A well balanced diet is one of the best ways to boost your immune system naturally. And while it might be tempting to turn to the convenience of immune support supplements, nothing compares to a whole (i.e. unprocessed) food diet that includes plenty of fresh fruits, vegetable and immune boosting foods.
To make sure you’re getting all the nutrients you need to help your body fight off illness, remember the acronym G-BOMBS:
G - Greens like spinach, kale, broccoli, bok choy and brussels sprouts.
B – Beans, peas and lentils.
O - Onions, garlic, leeks, chives and shallots.
M - Mushrooms
B - Berries – strawberries, raspberries, blackberries and blueberries.
S - Seeds – chia, pumpkin, sesame, hemp, flax, walnut and almond.
2. Take the time to de-stress
Stress can be bad news for our overall health and immunity because cortisol (the stress hormone) actively suppresses and weakens our immune response, leaving us more susceptible to illness and infection.
When we’re stressed, we’re also more likely to fall back on unhealthy habits like smoking and drinking as coping mechanisms – and positive habits like healthy eating, exercise and good sleep hygiene can fall by the wayside.
Research recommends the following tips to help manage stress:
Take a short break from the source of your troubles (be it work, family, finances, or any number of other things) to do something you enjoy.
Deep breathing can have a great calming effect. Try the 4-7-8 method - breath in for four seconds, hold for seven, and exhale for eight, and repeat up to four times.
Try progressive muscle relaxation. Starting with your feet, tense your muscles as tightly as you can for about five seconds, then relax. Slowly move up your body, doing the same with each muscle group, all the way up to your face.
3. Prioritise those Zs
One of the best ways to boost your immune system is to give it rest. Studies show that if you’re not getting enough hours or quality of sleep, not only are you more likely to get sick after being exposed to an illness - but because our bodies heal while we’re sleeping, it can take longer to recover too.
That’s why getting a good night’s sleep is such an important part of the equation when it comes to building up immunity.
If you’re not sleeping well at night, try to factor in two short naps during the day if you can – one in the morning, one in the afternoon, and no more than 30 minutes each. Doing so has been proven to help offset the negative effects that a bad night’s sleep can have on the immune system, and reduce stress in the process.
4. Get moving every day
When it comes to benefits to our immunity, exercise has an important role. Physical activity stimulates our immune system to help find and fight off pathogens like viruses and unhealthy bacteria.
Incorporating regular exercise into your routine can also, over time, help to slow down certain aging processes which impact the immune system and make us more vulnerable to illness.
It doesn’t matter if you’re walking, cycling, swimming, or even having a dance battle with the kids, what’s important is to get up and moving. Ideally, you should aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical exercise five days a week (or roughly 150 minutes a week), in order to start seeing these benefits.
5. Lay off the sugar
Eating large amounts of sugar can temporarily slow down your system from attacking bad bacteria. So, reduce or try removing sugar from your diet.
Look out for added sugars on food labels and be aware that sugar can also be described as sucrose, treacle, honey, glucose, fructose and agave nectar.
Sugar can also impact body weight, cholesterol and type 2 diabetes so there’s lots of health motivation to restrict your sweet tooth.
6. Don’t forget the basics
Basic hygiene practices will continue to be our best line of defence, so it’s important to keep up regular and thorough washing and drying of hands, as well as coughing and sneezing into a tissue or a bent elbow.
Another incredibly important thing we can do to protect ourselves and those around us, is to get vaccinated for influenza. Check out this article for more information on the benefits of the flu vaccination.