10 Tips For Strengthening Your Immune System
By Nutrition Consultant, Jess Robinson
On a daily basis we are exposed to organisms from the air we breathe, the food we eat and even from the surfaces of everyday items. If we have strong immunity this exposure does not cause disease, but if we have poor immunity we are poor likely to develop infections and other health conditions. Your dietary and lifestyle habits can have a huge impact on how strong or poor your immune system is, and here are some key principles for boosting your immunity:
1. Soak up the sun
Vitamin D deficiency is extremely common in the USA due to factors such as indoor jobs, excessive use of sunscreen (which prevents the conversion of vitamin D), and the lack of dietary sources of vitamin D. Vitamin D strengthens your immune system by effectively fighting off invaders before they can develop into a full-on infection. Vitamin D also reduces inflammation throughout the body, and it is very common for people with autoimmune disease to be lacking in vitamin D. If you suffer from autoimmune disease, we recommend reading Dr Cabot’s book ‘Healing Autoimmune Disease’. The easiest way to obtain vitamin D is through sun exposure. To increase vitamin D levels, aim to get brief yet frequent sun exposure between the hours of 11am and 2pm.
2. Keep up the H20
That’s right, we need to drink enough water! it is essential to stay hydrated as not only is water good for our metabolism, energy levels, weight maintenance and skin health, but it is also helps to flush toxins from the body and keeps our cells hydrated for optimal function. It is recommended to drink between 1.5 to 2L of water a day in the form of filtered water, herbal teas and raw juices. Many people don’t drink sufficient water as they are busy and forget to. A great way to get around this is to ensure you have a bottle of water (glass or aluminium) with you at all times, as water should be sipped frequently in small amounts throughout the day.
3. Get your beauty sleep
Not only is sleep good for our physical appearance, but adequate sleep can reduce our risk of infections, boost immune function, increase energy levels, improve heart health and support a healthy weight. This is likely because loss of sleep increases the production of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, and decreases the production of leptin, the satiety hormone. Thus, not getting enough sleep can cause us to eat more, leading to weight gain. Lacking in the sleep department suppresses immune function, making ourselves more susceptible to cold and flu infections. If you struggle to get to sleep or stay asleep, read Dr Cabot’s book ‘Tired of Not Sleeping’. You may benefit from taking magnesium, a mineral which helps to promote healthy sleep.
4. Move your body
This doesn’t have to be anything over the top, but ideally should involve a mixture of cardio exercises and weight resistance exercises. Good options include walking, running, swimming, cycling, dancing or yoga. Not only is exercise good for weight loss, heart health and energy levels, but it also increases circulation to aid in the elimination of toxins from the body, and strengthens the immune system. Aim to get a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise a day. Incorporate exercise into your everyday routine such as walking everywhere you can, taking the stairs over the elevator and doing some exercises while you watch TV.
5. Try probiotics
The word probiotics literally means “to promote life”, which is appropriate as probiotics promote the growth of good bacteria in our gut, and 70% of our immune system resides in our gut. This collection of bacteria in our gut refers to our microbiome, and probiotics are what colonise our gut with good bacteria to prevent the proliferation of bad bacteria. Sources of probiotics include, kefir, kimchi, miso, apple cider vinegar, yoghurt, sauerkraut and kombucha. Prebiotics are also very important to consume in the diet, as they feed our good gut bacteria, further strengthening our immune system. Prebiotic foods include garlic, onion, leek, asparagus and artichokes.
6. Get into juicing
Raw juicing is a super convenient way to get a concentrated dose of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre, to help dispel toxins from the body, improve liver detoxification pathways, reduce inflammation and calm the immune system. They are also a great way to boost levels of vitamin C; an essential vitamin for optimal immunity. Good immune boosting foods to juice are leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, apple, garlic and ginger. Leafy greens and citrus fruits are bursting with vitamin C. Apple contains pectin, which helps to dispel harmful substances from the intestines. Garlic is a natural anti-microbial, anti-bacterial and anti-biotic, and ginger has natural antibiotic properties and helps relieve mucous congestion. There are great juice recipes in Dr Cabot’s book ‘Raw Juices Can Save Your Life’.
7. Avoid sugar and refined carbohydrates
Having the opposite effect of vegetables and fruits which are bursting with antioxidants to boost immunity, sugar and refined carbohydrates reduce immunity and are very inflammatory to the body. Foods like white bread, white pasta, white rice, most cereals, crackers, baked goods and lollies are the types of foods you should be minimising or avoiding altogether, as they do not do your body any favors. These foods are the ones that are often addictive, but after avoiding them for 3 weeks you will find your cravings have greatly lessened, like the expression ‘Out of sight, out of mind’.
8. Connect with others
And by connect, I am not referring to texting or Facebooking someone, but rather organising an actual face-to-face meet-up. Often, we get so busy, that we forget to make time to catch up with friends or family, and social interaction is essential for our general wellbeing. Forming healthy relationships promote feelings of positivity, and if you isolate yourself from others this can have a detrimental effect on your immune system; predisposing you to illness. These social interactions can be something simple like catching up for a coffee, organising a play date or simply going for a walk. As the latter option combines the natural endorphin release from exercise as well as the social aspect, this is doubly beneficial.
9. Take some selenium
Selenium is a powerful mineral that is lacking in many individuals due to the deficiency in Australian soils. It can be difficult to obtain sufficient selenium through diet alone, however the highest dietary source of selenium is Brazil nuts. Selenium is a powerful antioxidant to fight free radicals, support healthy immune function and exert anti-inflammatory properties.
10. Manage stress
I’m sure we all know stress isn’t good for us, but did you know being stressed weakens your immune system? If you are constantly stressed, your body will be secreting large amounts of cortisol which lowers your immunity, increasing your chances of infection. Have you ever noticed that people who are stressed frequently catch colds, the flu and other illnesses? Cortisol suppresses lymphocytes, powerful immune components that defend against harmful substances. Great ways to manage stress include yoga/meditation, spending time in nature, reading a relaxing book, deep breathing exercises and discussing your troubles with a close friend/family member. You may benefit from taking magnesium, a powerful mineral which helps to improve the physiological response to stress and helps to promote relaxation.
Well there you have it, ten lifestyle and dietary principles for ultimate immune strength. To give your body a thorough cleanse and detox, follow the eating principles in Dr Cabot’s book ‘The Liver Cleansing Diet’.
The above statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.