We are currently living through a time of great uncertainty. It is clear that now more than ever we need to focus on how we can improve our overall health to stay strong and prevent disease. Our immune system is our front line defence against infection and disease. There are plenty of ways we can optimise its function to help it do its job properly.
Our immune system is compromised of organs, cells and chemicals which have different roles to play that help protect us from infection.
The main parts are:
There are other immune defences such as tears, saliva, sweat, stomach acid, skin, mucus membranes, cough reflex, fever, inflammation, coagulation, natural microbial flora. Our body is amazing!
With so many elements playing key roles in our ability to fight infections there are a number of ways we can help our immune system function properly:
Sleep – our body repairs and restores while we sleep by releasing proteins called cytokines, which are needed when we have an infection or are under stress. A decreased amount of sleep means less protective cytokines, which can lead to a higher chance of becoming ill and a longer recovery time. The recommended amount is 7-8 hours a night.
Relaxation – relaxation techniques like meditation, mindfulness and yoga reduce stress hormones associated with lowering our immune system. Controlled breathing helps to condition the lungs and helps oxygenate our blood to aid their function.
Hydration – Our bodies are made of up to 60% water which is used for many functions in the body. Water is used to flush waste and toxins from the body via urine, it carries oxygen and nutrients to cells, water is needed to metabolise proteins and carbohydrates used as food. It is the primary component of saliva, used to digest carbohydrates and aid in swallowing food. Aim to drink 2 litres of water a day.
Eat a varied diet – The simplest way to support your immune system is to eat the rainbow. By doing this you are ensuring you consume a variety of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals from fruit and vegetables. It’s also important to eat a variety of whole grains, fermented food and grass fed meat and poultry to ensure you are consuming a good balance of protein, carbohydrates and fats.
Reduce sugar and alcohol – An excess of these will put your body under greater stress so it’s good to have these in moderation. Sugar can play havoc with our intestinal micro biome as it feeds bad bacteria and this will ultimately affect the function of your immune system.
Exercise – Exercise helps you sleep better, its also helps increase glutathione (a powerful antioxidant) levels in your body. It slows down the release of stress hormones and helps to release endorphins (feel-good hormones).
Probiotic – more than 70% of your immune system is found in your intestines, which house a balance of good and bad bacteria. Poor diet, stress and unhealthy lifestyle can lead to the overgrowth of harmful bacteria. Probiotics contain beneficial bacteria to support a healthy immune and digestive system.
Vitamin D – our skin produces Vitamin D when exposed to sunlight but in winter months this isn’t enough. Vitamin D can be consumed from sardines, salmon, tuna, mushrooms and eggs.
Vitamin A – Vitamin A is an integral part of the mucus layer of both the respiratory tract and the intestine it also helps protect epithelial tissue and plays an important roll in helping the cells of our immune system. Liver contains the highest source of vitamin A, however peppers, carrots, egg yolks and apricots are also a good source.
Vitamin C – studies have shown that Vitamin C can shorten the length of a cold and reduce incidences of infection. Vitamin C can be used to reduce the inflammatory response to viruses and bacteria and is currently being trialled by the Chinese to reduce the effect of coronavirus on the respiratory system. Consume Peppers, chilli, guavas, orange, broccoli, kale, parsley.
Zinc – zinc helps modulate the cells in the immune system prevents the increase of pro-inflammatory cytokines that cause excessive inflammation. Consume pecan and brazil nuts and fresh root ginger.
Beta Glucans – beta glucans naturally occur in the cell walls of foods such as barley fibre, oats and whole grains, seaweed, algae and reishi and maitake mushrooms. They have many health benefits such as including lowering cholesterol, improving blood sugar management, and supporting the immune system
Glutathione – is an antioxidant found in every cell in the body. It helps neutralise free radicals, prevents ageing and may help the liver, kidneys, intestines and lungs detoxification pathways. Glutathione is produced in our body but you can also increase levels by eating sulphur rich foods such as cruciferous vegetables garlic and onion.
In the current climate diet and lifestyle are more important than ever and Clare has just launched a new free Ebook called ‘Support your Immune Defence’ focusing on diet and lifestyle tips to support a healthy immune system. Available to download on the homepage of her website.
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