strong right? Especially in our current climate!
So…how do we do that? (Hot tip: it’s not by stocking up on toilet paper!) Here are a few simple things you can do to boost your immunity.
1. Adequate Sleep
We all love sleeping, right? But most of us don’t really associate good sleep with immune system benefits. In fact, I think we just sleep because we’re tired! But don’t underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep. Sleep allows the body to recharge and re-energise, allowing the immune system to revive after the stresses of the day.
On the other hand, a lack of sleep can lead to reduced white blood cell content therefore reducing the body’s ability to fight off infection, virus and illness. Having less than 7 hours sleep can increase your chance of viral infections, not to mention the stress this will have on your mental and physical function in general. So, get to sleep early!
2. Good hygiene
Regularly washing your hands is the easiest way to protect yourself from germs picked up from surfaces, shaking hands or your own body. Alcohol based hand sanitiser is very effective in killing germs but washing your hands with soap or hand wash (minimum 20 seconds) is just as, if not more, effective. This is especially important if you work or are in areas where you come in contact with a lot of people. Make sure you wash your hands before and after meals, going to the bathroom or coughing and sneezing into your hands. To stop the spread of germs, cough or sneeze into the crease of your elbow and don’t share personal items such as towels and clothes without washing.
3. Healthy diet
Nutrient rich foods provide your body with the fuel needed to keep your immune system functioning well. Increasing your intake of a variety of fruits and vegetables is a great way to get these essential nutrients in. Foods rich in Vitamin C, D and Zinc, as well as drinking enough water are great boosters for your immune system. If you struggle to get enough through your diet, there are plenty of supplements you can take to maintain these. Your local pharmacist will be able to advise you on the best supplements to use.
Vitamin C: helps to produce white blood cells and improve your immune system functions.
Foods: Broccoli, Kiwi fruit, Oranges, Lemons, Strawberries
Vitamin D: Can help fight off respiratory infections and will protect and boost the immune system. Vitamin D is produced from sun exposure but can also be found in many foods or supplements.
Foods: Fatty fish, Egg yolk, Orange juice
Zinc: is a powerful antioxidant that boosts immunity. It is known to be one of the best boosters of immune function.
Foods: Red meat, Poultry, Nuts, Dairy
H20: Don’t forget to maintain or increase your water intake. Adequate hydration is a no brainer! Current guidelines recommend 8-10 cups of fluids each day (includes coffee, tea, juices etc). Water helps to maintain your immune system function and keep it running smoothly. It also helps to remove toxins from the body through the kidneys, lymphatic system and digestion.
4. Reduce stress
Who would’ve thought that stress could lead to illness? Excess stress increases the production of a hormone called cortisol. High levels of this hormone can suppress the immune system. So stress less! Here are some ways you can reduce your stress levels:
- Deep breathing, meditation and massage
- Take a break from work or sport
- Spend time doing things you enjoy
- Speak to family and friends
Exercise is king! Not only does it help reduce stress and improve sleep (both of which help to boost your immunity), exercise itself is one of the strongest immunity boosters amongst the many other health benefits it offers. Physical activity helps to improve lung movement and helps to reduce the amount of gunk in your airways. It also helps at a physiological level by improving white blood cell count, circulation and cardiovascular function, which will all have a positive impact on the immune system. Just remember any exercise is better than none! It does not have to be gym based and can be done at home or outside! At least 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise is recommended on most days of the week.
In our current situation and leading into the cold and flu season, we could all do with optimising our immune systems to help reduce the risk of illness. Try the tips above to give yourself the best chance of staying healthy!