How to strengthen your immune system naturally
Beyond washing our hands and practising good hygiene how can we protect our body and strengthen our immune system naturally? Read on to learn five simple and effective ways to boost your immune system and some practical ways to implement them.
"Your first line of defence is to choose a healthy lifestyle. Following general good-health guidelines is the single best step you can take toward naturally keeping your immune system strong and healthy. Every part of your body, including your immune system, functions better when protected from environmental assaults and bolstered by healthy-living strategies" - Harvard Medical School (1)
Sleep is such an important part of maintaining our health but we often do not place enough priority on getting consistent sleep each night. Sleep is a simple but often overlooked part of keeping ourselves healthy and plays a huge part in keeping our immune system strong. Each person needs a different amount of sleep to function optimally with the recommendation being 7 to 8 hours each night. You can increase the amount of sleep you get gradually by going to bed 20 minutes earlier and then add on incrementally each night as needed.
"During sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines, some of which help promote sleep. Certain cytokines need to increase when you have an infection or inflammation, or when you're under stress. Sleep deprivation may decrease production of these protective cytokines. In addition, infection-fighting antibodies and cells are reduced during periods when you don't get enough sleep."
- Eric J Olson (2)
2) Eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Unfortunately most Australians don't meet the recommended servings of fruit and veg each day. It's not really part of our way of eating to include lots of veggies in each meal but it only takes a few steps and a little awareness to increase your veggie intake each day. Start by adding in a serve of veggies with each meal you consume. This could be a serving of spinach or mushrooms with your eggs or a green smoothie at breakfast time. You can bulk out your lunch and dinner with extra lettuce, peas, cucumber, carrots or whatever veggies you prefer. Other options are to add a side salad or a serve of steamed or roast veggies to your meals. Don't forget to snack on fruit and veg as well. Instead of reaching for baked goods or sweet treats have a piece of fruit or some chopped up veg with some cheese to keep hunger at bay. If you have kids who are fussy you can hide lots of veggies into food by blending them into sauces. You can even add veggies into homemade healthy cakes and brownies. There are so many ways to add in extra veggies!
Start by being aware of how many veggies you are consuming and think in terms of adding in rather than taking away other foods that you normally eat. Another thing to keep in mind is the variety of veggies you eat. Eating the rainbow really is important as it provides you with a large variety of vitamins and minerals which the body requires to function optimally.
"A diverse diet and regular exposure to sunlight are the best sources for a balanced nutrient supply to maintain an optimal immune defence." (3)
3) Sun exposure
Safe regular exposure to sunlight is very important to our health. Regular sun exposure is one of the best ways to increase Vitamin D and studies have shown that Vitamin D may help to improve immunity. The recommended amount of sun exposure varies between person and the time of year, read this article for more information about safe sun exposure. If you are concerned about low levels of Vitamin D speak to your health care professional for more advice.
4) Regular intake of medicinal herbs
Herbal tea is so much more than a comforting hug in a mug. Herbs play an important role in keeping us healthy and provide us with a variety of protective nutrients. Greek herbal tea has a long history of medicinal use dating back to Hippocrates. These special herbs are revered for their incredible health properties. Eoswellbeing teas are very potent with high levels of antioxidants and phytonutrients as well as other numerous health benefits which you can read about here, make sure you click through to each tea. Antioxidants from dietary sources play an important role in improving certain immune responses. (4) Mountain tea, sage and dictamnus all have a positive effect on the immune system due to their high levels of antioxidants. There's a reason why Greek Shepherds drank lots of Mountain tea - it keep them strong and healthy in the harsh environment of the mountain tops.
5) Exercise, time in nature and stress reduction.
I've grouped these important practises together because they are related and can be undertaken at the same time. We all know how important exercise is for us and the myriad of benefits that it provides. According to Harvard Health , exercise plays an important part of strengthening our immune system because "just like a healthy diet, exercise can contribute to general good health and therefore to a healthy immune system. It may contribute even more directly by promoting good circulation, which allows the cells and substances of the immune system to move through the body freely and do their job efficiently." (1)
The key is to find a way of moving your body that you love and will stick with. It could be walking, dancing, swimming, yoga, boxing - whatever it is find something that you enjoy and can commit to on a regular basis, even if it is 20 minutes a day it will make a difference. Start small and slowly build up over time, with consistency it won't take long before you find yourself craving movement. If you can exercise in nature even better because studies have shown that time in nature has many positive impacts including decreasing stress and supporting the immune system "nature.. can lower blood pressure and stress hormone levels, reduce nervous system arousal, enhance immune system function, increase self-esteem, reduce anxiety, and improve mood." (6) Plus you will also receive the immune boosting benefits of sunlight as well!
One of the best effects of exercise is the role it plays in stress reduction due to the release of endorphins - the happy hormone. Stress can negatively affect our immune system so it's important to find ways to destress. "When we’re stressed, the immune system’s ability to fight off antigens is reduced. That is why we are more susceptible to infections.The stress hormone corticosteroid can suppress the effectiveness of the immune system." (5)
I personally believe exercise is a great way to destress and I am so amazed at how much happier I am when I am exercising regularly compared to when I don't exercise. You can also try other options such as meditation, spending time in nature, laughter, spending time with friends and loved ones, breathing exercises or doing something creative, whichever you enjoy most.
My hope for you is that this blog will inspire you to partake in some or all of these practises so that you can build up your immune system naturally and experience robust health and wellness. Please remember to start where you can, go gradually and be patient and loving with yourself. If you have any questions or would like to comment feel free to in the comment box below
Take care and stay healthy!
- Catherine x
- All content on the eoswellbeing website is created and published online for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice and should not be relied on as health or personal advice.