With the world just about recovering from a Global Pandemic, staying healthy has never been as important as it is now. So with that in mind, we wanted to write an article on the best 12 ways to boost the immune system.
Everyone wants to be healthy. And yet, health is something that most of us, or at least those of us who have never had to deal with illness, take for granted. However, our health isn’t a given and this is a hard truth I have had to face recently.
In the past few months, I have researched relentlessly how to boost the immune system and in the process, I have learned that it is imperative that I change my diet. I also learned the harmful effects of stress on the immune response. However, the biggest shock was to find out that sleep is my human healing super-power.
The Immune System
The best way to ensure we stay healthy is to find ways to boost our immune system.
The immune system is a complex network of white blood cells, tissues, organs, proteins and chemicals. This system works tirelessly to protect your body from harmful substances, germs and cell changes that could potentially make you ill.
Its three major functions are as follows:
- Fight infectious agents;
- Neutralise harmful substances from the environment;
- Fight non-infectious diseases (i.e. cancer)
Below you will find a list of my findings. For the last four months, I have tried really hard to incorporate all of them into my daily life. So let’s get to it.
1. Eat A Balanced Diet
Have you ever heard the phrase, you are what you eat? Well, it’s true. Introducing a well-balanced diet will provide you with the energy you need to keep active throughout the day. It will provide you with the nutrients you need for growth and repair and aid you in staying strong and healthy, helping you prevent diet-related illness, and some cancers.
When we eat whole plant foods like fruit, vegetables, seeds and nuts, we supply our bodies with nutrients and antioxidants. The chances of developing diseases such as cancer and heart disease can be greatly reduced by consuming these antioxidants.
Super Foods To Boost The Immune System
- Broccoli – A great source of vitamins A, C and E, calcium, iron and fibre.
- Spinach – Rich in vitamin C, spinach is an amazing immune-boosting food. It will provide the body with the necessary nutrients for cell division and DNA repair.
- Red Pepper – High in vitamin C, A and antioxidants
- Citrus Fruits – Oranges, lemons and grapefruit are also high in vitamin C. These fruits will boost the immune system, and studies show that they increase the production of white blood cells too.
- Berries – Blueberries in particular contain very potent antioxidants.
- Turmeric – Well known for adding colour and flavour to our food. It is also known to increase the immunomodulating capacity of the body, helping to regulate the immune system.
- Ginger – From the same family as turmeric, ginger root is well known for its anti-inflammatory and antibiotic properties. It is also a great natural alternative to treat nausea and motion sickness.
- Garlic – Studies show that eating garlic will boost the response of white blood cells.
- Salmon – Is mainly known for being rich in long-chain Omega-3 fatty acids. These omega-3s are known to suppress inflammation and keep the immune system in check.
- Mushrooms – Certain mushrooms, like Shiitake, Reishi, Maitake, Chaga and Cordyceps are known to help regulate the immune system and reduce inflammation.
- Nuts – Packed with vitamin E. Almonds, pistachios and walnuts are jam-packed with vitamin E.
2. Green Tea
Green tea is loaded with antioxidants and is considered to be one of the healthiest beverages on the planet. Some of its many health benefits include:
- Improves brain functions
- Increases fat burning
- Antioxidants help lower the risk of certain cancers
- Helps the prevention of type 2 diabetes
- Aids with the prevention of heart disease
3. Stay Hydrated – Drink Plenty Of Water
One of the best gifts you can grant your body is drinking enough water during the day. So many of us underestimate the importance of staying hydrated.
The human adult body is 60 per cent water, and our blood is 90 per cent water. Some of the health benefits of drinking water are as follows:
- Supports energy levels and brain function
- Alleviates constipation
- Helps treat kidney stones
- Improved skin health
- Flushes body waster
- It helps with weight loss
Did you know that drinking water first thing in the morning will help you flush out the stomach and balance the lymphatic system? To build a strong immune system, a stable lymphatic system is required, so drinking water as soon as you open your eyes is a no-brainer.
