Before flu-season kicks into full swing, now it the time to be arming your body’s natural line of defense. Whether you get the flu shot or not, keeping your immune system strong and healthy is essential to ward off the range of viruses, allergies, and all the other nasties lurking around us. Here are our top ten tips for how you can naturally arm your immune system to stay fighting fit:
1. Eat a balanced diet with wholefoods
Our immune system requires many nutrients to stay healthy, including vitamins A, C, D and E, as well as minerals selenium and zinc, and Omega 3s. In fact, a recent study in older adults showed that boosting fruit and vegetable intake improved antibody response to the Pneumovax vaccine, which protects against Streptococcus pneumonia. Focus on keeping your diet packed with healthy wholefoods, such as quality animal or plant protein, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds like chia, and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.
2. Get plenty of vitamin C
Nothing new here, vitamin C has been known for centuries as a natural immune booster. Make sure you’re including plenty of berries, citrus, kiwi, bell peppers, and dark green vegetables in your diet.
3. Keep it clean
Every day the environments we inhabit put us in direct contact with millions of bugs, germs and bacterias — some are good for us, and some not so much! As sniffle-season sets in, and our morning commutes have us crammed in confined spaces with people coughing and sneezing, sticking the basics of good hygiene is even more important. Think of the things that make you vulnerable to germs and disease and do your best to avoid them, for example:
- Wash your hands a few times a day, especially after the bathroom or being on public transport
- Don’t share drinks directly with others often
- Maintain food hygiene and prepare food safely
4. Avoid antibiotics (if possible)
Antibiotics can be a very necessary and important treatment for infection. However, you should try to avoid taking them in unless you really need them. Not only do antibiotics attack the bad bacterias, they can also attack the beneficial bacteria in the digestive system and suppress immune functions.
5. Make friends with good bacteria
Gut health and general health are inextricably linked. In fact, about 80% of our immune system is located in our digestive system, so keeping a healthy gut is very important to supporting a strong immune system. If you have been taking antibiotics, make sure you’re replenishing your digestive flora by taking quality probiotics — either as a supplement, or in the natural source found in fermented foods like raw sauerkraut, miso, yogurt, kefir and kimchi.
6. Drink plenty of clean water
Drinking plenty of water and staying hydrated is one of the simplest, best things you can do for your overall health. When it comes to your immune system, water plays an important role in helping to carry the white blood cells and other immune system cells. For an extra boost, add a slice of lemon to your water bottle for some extra vitamin C.
7. Get enough sleep
A tired body is more more at risk of illness. Our bodies strengthen, replenish and rejuvenate during rest times, and sleep deprivation can have surprisingly devastating results on the production of antibodies. To give your body it’s best chance to stay healthy and fight off illness this winter, make sleep a priority and aim for at least seven to eight hours per night.
8. Be a sun seeker
Vitamin D is very important for a healthy immune system, but with shorter days and less daylight hours our vitamin D intake often takes a sharp dive this time of year. Make a conscious effort to make the most of any opportunity you have to be outdoors during the day, like taking your lunch to the park, or walking an extra station or two in the morning. You can also get small doses of vitamin D from fatty fish.
9. Work it out
It can be all too tempting to fall into winter hibernation and let the cozy couch take place of your regular work-out regime. But exercise isn’t only a great way to keep the winter padding at bay — it also increases our immune function, improves sleep quality, and makes our bodies stronger. So keep it up!
10. Stress less
Stress and anxiety can wreak havoc on our immune system and make us more vulnerable to illness. Keep those winter blues at bay and focus on doing things that keep your mind healthy, as well as your body! Keeping a regular exercise regime can help with this. Also, find ways to make the cooler days fun with friends and family. Autumn is a great time to get outdoors and enjoy some activities before it gets too cold – try apple picking, or taking a stroll through a nearby park to enjoy the red and gold leaves.