Naturopath Danielle Marasco shares 10 tips to boost your immune system naturally.
As a general rule, your immune system does a great job of defending your body against the unwelcome bacteria and viruses which can cause disease. However, a weakened immune system may not repel invading organisms and germs efficiently, which makes infections like colds and flu more likely. These 10 easy tweaks to your diet and lifestyle will support and improve immune function and therefore help to improve resistance to infections.
1.Eat a rainbow
Pile your plate high with brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, especially berries, citrus fruit, red onions, spinach and carrots – they are all rich in vitamins A, C and E, betacarotene and zinc, which can help increase immune function. Add garlic and shiitake mushrooms to further stimulate the immune system.
Regular moderate exercise has been proven to help your immune system to fight infection; even just a daily 30-minute brisk walk in the fresh air will do the trick. Plus, exercise will enhance the body’s production of endorphins – the so-called ‘happy hormones’ – and help you to sleep better at night.
Have you noticed that you are more likely to come down with a cold when you haven’t been sleeping well? This is not a coincidence: inadequate sleep will trigger the production of stress hormones and inflammatory chemicals in the body, which both lower your resistance to infection.
Numerous studies have shown that an excessive intake of alcohol will compromise immune function. Think moderation!
Stress can be due to a physical cause, such as pain, or a mental or emotional cause, such as depression or a relationship breakdown. Generally speaking, your mind and body can deal with stress in the short term; however, when stress is chronic and persists over a long period of time, the excess stress hormones circulating in your system will suppress immune function. While you may not be able to eliminate the cause of your stress, you can moderate its effects with meditation, a calming app, exercise and fun catch-ups with friends.
6.Get a little help
Several supplements help increase immune function, including:
Echinacea (Echinacea purpurea) This herb increases the production of infection-fighting white blood cells.
Olive leaf (Olea europaea) A number of studies suggest this supplement benefits immune system function.
Sacred basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum) Clinical trials show this herb significantly increases the immune response to viral infections.
Andrographis (Andrographis paniculata) Traditionally used in Chinese medicine to reduce fever and relieve coughing.
Vitamin C Research shows taking it shortens the duration and intensity of the common cold, by enhancing immune function and resistance to infection.
Zinc Studies suggest this supplement has potent antiviral effects.
Selenium May be useful in strengthening the immune system.
This wonderful pastime immediately reduces the levels of stress hormones in the body, and also boosts production of infection-fighting white blood cells.
A strong social network is good for your health. Studies consistently show that those people who feel connected to others have better immunity than those who feel isolated.
Smoking and vaping not only increase the risk of many illnesses, they also impair immune function. Seek advice from your health professional, and take steps to quit today.
10.Let the sun shine in
Exposing your skin to just 10-15 minutes of sunlight a day is enough to ensure your body produces the correct amount of vitamin D. This vitamin is essential for the healthy function of the immune system, because it helps the body to produce antibodies. An inadequate level of vitamin D, on the other hand, has been identified as one of the major causes of respiratory health problems.
By making these small changes to your daily routine, you can ensure that your immune system is operating optimally. This is important not just for reducing your risk of coming down with a cold or flu this winter, but for improving your overall health year-round. When you adopt and practise these habits, they have the cumulative effect of reducing your body’s toxic load and providing the key nutrients that are necessary for good health. Protecting and supporting your immune system will not only repel invading viruses and bacteria – it will also help you to prevent disease later in life.
Danielle Marasco is a naturopath, nutritionist and hypnotherapist, at Go Vita Tuggerah, with over a decade of experience in the natural health industry. www.daniellemarasco.com.au