4. Move Your Body – Sweat It Out
The more you move, the more you sweat. The more you sweat the easier it is to flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways.
Exercising will also get the immune cells moving throughout the body during activity. The increased blood flow raises the oxygen levels in your body helping you lower the risk of diseases.
Lately, my chosen form of activity is going on long walks. Not only do those hills get my blood pumping but they also provide me with a good dose of serotonin.
5. Sleep, It’s Your Superpower
I have gone through life saying ‘I will sleep when I’m dead’. Shame on me.
Just as eating well, staying hydrated and exercising are important, getting a good dose of high-quality sleep is imperative for overall health. Most adults should try to get from seven to nine hours of sleep each night.
There are many benefits that come with good quality sleep. Some of them are as follows:
- Improved mental function – skipping sleep can have a negative impact on the ability to think clearly and function efficiently during the day. Lack of sleep can also impact judgement. When we sleep we allow our brains to grow, reorganise, restructure and make new neural connections.
- Boosts immune system – The body produces cytokines during sleep, which support the immune system. Studies have shown that quality sleep restores and repair the body.
- Improved mood – Sleep will restore the body and improve energy levels, therefore waking up feeling refreshed will automatically impact your mood.
- Cardiovascular health – Heart rate slows down, and blood pressure decreases during sleep, which means that the heart and vascular system are able to rest.
- Reduces stress – When trying to manage stress, getting a good night’s sleep is paramount. A sleep-deprived person finds it much harder to avoid stressors during the day, than a person who has woken up feeling refreshed. Quality sleep has been known to reduce depression, anxiety and other mental health issues related to stress.
6. Keep Stress Levels Down
Stress is a major culprit in today’s health decline. Living in a state of ‘fight or flight’ is considered the norm by today’s standards. Busy life, constant worries, financial burdens, the list goes on and on.
When we experience chronic stress, our cortisol levels (cortisol is a stress hormone) increase, impacting our health negatively. Some of the symptoms of high cortisol levels are:
- High blood pressure
- Muscle weakness
- Anxiety, depression or irritability
- Weight gain
Exercise, a healthy diet, breathing exercises, and reducing caffeine are some of the ways to reduce stress. However, I have found that the best method for me is meditation.
When I started meditating last year, I found it so hard to ground myself. Almost impossible I would say, but I persevered.
Some days I experience incredible meditations. My mind is calm, my body is relaxed and I find myself surrendering to the moment. Other days are not so good. These are the days when my mind is turbulent. Thoughts come and go so rapidly and I’m not able to hold on to them. When this happens I make it a point of meditating twice, sometimes three times during the day.
When I started my meditation journey, I used to listen to guided meditations on YouTube. I’ve linked my favourite below.
Lately, I find myself putting the timer on for 20 minutes and sitting upright in silence, breathing in through my nose and breathing out through my mouth. I try to clear my mind, ground myself and connect to my inner self.
I meditate every morning without fail. It’s a non-negotiable habit in my daily routine. But let me tell you about some of the benefits of meditating:
- Increased self-awareness
- Helps you stay present
- Increases focus and attention
- Reduces stress
At the beginning of the month, whilst listening to a podcast, I came across Dr Mindy Pelz. Dr Mindy is a bestselling author, keynote speaker, and nutrition and functional health expert AND she introduced me to fasting.
When I tell friends and family that I’m fasting, they all automatically think it’s because I want to lose weight. Fair enough in the past I have done intermittent fasting with weight loss as an end goal. However, once I heard Dr Mindy speak and subsequently bought her book, I came to understand how fasting can heal my body.
Research shows that after 17 hours of fasting the body goes into autophagy. Autophagy is the body’s way of cleaning out damaged cells and repairing them at a cellular level. In other words, the body is cleaning and recycling at the same time.
