The Immune System is a very complex system and so all the systems and cells within it need to be in balance with each other. The body does a very good job of protecting you against disease and the best way to strengthen the immune system is to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Each and every immune cell in your body is manufactured from the food you eat.
Your immune system can be compromised during the winter months and during stressful periods making you more susceptible to coughs, colds and infections.
Having a healthy immune system does not mean you won’t catch a cold but it will mean your ability to fight if off quickly is stronger which may mean the difference between a sniffle and a full cold.
It is Important to note that you don't want an over active immune system as overactive immunity can be a problem where cells in the immune system can start to attack itself as seen in auto immunity.
Here are some tips to help balance your immune system naturally:
- Probiotic foods support your gut bacteria. 80% of the immune cells are located in the mucosal lining of the gut and one of the best ways is to boost your gut bacteria (microbiome) is through probiotics (1)
- Fermented foods such as sauerkraut, miso, kombucha and kefir are loaded with probiotics which support gut health. It you are not able to make these at home, they are available at most health food shops
- A healthy diet can play a key role in supporting the immune system, so eat a well-balanced diet including whole foods such as whole grains, lean meats, fresh fish, pulses, nuts, seeds and a variety of fruits and vegetables. Eat at least 8-10 servings of fruits and vegetables (mostly vegetables) every day from every colour of the rainbow. They are high in antioxidants A, C, E, zinc and selenium which will all boost your immune system. Grapes and berries, in particular blackberries, blueberries and cranberries, are rich in antioxidants and Vitamin C. Also drink green, hibiscus or rosehip teas which all contain flavonoids that can boost the immune system (2)
- Juicing is an excellent way to get lots of vitamins and minerals into your body
- Vitamin D is a steroid hormone which plays a major role in boosting the immune system. Make sure you consume vitamin D rich foods such as oily fish and eggs and ensure that you get outside everyday to increase your Vitamin D levels through natural sunlight (3)
- Include foods such as garlic and onions in your diet as they contain the sulphur compound allicin (4) which stimulates the immune system. Garlic is most effective in its raw form which can be added to dressings and soups. Also, many herbs and spices contain immune boosting nutrients
- Bone broth provides many nutritional benefits but in particular it contains gelatin and collagen which boost the immune system. It is also a great remedy for coughs, colds and flu
- Sleep is a major factor in keeping your immune system healthy and and so aim for at least 7-8 hours per night. Sleep deprivation increases cortisol which, if raised for prolonged periods of time, suppresses the immune system (5)
- Keep hydrated and avoid caffeine and alcohol as these can deplete the immune system. Avoid sugar and refined carbohydrates. Consuming excessive amounts of these foods will deplete immunity
- Finally, avoid stress. The Stress hormones, cortisol and adrenaline suppress the immune system so finding ways to rest and relax is really important. Listening to music, reading, meditation, having a bath or a massage are good ways to relax
During the winter months, particularly in the party season, it can be all to easy to burn the candle at both ends. So, pace yourself, get plenty of sleep and learn to say ‘no’ to things
Prevention is better than cure. Support your body’s natural immunity by keeping it in balance and ready to respond. Fuel your body with all the key nutrients, sleep well and you will have the best chance of keeping yourself healthy and happy.