The best way to support our immune system is through the foods we eat and the way we treat our bodies. The immune system is your body's first line of defense against invading microorganisms. The more support the immune system has, the likelihood of illness will decrease. Supporting the immune system will not 100% protect you from every pathogen, but it will ensure your body has a fighting chance. Below are five simple habits that will help support your immune system.
Habit 1: Eating more Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables contain nutrients that play a role in ensuring the health of your immune system. Macronutrients are the main source of energy for the body. Micronutrients play more specific roles such as; maintaining cellular function, energy levels, metabolism, and overall well-being. Many may be familiar with the positive correlation beåtween Vitamin C and the immune system. Vitamin C is not the only micronutrient vital to the proper functioning of the immune system. This is why it is essential to eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables every day. Different colors of fruits and vegetables represent various micronutrients, eating a variety of colors ensures you are getting all the necessary nutrients. Below is a list of micronutrients known to play a large role in immune support.
Habit 2: Ensure Adequate Sleep
A lack of sleep not only increases the likelihood of getting sick, but can also affect how fast one can recover from the sickness. When asleep, the body produces and releases cytokines, a kind of protein that regulates inflammation and infection, which creates an immune response. Without adequate sleep, the body produces fewer cytokines, and with fewer cytokines, the body is more susceptible to sickness. If one's sleep schedule is negatively affected by daily life, try adding in one to two 30 minute naps throughout the day to reduce the adverse effects from lack of sleep.
Habit 3: Incorporate Booster Foods
Booster foods are “nutrient-dense condiments and food supplements that are rich in micro and phytonutrients. They are well-known for their therapeutic qualities and the nutritional depth they bring to the diet" (Bauman, 2010). They can be incorporated into any meal to give it an extra boost of nutrients. Booster foods contain anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Some also include anti-viral, anti-bacterial, and anti-fungal properties. Examples of booster foods are spices, herbs, seaweed, algae, mineral/bone broths, nutritional yeast, and nuts/seeds.
Habit 4: Stress Relief
When our body is stressed, the immune systems' ability to fight off invaders severely reduces, leading to an increased risk of disease. Stress disrupts the digestive system, and about 70% of the immune system is located in the gut. When the gut is not functioning correctly, neither is the immune system. The presence of stress signals the body to release hormones and one in particular, corticosteroid, is known to suppress immune function. Short term stress will not wholly diminish your immune system, but chronic, long-term stress will lessen the effectiveness of your immune system. Ways to combat stress are regular meditation, yoga, moderate exercise, and providing the body with nutritious foods.
Habit 5: Daily Personal Sanitary Practices
One significant way to support the immune system is to keep up with daily practices of sanitation.
Washing hands with soap in warm water for at least 20 seconds, not forgetting about the back of the hands or under the nails. Especially remember to wash your hands after use of the restroom, before touching any food that will be consumed and after handling animals.
Cleaning teeth at least once a day helps avoid gum disease and tooth decay.
Thoroughly washing fruits and vegetables before cooking or consumption limits the spread of bacteria.
Cover the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing.
Regularly wash clothing and bedding.
Bauman, E. (2010). Foundations of Nutrition. Penngrove, CA: Bauman College
McLeod, S. A. (2010). Stress, illness and the immune system. Simply psychology: https://www.simplypsychology.org/stress-immune.html