Now, more than ever, is time to make a conscious effort to give not only your overall health a boost, but in particular, place a high priority on boosting your immune system.
With COVID-19 becoming more and more prevalent, we MUST be taking steps to ensure we give ourself every opportunity to stop this virus in its tracks should we become exposed. And that comes to your immune system!
Before I delve into my immunity boosting tips, I first wanted to give you a run down of what your immune system is and the role it plays.
The role of the immune system, a collection of structures and processes within the body, is to protect against disease or other potentially damaging foreign bodies. When functioning properly, the immune system identifies a variety of threats, including viruses, bacteria and parasites, and distinguishes them from the body’s own healthy tissue.
INATE vs ADAPTIVE IMMUNITY
The immune system can be broadly sorted into categories: innate immunity and adaptive immunity.
Innate immunity is the immune system you’re born with, and mainly consists of barriers on and in the body that keep foreign threats out, according to the National Library of Medicine (NLM). Components of innate immunity include skin, stomach acid, enzymes found in tears and skin oils, mucus and the cough reflex. There are also chemical components of innate immunity, including substances called interferon and interleukin-1.
Innate immunity is non-specific, meaning it doesn’t protect against any specific threats.
Adaptive, or acquired, immunity targets specific threats to the body, according to the NLM. Adaptive immunity is more complex than innate immunity. In adaptive immunity, the threat must be processed and recognised by the body, and then the immune system creates antibodies specifically designed to the threat. After the threat is neutralised, the adaptive immune system “remembers” it, which makes future responses to the same germ more efficient.
Now that we’ve gone over the boring stuff, let’s get to what we can do to combat foreign nasties entering our system.
First and foremost, NUTRITION! Following a diet rich in antioxidants is essential to supporting your immune system. Abundant in many fruits and vegetables, antioxidants combat free radicals—chemical byproducts known to damage DNA and suppress the immune system. Some excellent sources of anti-oxidants include pecans, blueberries, strawberries, artichokes, goji berries, raspberries, kale, red cabbage, beets and spinach.
Choosing healthy fats (such as the omega-3 fatty acids available in oily fish, flaxseed, and krill oil) over saturated fats (found in meat and dairy products) is generally recommended by health authorities. As well, it may help increase your body’s production of compounds involved in regulating immunity.
Drinking plenty of water helps cells operate efficiently and allows your body to process food and eliminate waste.
For an additional immune boost, try adding garlic (shown to possess virus-fighting and bacteria-killing properties) and ginger (a natural anti-inflammatory) to your meals on a regular basis.
The good news is that regular moderate-intensity exercise confers several benefits to the immune system. A 2019 study shows that moderate exercise mobilises immune system cells, helping the body defend itself against pathogens and cancer cell growth. Those who regularly engage in this type of exercise have fewer illnesses and less systemic inflammation. Exercise may also protect the immune system from the effects of ageing.
Chronic stress can have a negative impact on immunity, according to a landmark 2004 review of 293 studies with a total of 18,941 participants. The review suggests that while short-term exposure to stressors can rev up your immune defence, prolonged stress may wear down the immune system and increase your vulnerability to illness.
Addressing chronic stress is something you can take action on. To keep your stress in check, incorporate a relaxing practice like meditation, yoga, or deep breathing into your daily routine.
Another healthy habit vital to preventing sickness is getting a full eight hours of sleep each night, which may help regulate immune function.
A study of over 22,000 people found that those who slept less than six hours per night or who had a sleep disorder were more likely to have colds and other respiratory infections.
HERBS AND SUPPLEMENTS
Antiviral herbs inhibit the development of viruses. Many of the best antiviral herbs boost the immune system, which allows the body to attack viral pathogens. This can be even better than attacking specific pathogens, which antiviral drugs are designed to do, because pathogens mutate over time and become less susceptible to treatment.
Not only do antiviral herbs fight viral infections, boost the immune system and work as flu natural remedies, but they have a number of other health benefits, such as cardiovascular, digestive and anti-inflammatory support. The best ones to keep an eye out for include:
Echinacea, Calendula, Elderberry, Garlic, Astragalus Root, Cats Claw, Licorice Root, Olive Leaf and Oregano.
The take home message is this… pay attention to your nutrition. Add variety. Include more colours to your diet than you would normally. Keep up regular exercise. Get your immune system cells mobilised and fighting off pathogens. Engage in stress reducing activities like those mentioned above and SLEEP! Get good quality sleep each night to allow our system to regulate immune function.