This is the time of year when your immune system takes a beating; flu, common cold, bronchitis, stomach bug, and even COVID. Yes, any virus can sneak in and take control whenever your immune system is weakened. That includes some medications (talk to your doctor about this if you have concerns about your prescriptions).
Sure we can get a pill or vaccine or some over-the-counter snake oil, but if we focus on good nutrition and a reasonable amount of daily exercise we create a great foundation for sustained health. Add to that the 10 immune system boosters in this article and you just might get through the season with your armor of good health undented.
#1 – Eat your leafy greens. Spinach, kale, romaine lettuce, parsley, collard greens, beet greens, cabbage, swiss chard, arugula, and endive are just a few of the many delicious leafy greens you can enjoy just about year-round. Leafy greens are packed with powerful nutrients, antioxidants, and plenty of fiber to help boost immunity.
#2 – Physical activity. This doesn’t mean you have to go to a gym four days a week or run a marathon. It does, however, mean that you have to move. Research shows that when it comes to boosting your immunity, moderate-intensity exercise is best because it can stimulate cellular immunity by increasing the circulation of immune cells in your body. Walking, swimming, gardening, yoga, tai chi, anything you can do
#3 – Onions and garlic. Garlic can boost your immune function which is linked to increased white blood cell responses that fight common winter viruses. Did you know onions were worshipped by ancient Egyptians? It’s less likely that it was for its health properties and more so that the rings represent the circle of life. Aside from any religious association, onions containe the trace mineral selenium. Selenium helps reduce inflammation and stimulates immune function. It is found to be more concentrated in onions than in other vegetables.
#4 – Sunshine. 15 minutes a day of sunshine maintains healthy vitamin D levels and boosts your immune system. Millions of people develop avoidable diseases that can be avoided with regular exposure to natural sunlight. There are ways to easily add sunshine to your day; eat lunch outside instead of inside, take a walk, or do your exercise routine outside.
#5 – Cold-pressed oils. What oil and how it’s processed is more important to good health than you might think. Standard oils are processed with heat and solvents adding toxins to your diet and diminishing nutritional value. Cold-pressing olives, avocados, and coconut ensures these oils retain nutritional value without adding any toxins. AND cold-pressed oils are not processed with solvents or heat.
#6 – Fermented foods. Research shows that fermented foods enhance the diversity of gut microbes and decrease inflammation while boosting your immune system. Examples of fermented foods you’ll enjoy include yogurt, kefir, sourkraut, miso, kombucha, and kimchi.
#7 – Regular sleep pattern. We can never say enough about the many benefits of good sleep, but, it’s important to note that sleep plays a role in how well your immune system works. Did you know that T cells contribute to the body’s immune response when potential nasties enter your body? A study was done in which T cells were taken from some volunteers who slept and some who remained awake. After analyzing these samples, the research team saw that the T cells of sleeping people had higher levels of integrin (a type of protein that allows T cells to attach to and tackle their targets) activation compared with the same cells taken from people in a waking state.
NOTE – If you have trouble falling asleep when you go to bed try turning off all devices and stop watching TV at least one hour before going to bed.
#8 – Minimize the amount of sugar you eat. We know that lowering sugar intake can decrease inflammation and aid in weight loss. Minimizing sugar (less than 5% of daily calories) reduces the risk of chronic health conditions such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease. A 2021 study determined that hyperglycemia can contribute to atherosclerosis by altering the adaptive immune response.
#9 – Drink water. Water is a fantastic immune booster. Drinking water hydrates your cells and flushes toxins and bacteria from your body allowing your body to better fight viruses. Water also helps you absorb important vitamins, minerals, and nutrients from your food, which will increase your chances of staying healthy.
#10 – Manage your brain bucks to better handle stress. Stress can reduce the number of lymphocytes in the body, which are needed to fight viruses. Chronic stress can produce higher-than-normal levels of the hormone cortisol. This can hamper the body’s anti-inflammatory response and cause continual infections, according to a variety of immunology research studies. By managing your mental energy well you are better able to deal with stress.
Gloria's career as an independent nonprofit consultant, trainer, and writer spans over 30 years giving her lots to talk about. She has a deep passion for sustainability, both environmentally and organizationally. Enjoy her perspectives on community, development, and tales from her virtual world travels.