With Coronavirus in the headlines and the change of season ahead, it’s the ideal time to focus our attention on supporting our immune system.
As we change from one season to the next, it’s common for sniffles and coughs to creep in. And with the spread of Coronavirus, it’s a good excuse to place more emphasis on supporting our immune system with nourishing foods and healthy living strategies.
Here, I share my 9 top tips to boost your body’s immune system.
1. Increase vitamin C-rich foods
Vitamin C is a key nutrient when it comes to supporting our immune system. Otherwise known as ascorbic acid, vitamin C helps your body fight infection and as an anti-inflammatory, it protects the body from cell damage. It’s also important for your overall health and wellbeing as it helps to absorb other nutrients, supports our phase 1 liver detoxification pathway and is involved in the growth of skin cells, bones, ligaments and tenders.
Needless to say, vitamin C is a superhero nutrient that should be your go-to when you’re looking to optimise your immune response and keep yourself well during times it may be compromised.
Sources of vitamin C in foods include seasonal fruits and veggies particularly kiwi, citrus fruits, capsicum, berries and dark leafy greens like kale, parsley and Brussels sprouts.
2. Ditch the refined sugars
We all know that sugar has an impact on our waistlines, but did you know it can compromise the function of your immune system? There are several ways too much sugar can increase your risk of falling victim to flu season. Firstly, sugar and processed foods are typically lacking in nutrients and can deplete nutrients from other food sources.
Sugar also reduces the ability for your body’s white blood cells to perform optimally and increases your inflammatory markers. The increase in inflammation, largely due to the overload of fructose, causes a rise in the stress hormone cortisol. In essence, your body is going to be going into overdrive to manage the chronic stress, stabilise your blood sugar levels and reduce the inflammation rather than fight infections coming your way.
3. Consume a varied, wholefood diet
In place of the refined sugars and process foods, support your immune system by consuming a range of nutrient-dense wholefoods.
This means eating a variety of fresh, seasonal fruits and veggies in abundance. Ensuring you have an adequate intake of quality protein-rich foods like eggs, grass-fed meats and fish. Increase your intake of healthy fats like olive oil, avocado, salmon, nuts and seeds. Swapping refined grains like white bread and pasta for whole grains such as quinoa, buckwheat and brown rice.
You can also benefit from including some gut-loving prebiotic and probiotic-rich foods into your diet, along with anti-inflammatory foods such as garlic, ginger and turmeric.
4. Check your zinc status
Zinc is a powerful antioxidant that helps to modulate the immune response. A deficiency in zinc has been linked to autoimmune issues, respiratory conditions, allergies and viral infections. It also largely controls the uptake of vitamins and minerals and can compromise their absorption.
If you’re concerned about your immunity, ask your health practitioner to run a simple test to assess your zinc status. Regardless of your zinc levels, focus on regularly consuming zinc-rich foods such as lamb, split peas, cashews and oysters.
5. Keep hydrated
Water is essential for your overall health as it transports nutrients around the body, regulates our body temperature, supports optimal digestion, helps keep us energised and lubricates our joints.
Water is also vital for all the detoxification pathways to help eliminate unwanted toxins and wastes from the body. Finding out how much water you should calculate the litres by your body weight using the formula: 0.033 x kg = L. For example if you are 60kg: 0.033 x 60 = 2 Litres.
6. Improve your sleep quality
Not getting enough sleep can increase your likelihood of getting a cold as it impacts the immune system’s response. There is a lot of research into the connection between inadequate sleep and the immune system showing our protective T-cells are reduced when we’re sleep-deprived and our inflammatory cytokines increase.
The body also has to utilise nutrients to repair directing its attention away from than fighting bugs and viral infections. A lack of sleep quality and duration long term causes the immune system to kick start into action immediately in the same way it does in times of stress.
Aim to achieve adequate sleep on a regular basis and you’ll be helping your body stay well throughout the seasonal change.
7. Add stress management practices
Stress can be beneficial to the body, but more times than not, we experience too much stress. When we’re stressed, our body utilises more of the vitamins and minerals you consume to help restore your balance to homeostasis or to fight the threat that you’re faced with.
Unfortunately, at times of stress, we reach for stimulates like refined sugar, caffeine or alcohol, to help us push through which is not what your body or immune system needs. Instead, this causes blood sugar dysregulation, increases our cortisol levels and puts an extra load on our liver. Our body becomes inefficient at absorbing, storing and utilising nutrients including vitamin C, B vitamins and zinc which has a knock-on effect for our immune system.
8. Modify your regular exercise
If you are feeling stress, tired or immune-compromised, it’s important to modify your regular exercise program to allow for your body to direct its attention to repair and healing. Swap your vigorous high-intensity exercises to light to moderate exercises such as walking or yoga.
Feel like you need an extra immune boost as summer comes to an end? Book a consult to arrange a treatment plan that will help give you the immune support your body needs.