Our immune system is our bodies defense against disease and illness. When our immune system is strong and healthy, it is able to better fight off illnesses such as the common cold and flu. Since fall and winter are known for an increase in runny noses and coughs, this time of year many of us seek out effective ways to protect ourselves. Luckily, there are healthy habits we can adopt to boost our immune systems naturally. Read on to learn more!
Eat Nutrient Dense Foods
When building a strong immune system it is important to increase consumption of nutrient-dense, immune-supporting foods. From darky leafy greens like kale and spinach to nuts and seeds, and citrus fruits including oranges and grapefruit, we should try to integrate these natural powerhouses in our daily routine. For immune support specifically, focus on foods high in vitamin D, vitamin C and zinc.
Immune supporting foods include:
- Leafy greens
- Citrus fruits
- Bell peppers
- Fatty fish
Maintain a Healthy Gut Microbiome
Our gut houses the largest number of immune cells in the body (roughly 70%), meaning the gut plays a fundamental role in fine-tuning the functioning of our immune system. The bacteria in our gut communicates with our immune system to help it recognize, and therefore fight off, pathogens. To maintain a healthy gut it’s important to include both pre-biotics and probiotics. Be sure to eat plenty of fiber, since fiber helps absorb toxins and remove them from the body. Also eat a variety of different foods, research has shown that increased microbial diversity improves immune function (National Library of Medicine). Since highly-processed foods feed the unhealthy bacteria in our guts, it’s beneficial to stay away from packaged and fast food and focus on whole grains, fruits and vegetables.
Foods that support a healthy gut include:
- Root vegetables
A well-rested body is more likely to respond effectively to illness than one that’s tired and run down. Getting adequate sleep each night helps lowers stress hormones, and helps the body to repair itself – all of which have an impact on our capacity to ward off illness.
Tips for promoting restful sleep include:
- Avoid drinking caffeine later in the day.
- Turn off electronics at least 30 minutes before bed.
- Design a peaceful sleep space.
- Decrease exposure to artificial light during sleep.
Getting regular exercise helps increase circulation of immune cells in the body. Exercise looks different for everyone, find what you enjoy doing. Going for a jog, hiking, or partaking in an exercise class are great ways to support the immune system!
Focus on Relaxation and Stress Management
Many of us are guilty of taking on too much, which can leave us feeling tired and stressed out. Living in a frequent state of high stress can sabotage your immune system, making us more susceptible to illness. Whether it’s taking a bath, reading a book, or meditating, know when it’s time to listen to your body and “turn off” so you can get the rest you deserve.
Information Source: Institute for Integrative Nutrition
I am not a doctor, and this blog is not meant to diagnose or treat illnesses. Consult your physician before making any diet or exercise changes.