10 ways to a strong effective immune system
Updated: Jul 3
Without a vaccine or a cure it would seem that our immune system is the best line of defence against Coronavirus.
Our immune system, like many things in the human body works in incredible ways to neutralize and remove pathogens like bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungi that enter the body, and fight against the body’s own cells that have changes due to an illness.
In theory we cannot boost the immune system as such, it is a system that needs balance to function effectively. One thing cannot boost it, like our other systems, it needs many components to function well such as nutrients, rest, hormone balance and many other factors.
For many people, the immune system works well to regulate itself and does not need any help. However, in some people, medications, lifestyle choices, health conditions may mean that our bodies natural defences are not as strong as they could be. It can become compromised or underactive (or even overactive).
The best thing we can do to ensure that our immune system, and other amazing functions of the body, are the strongest and effective they can be is to lead a healthier lifestyle.
Here are 10 simple things you can do to help maintain a healthy immune system so it is prepared for its job - to protect us.
1) Focus on healthy nutrition
Nutrition is key to how our body functions, our body needs good regular nourishment. . Malnutrition, and nutrient deficits have shown to alter immune response.
Vitamins A, C, and D, and minerals — including zinc — play a role in the functioning of the immune system. The easiest way to ensure that you are getting all your body needs is to eat a balanced, varied and colourful diet.
Eat plenty of colourful veggies - full of vitamin c and other vitamins and antioxidants
Eat foods rich in omega 3 such as oily fish - they are highly anti - inflammatory
limit sugar intake - which increases inflammation in the body and can cause obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and compromise the immune system
Ensure you are getting enough zinc in your diet - animal products especially shellfish have higher levels and lower levels can be found in plant based foods such as seeds, nuts and whole-grains
There are plenty of other foods that are said to boost immunity but nothing works on its own so keep it varied.
2) Balance the gut
Our gut health has been shown to effect our immune system, with studies showing that those with healthy balance of bacteria in the gut how a more effective immune response and was ill less often. Fermented foods, yogurts, bone broth, probiotics all help balance gut bacteria, along with keeping sugars and processed foods to a minimum. Medication, in particular antibiotics can also throw off your natural balance.
3) Get enough quality sleep
Sleep and immunity are closely linked. It doesn't matter how good your diet is if you have poor in inefficient sleep. Sleep is where the magic happens for many of our body's functions, it is where we repair, replenish, regulate. Consistent lack of sleep as shown to compromise the immune system so ensure that you try and get 7 hours in.
4) Keep Active
Just like eating a healthy diet, regular physical activity contributes to overall good health and, therefore, a healthy immune system. Exercise promotes efficient blood circulation, which keeps the cells of the immune system moving so that they can effectively do their job. However, do not over do it, and make sure that you full exercise as over exercising can compromise the immune system.
Stress can have a negative impact on your immune system. Laughing has been shown to decrease the stress hormone cortisol as well as boost the 'feel good hormones". Try to laugh everyday, find a funny friend, have a bag of jokes / memes/ clips ready, try Laughing yoga.
Singing in another behaviour shown to decrease stress and improve mood. Studies have shown that something as simple as singing can help reduce the stress-related suppression of the immune system. Who doesn't love a sing song in the shower!
7) Spend time with friends and family
More relevant than ever - Loneliness has also been pinpointed as a stressor that may affect the immune system. With lonely people said to produce higher levels of proteins related to inflammation.
Now lockdown is lifting slightly, it means we can go beyond zoom calls and meet with some family and friends outside with social distancing, make the most of it to help your immune response.
8) Be positive
Some studies have shown both that negative emotions can weaken immune response and positivity can boost it. Positive thinking can boost your mood, help fight stress and release "feel good hormones". Try to always think of the positives, and do not stress about the things that re out of your control.
9) Get some sunshine in your life
There is lots of info circulating around at the moment about Vitamin D and our immune system. Our body produces vitamin d when it is exposed to sunlight. Vitamin d energises infection-fighting T cells that play a key part in immunity, as well as many other health boosting roles.
10) Maybe try a fast
More recently, there has been studies that have indicated that fasting for 72 hours can have a reset effect on the immune system. It is said that in the fight to save energy when fasting, our body gets rid of what it doesn't need, reducing the white blood cells (immune cells), then when you refeed they replenish with healthy new ones.