In her book ‘Fast Like A Girl’ Pelz walks us through six different kinds of fasts, (including the autophagy fast) the health benefits of each of them, plus when to fast according to our cycles. Superbly written in a clear and easy-to-understand format, ‘Fast Like A Girl’ is without a doubt the best health book I have ever read, and I will be recommending it to every woman I know. In fact, I believe I told a friend last week, I am going to buy numerous copies of this book and gift them to family and friends.
8. Cold Baths/Showers
I don’t own a bath, so shower it is. In the past few months, my mental health has been tested to the limit, because of health issues. In my research to find a way to alleviate my anxiety, I came across the benefits of cold showers. I introduced this daily habit with the purpose of regulating my nervous system and therefore stopping an anxiety attack in its tracks. It works like a charm. Every time I felt the need to jump out of my own skin, I would step into a freezing shower (this was during January and February) and the anxiety would subside, if only momentarily.
However, I also learned that cold showers boost the immune system. Apparently, the shock of cold water can stimulate the blood cells that fight off infection. Other health benefits include:
- Reduce muscle soreness
- Lower stress levels
- Relieve pain
- Improve circulation
- Reduce inflammation
Let me tell you, stepping into a cold shower on a cold January night was no fun at all, but it served its purpose and provided me with much needed respite. And now that I know that it can boost my immune system, it will certainly remain part of my routine. I started out with one minute under the cold water, and I am currently at two and a half minutes. My goal is five minutes.
9. Dry Brushing
I’m pretty new to dry brushing and I only do it twice a week, but I do love how my skin feels after. I will dry brush, shower and then moisturise. However, even though it’s fantastic for the skin, I dry brush because it stimulates the lymphatic system. In other words, it helps the body get rid of toxins, and as a result, supports the immune system.
In the midst of our busy lives, many of us find it difficult to get enough of what we need nutritionally through diet alone. Taking certain supplements to boost our immunity may be necessary for optimal immune system performance.
80% of our immune system is in our digestive system, therefore a healthy gut equals a strong immune system.
I currently take two different kinds of supplements. A multivitamin full of immune-boosting nutrients and a probiotic to tackle my gut health. Everyone is different though. The supplements that I take are adequate for my needs and are recommended by a health professional.
If you feel as though you could use the extra help from supplements, consult a professional first.
11. Soak Up Some Vitamin D
Research shows that Vitamin D can reduce cancer cell growth, help control infections and reduce inflammation. Not only that, it can also boost your mood, aid in weight loss and strengthen your immune system.
The best way to load up your body with Vitamin D is exposure to sunlight. I’m not talking about sunbathing until you have turned into a lobster (I do NOT recommend that) but more like an afternoon walk, time outside running after the kids, sitting at a cafeteria and soaking up those rays, simple ways that you can incorporate into your everyday life.
Spending short periods of time in the sun can provide your body with all the vitamin D it needs for the day.
12. Choose To Be Happy
Cliche, I know but it’s true.
Happier people are more likely to make healthier choices. They will exercise more, eat healthily, and stress less, and we all know by now all this can lead to better immune functioning, which will ultimately keep illness at bay.
We all want to live healthier lives, we all want to live longer. Most of the time, especially during our younger years we take our health for granted. And sometimes we are thrown a curve ball that will put life into perspective and make us take a hard look at the daily choices we make.
I was thrown a curveball, one I didn’t want but obviously needed so that I could learn just how important it is to take care of this body I have been blessed with.
Ideally, it would be great if we all had a well-being mindset. If we could all appreciate the gift of life from a state of joy and health instead of waiting for a testing season to show up and knock on our door, disrupting our lives. Unfortunately, we are creatures of habit, and we mostly learn when we have been left with no choice. I sincerely hope that this article will inspire you to make a few changes to your daily life, but mostly I wish you and yours a healthy life because nothing else matters if we don’t have health.
DISCLAIMER: This blog post is based on research and personal experience. I am NOT a medical professional. If you are suffering from health issues please contact a doctor or medical centre.