We often don’t give our immune system much thought until we feel a niggling tickle in our throat or notice we’re sneezing just a little bit more than usual. Most of us, by this time, are scrambling to dose up on anything we can to catch whatever it is we’ve been infected with.
Rather than waiting for our immune system to be comprised we can take daily action to strengthen our body’s defences through a few simple steps. By implementing this daily positive habits not only can we avoid any nasty cold and flu infections, we can boost our overall health and end up feeling great every day!
1. Sleep – its no secret sleep is imperative for good health. Anything less than 8 hours to me, is sleep deprivation. The hours before midnight are worth double the hours after midnight so getting to bed earlier is better, but it’s not just the time you go to bed and wake up, it’s the quality of sleep that’s important. To really optimise sleep avoid using screens at least 2 hours before bed, say no to caffeine after 2pm and ensure you eat a nutrient dense meal 2-3 hours before going to sleep. Sipping on calming teas like chamomile, peppermint or lemon balm before bed will also help, as will opting for lamp light rather than direct ceiling lights. All these elements have a direct effect on your nervous system and circadian rhythm, the bodily functions responsible for your ability to sleep, support them and dream your way to a refreshingly good slumber!
2. Hydration – our bodies are made up of 70% water. We require water for blood to pump nutrients around the body, to supply our cells with oxygen and nutrients to keep them robust and healthy, as well as for our lymphatic and detoxifications systems to eliminate toxins. Ideally, we want to aim to have at least 2L filtered water daily (more if you’re exercising) and if you struggle to consume plain water, get creative! Add fresh berries, orange slices or mint to your water bottle. Why not increase your intake of broths, soups and herbal teas? Not only do they taste great,
they have the added benefit of nutrients and immune supportive properties. You can even opt for fruits and vegetables with a higher water concentration to help boost your fluid intake. Think cucumber, celery, cauliflower, mushrooms, watermelon, strawberries and so many more!
3. Diet – Eat a rainbow! The more colours and diversity of the fruits and vegetables you eat the more nutrients, antioxidants and phytochemicals you are consuming that support a healthy immune system. Oxidative stress is a key element to weakened immune system, by increasing your intake of colourful plant foods your helping to reduce this damage through antioxidant support. You can also bolster your meals by adding powerful super foods that help to reduce inflammation and fight off any nasties. Think garlic, onions, ginger, turmeric, mushrooms, local honey, lemon, tomatoes, berries, brazil nuts, bone broth… the list really is endless. And remember it’s also important to avoid foods that may add pressure to your body, this includes highly inflammatory foods such as refined sugar, dairy, gluten and alcohol.
4. Exercise – move your body to get the blood and lymphatic systems flowing! Just like drinking water helps to get nutrients and oxygen around the body so does movement. But if putting hours in at the gym seems impossible or isn’t your idea of fun, step outside and move your body in the sunshine with a friend. Bushwalking, cycling, beach group fitness are not only great for your immune system (hello vitamin D exposure!), but also work wonders for our mental health and nervous system and joining a team sport isn’t just for the kids, social fitness has the two fold
effect of physiological benefits whilst also reducing stress.
5. Minimise stress – the implications of long-term stress can be felt all through the body and the immune system is often the first to show signs of weakness. Reducing stress can often seem daunting, as it feels we’re stuck on a hamster wheel of responsibility and people counting on us. I am a big believer in the power of meditation and mindfulness, if you can, setting aside time each day to meditate can have profound effects on how we cope with stress. For some, meditation seems impossible, but even taking ten minutes to stop and breathe and be present in the moment can help to reset our minds and downregulate our stress response.
6. Wash your hands – simple hygiene practices are so incredibly important. The first line of defence of the immune system is the external surfaces of the body. Remember to wash your hands regularly throughout the day, wipe down your phone daily, avoid touching your face when out and about and sneeze or cough into your
The above tips are my non-negotiables when it comes to immunity and can be easily implemented into any daily routine, but if you’re after some additional support, especially to get you through the cooler months, these are my go-to herbs and supplements for that
little bit extra!
Vitamin D – During winter the days are shorter and our opportunity to get outside everyday to maximise Vitamin D exposure can be limited. A therapeutic quality Vitamin D supplement is a great way to boost your intake. My favourite is Metagenics Vitamin D3, it works to support immunological function by turning on specific elements that trigger a strong anti- microbial response. This response helps fight off infections quickly and effectively before
they have a chance to set in.
Probiotics – The majority of our immune system resides in the gut so it’s important to support a healthy and diverse microbiome. Specific strains have been found to bolster immune response and can now be found in immune targeted formulations. Metagenics Ultra Flora Immune Enhance contains both Lactobaccilus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus plantarum and Lactobacillus paracasei, three strains of beneficial bacteria that enhance the
immune system and promote gastrointestinal immune function.
Echinacea – think of echinacea as the body’s personal trainer. Echinacea is renowned for its immunological properties as it works to enhance the immune system’s response through macrophage activation. Macrophages are so important because they detect and destroy bacteria and other harmful organisms. Echinacea can be consumed in tablet or liquid form, my favourite is the liquid herb because it is absorbed by the body more quickly, meaning it’s
gets to work straight away!
Zinc with Vitamin C – Zinc and Vitamin C are a powerhouse team when it comes to immunity. Zinc is required for the normal development and functioning of cells; making this nutrient particularly essential for immune specific cells. Whilst Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and important cofactor for many cellular functions. Vitamin C works by protecting against oxidative stress and promoting immune cell functioning. My go-to product that I recommend to almost everyone is Metagenics MetaZinc with Vitamin C, this powder is a great daily addition year around to support healthy immune functioning and overall general health.
Can you feel a cold coming on? Do you think you may need some additional support? Have a
read through our blog post here for some cold and flu targeted tips or why not call our Herb Bar for expert advice from our experienced Naturopaths. Our free mini Herb Bar consultations can help you kick this nasty bug with individualised advice, call the clinic on 02 4961 4075 to speak with one of practitioners.