Supporting the immune system is very much front of mind for a lot of people, as we move into the cooler months. Unfortunately, there seem to be plenty of inaccurate posts and articles online which are causing confusion and leading to people spending money on products, which just don’t work. We wanted to help set the record straight on what strategies will help you keep as healthy as possible.
Here are our five top tips to help you support your immune system
Sleep is one of the most important pieces to the immune puzzle. Basically, our immune system does not function at full capacity when we are fatigued. This is because most of our bodies growth and repair happens when we sleep, therefore if we do not get sufficient hours each night this impacts our immune system in a number of ways, including the production of less immune cells. The best thing you can do is focus on getting enough good sleep – quality and quantity both matter! Each person is different, but at least aiming for 7-8 hours each night. If you struggle to get to sleep or are a light sleeper, trying creating a night routine. This might include having a shower or bath, putting on a face mask, reading a book or journaling – or all of the above. If you find it hard to wind down try switching off all electronics at least 30-60 minutes before bed, and having your last main meal 2-3 hours before sleep.
Other than sleep, hygiene is the other big rock when it comes to strategies most important for supporting your immune system. This is particularly front of mind for people at the moment due to COVID-19. Practicing good hygiene is the bodies first line of defence against germs and viruses. Wash your hands regularly and thoroughly for around 20 seconds, this will help to ensure any germs on your skin will be washed away. This includes being mindful about touching other people, shared surfaces, and shaking hands.
When it comes to nutrition, the next four points should be your priorities for best supporting your immune system. Fruits and vegetables contain essential nutrients and antioxidants such as vitamin C, E, D and the B vitamins to name a few. Antioxidants in these foods help to reduce oxidative stress that is caused by free radicals (the bad guys) in our bodies. Eating all the colours helps to ensure we are getting a variety of different nutrients, so why not use this time to try a new fruit or veggie!
Whole grains contain many vitamins and minerals as well as fibre which is important for our gut health as well as reducing inflammation in the body. This is particularly important for the active population and making sure they get enough wholegrain carbohydrates around training to help them recover, reduce cortisol levels, and thus reduce stress on the body – which if not done, can increase risk of upper respiratory tract infection. Types of wholegrain foods to include are oats, whole grain bread, wholemeal pasta, brown rice and quinoa.
Recent studies have shown that there is a link between gut health and our immune system which means happy gut = happy immune system!! Eating foods such as prebiotic rich whole grains, probiotic rich foods like yoghurt, fermented foods such as sauerkraut etc are great ways to keep your gut bugs thriving and happy.
Keep up your fluids
Dehydration can lead to cell membranes which are more permeable to pathogens and bacteria, which can make us more likely to pick up a cold or flu. If you are struggling to keep up your water intake in the cooler months, look to increase your fluid intake with delicious herbal teas, or try drinking your water at room temperature rather than ice-cold.