Natural Ways to Boost Our Immune System
These days every time we listen to the news there is something new on the spread of coronavirus. While the unknown about a new disease can be daunting, the reality is that the regular seasonal flu is actually far more dangerous for the general population. Therefore, with the current cold and flu season in full swing, the best thing we can do is to boost our immune system, which is essentially the organs and processes of the body that provide resistance to infection and toxins (just imagine the immune system as the body’s very own ‘army’ designed to protect itself from nasty invaders).
Of course, we may not be able to fully prevent a cold or flu. However, maintaining a healthy immune system is one way to give our bodies extra protection. Here are a number of things you can do or keep doing, to help support your immune system and be in the strongest form possible.
Getting enough sleep is absolutely essential to keep your body working well. You should get at least 8 hours of sleep a night. If your sleep tends to be interrupted, try a 30-minute nap during the day. If you don’t get more than five hours per night, your immune system can get bogged down. This leaves you more susceptible to colds, flu and infection. If going to bed earlier isn’t enough for you to sleep longer, try stopping the use of electronics for at least two hours before bed time. Studies show that the blue light emitted from cell phones, computers and TV can suppress the secretion of melatonin.
Practice Good Hygiene
Practicing good hygiene and hand washing prevents the spread of germs. It’s a good habit to wash your hands with soap and warm water before eating, before and after using the bathroom and before preparing food. If you already have a cold, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you sneeze or cough. And cough into your elbow rather than your hand. In addition, if you are out and about, avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, until you have washed your hands to prevent getting sick from germs you have come in contact with.
Staying hydrated keeps your body working optimally, including your immune system. Aim for eight glasses of water a day. You can even infuse your water with lemon, cucumber or fruit slices to make the taste more varied. Try to also snack more on foods with high water content, such as cucumbers, tomatoes, broccoli, oranges, apples and strawberries and reduce the salty snacks (chips, crackers, peanuts etc.,). But more on the right foods to eat as you scroll down.
Picture Credit: https://completewellbeing.com/article/water-is-the-soul-of-health/
Reduce Alcohol and Smoking
Excessive drinking has been linked to a weakened immune system. This is because alcohol affects the way gut microbes interact with the immune system. It also disrupts the gut barrier, allowing more bacteria to pass into the blood. Alcohol, like sugar, if consumed in excess, can reduce the ability of the white cells to kill germs. Now, the occasional drink will not harm the immune system but three or more drinks (especially if consumed frequently) can; therefore, moderation is key. Similarly, smoking also weakens the immune system, so stopping it altogether – to improve overall health – is obviously a good move.
Work up a Sweat – Exercise
While exercise has a host of benefits, one of them is that it can give your immune system a proper boost. One theory is that exercise promotes good blood circulation, which allows the cells of the immune system to move through the body better and do their job well. This can be walking for 20-30 minutes a day or going to the gym a few days a week. Or practice a sport you enjoy, like tennis or golf. Just be active as much as you can and regularly.
On-going stress may take a toll on the immune system, as the stress hormone cortisol can suppress its effectiveness. Look after yourself and do what you need to reduce stress. Know when to put the brakes if you are overworked, learn to let go of situations you have no control over and find things to do that make you genuinely happy. Meditation is also a great stress reliever, as it can give you a sense of calm and balance that can benefit your emotional well-being and overall health. We previously spoke about the benefits of meditation at The Wellness Project (http://thewellnessproject.me/5-reasons-you-should-incorporate-meditation-into-your-self-care-routine/).
Now, eating a healthy balanced diet is crucial for supporting your immune health. However, some food groups are particularly beneficial and go that extra mile. Here they are so you can stock up on them:
Many people turn to vitamin C after they have caught a cold. This vitamin is essential for the proper function of immune cells. When you have an infection, vitamin C gets depleted, so it is a good idea to get plenty of it. Try to consume fruits rich in Vitamin C everyday, such as the following:
- Orange, clementine and tangerine
- Lime and lemon
- Strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and cranberries
This cruciferous vegetable is packed with vitamin A, C and E, along with other antioxidants and fiber. It also has choline which is good for the gut. Try to cook it as little as possible or even have it raw to benefit from its nutrients. Similar vegetables that are seen as immune system superfoods are sprouts, kale and cauliflower.
3- Red Pepper
You may be surprised to know that this crunchy vegetable, ounce for ounce, has twice as much vitamin C as an orange! It is also a rich source of beta carotene, which helps to keep your eyes and skin healthy.
We spoke about this superfood before here at The Wellness Project, as it has a myriad of benefits. Garlic is best ingested in its raw form to reap its goodness. It has natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties and it can increase the number of t-cells in your blood, which in turn fight viruses.
It’s a good idea to always keep some fresh ginger in your kitchen! It acts as a natural decongestant when you have a cold and soothes digestion. Ginger works nicely in vegetable stir fries, and it can be boiled with water and consumed as a hot drink. Here are some wonderful recipes using ginger that we previously shared with you http://thewellnessproject.me/5-ginger-recipes-will-satiate-ginger-cravings/ for more ideas.
Fresh red and green chillies have vitamin C and capsaicin, which can help clear congestion and phlegm during colds. If you have a sore throat mix ¼ tsp of hot red chili powder with a glass of pulpy orange juice. It can provide relief from a sore throat (best to drink this with a straw straight to your throat to avoid exposing your mouth with the active ingredients of hot red chillies).
Eating plain (unsweetened) yoghurt that has live cultures or ‘friendly bacteria’ can help your immune system fight against bad bacteria in the gut. Avoid the sweet flavored types, as they are loaded with sugar, and stick to the plain yoghurt, which you can sweeten yourself with fresh chopped fruits and a drizzle of organic honey.
8- Power Boosting Drink
You can make your own healthy smoothie at home by combining vitamin C rich fruits along with yoghurt. You can also add fresh ginger and turmeric to it for extra immune fighting properties. Let us share with you a great concoction by raw food chef Summer Sanders (https://www.thesummersanders.com), which is designed to ward off a cold!
– 1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
– 4 ounces beet juice (optional)
– 1 tablespoon minced ginger
– 1 tablespoon minced turmeric
– 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
– 1-2 garlic cloves
– 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
– 1/4 teaspoon pink salt
– 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Combine all ingredients in your blender and blend until smooth. Run through a mesh strainer to discard pulp and it’s ready to drink! If you want some more great immunity boosting smoothie recipes, check out these courtesy of The Byrdie: (https://www.byrdie.com/immune-boosting-smoothies).
Well, we do hope you got some useful tips on how to keep your immune system at its best. Do take good care of yourself this winter and all year round by following healthy habits and making mindful and conscious choices when choosing your food, so that you are eating natural, additive free, pesticide-free and organic food. Let us know if you have any great cold remedy or wish to share with us your tips for staying healthy. We always love to hear from you!
First Picture Credit: