With the recent coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, many people are concerned about staying healthy and maintaining a healthy immune system. Doing so can benefit your body and boost your defenses against viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens.
How does your immune system work, anyway?
Think of your immune system as your body’s gatekeeper. It serves as protection against any foreign substances (say, like bacteria, viruses, parasites, or fungi) that may enter your body and cause harm.
Here’s how it works: Your immune system is a vast network of organs, proteins, and cells—like your skin, bone marrow, blood, and mucosal tissue—that join forces to distinguish healthy cells from not-so-healthy ones. How? When a germ makes its way into your body, your immune system receives signals that something isn’t quite right. From there, it responds by sending white blood cells (or immune cells)—your body’s frontline defense—to attack and destroy anything that it interprets as risky or dangerous.
Here are some important ways to boost your immunity......
To Stress or Not to Stress?
Chronic stress depresses the immune system and increases the risk of several types of illnesses. It raises the level of hormones called catecholamines. Being stressed out leads to increased levels of suppressor T cells, which suppress the immune system. When this branch of the immune system is impaired, you are more susceptible to viral illnesses including respiratory conditions like colds, flu, and infections. Stress leads to the release of histamine, a molecule involved in allergies. Combat stress with strategies like deep breathing, meditation, exercise, and relaxation.
Pets and Immune System Function
Dog owners may enjoy improved heart health in part because they are more likely to engage in physical activity because they walk their dogs regularly. Pet ownership in childhood is linked to decreased susceptibility to allergies.
Do Social Ties Influence Immunity?
Many studies suggests loneliness and social isolation are very detrimental to health. In one study, those with the strongest social relationships were most likely to live longer than those with poor social connections. While these extreme self isolation restrictions are in place, it's important to remember there are lots of ways to develop and strengthen social ties emotionally. Pick up the phone and call friends regularly utilising Facetime or Skype.
Whatever your niche interest is, there is an online community of people who share your passion and can’t wait to share. There are also digital support groups, such as for new parents or patients with a rare disease. Use these networks to engage around what matters most to you.
Deepen and broaden your existing relationships or form new ones. Reflect on your current state of social health and then take one digital action to deepen it—such as getting in touch with a friend or family member you haven’t spoken with in a while—or to broaden it—such as reaching out to someone you’d like to get to know.
Attitude Is Everything
Manifest good things and your immune system will follow. Make optimism work for you. Try to see the glass as half full, not half empty. Practice gratitude and think of at least four things that you are grateful for every day. Imagine the best outcome for situations, even difficult ones. You may not always be able to control events around you, but you can always decide how to respond to them. Respond with a good attitude to increase the chances of the best outcome and to strengthen your immunity.
Get your Walk On
Exercise is also an massive immune booster. To reap maximum benefits, try to be moderately physically active for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week. Walking is one of the simplest ways to exercise. If you're not excited about walking, try yoga, swimming, cycling, or golf. Gardening is also a good way to get some outdoor activity.
You Snooze, You WIN
Several studies confirm the link between sleep and a healthy immune system. Most people need between 7 to 9 hours to feel adequately rested. Being well rested improves the function of white blood cells, so you're less likely to get illnesses like respiratory infections, colds, and the flu. Practice good sleep hygiene to optimize sleep. That means waking up and going to bed at the same time every day, even on weekends. Avoid substances that can interfere with sleep, like caffeine and alcohol, for several hours before bedtime. Establish a relaxing evening routine before bedtime. Enjoy a warm bath, relaxing music, or a cup of tea to help you drift off to sleep more easily.
Heal from the Inside
Although there are many foods that help with immunity, I have listed my top 10
Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric, responsible for the distinct yellow colouring and the impressive list of health properties. Curcumin is anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-bacterial, anti-microbial, anti-fungal, antiseptic, detoxifying and amazing for digestive health.
It is a nutritional powerhouse, rich in manganese, zinc, B group vitamins and iron.
Citrus and Leafy Greens
Vitamin C may help protect the body against oxidative stress, and that helps support immune function. Oxidative stress happens when there is an imbalance of healthy antioxidants and harmful substances called free radicals in the body.
As a type of antioxidant, vitamin C is a free radical scavenger and enhances immunity by supporting cellular function.
Foods that are loaded with this vitamin, include oranges, lemons, strawberries, blueberries, tomatoes, broccoli, leafy greens like kale, and bell peppers. To help retain vitamin C in your food, enjoy it raw when possible. Vitamin C is heat sensitive, so cooking can reduce the amount of this nutrient that your body can take in.
Garlic is also an immune system warrior, protecting the body from infections and illness. Garlic contains allicin, a potent phytonutrient that is great for cardiac health. It has been shown to help lower blood pressure, inhibit blood clotting and promote healthy cholesterol levels.
Rich in super immune-enhancing compounds and natural plant-based vitamin D that helps boost immune function and bone health.
Probiotics are live microorganisms (good bacteria) that reside in the gut. Probiotics support our immune system, aid digestion and assist with nutrient absorption into our bloodstream. Take probiotics and/or eat fermented foods. Fermented foods are naturally packed with probiotics that promote healthy gut bacteria. Examples include kefir, kombucha tea, yoghurt, miso, sauerkraut, kimchi and fermented vegetables.
Matcha is the most nutrient-rich green tea in the world. The best matcha needs to be organic and ceremonial grade which is more potent in antioxidants. The antioxidants in matcha are beneficial in strengthening the immune system; green tea keeps the immune system running normally.
To have a strong immune system your body needs a daily supply of quality protein. Research studies have shown that deficiency of high-quality protein can result in depletion of immune cells, the inability of the body to make antibodies, and other immune-related problems.
Studies have shown that ginger has potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. It helps to boost immune function and combat cellular damage.
Nuts and Seeds
For a filling snack that's also a big-time help to your immune system, reach for a handful of nuts or seeds. Not only do they have magnesium, but they're also rich with vitamin E, an antioxidant that's been shown to improve the body's ability to fight off bacteria and viruses.
Cloves are full of minerals, vitamins and fiber. But the main ingredient that makes cloves very powerful for increasing immunity is the substance eugenol, which is also what gives cloves their distinctive odor. Eugenol has been proven effective against many harmful bacteria and viruses and also is effective in fighting funguses.
When the immune system is working properly, you don’t even notice it. It’s when the performance of the immune system is compromised that you face illness.
Plants, herbs, minerals, foods and lifestyle changes will prevent and fight infections due to their antimicrobial and immune-boosting properties.