When it comes to your immune system, even if you rarely get sick, there is always something more you could be doing to strengthen your defenses. Boosting your immunity is especially important during the fall and winter months, when flu season is at its peak.
We will be exploring a couple of easy steps you can take to fortify your immunity, by making some simple lifestyle changes, to help you to (hopefully) make it through these tough few months of cold and flu season unscathed. First, let’s explore why our immune system is so important, and what its primary roles are.
The role of your immune system
Our immune system has two major roles. One is to protect us from danger, like infections. The other is to repair our tissues and help our cells “take out the garbage” (i.e. clear up cellular waste/remove dead cells) on a regular basis. The immune system uses inflammation as the primary tool in both of these functions, but that inflammation must be held in almost perfect balance for us to stay healthy. Too much inflammation and we can develop chronic illnesses such as arthritis, diabetes, and dementia, among others1. The good news? We can ‘tune up’ our immune system by modifying some of our behaviors, such as by exercising and eating healthier.
Benefits of exercise
Most people are familiar with the public health recommendations for physical activity to improve our health, which is that adults should do at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity. Physical activity is associated with reduced rate of heart complications, stroke, diabetes, and dementia. It also gives us endorphins and helps us achieve and maintain our weight. Exercise is also thought to improve our immunity, as well. Some studies show that moderate physical activity may help to flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways. This may in turn reduce the chances of getting a cold or flu. Exercise can also cause changes in antibodies and white blood cells. For reference, white blood cells are the body’s immune system cells that fight disease. These antibodies or white blood cells circulate more rapidly after we exercise, which enables them to detect illnesses earlier than they may have before2. Also, the brief rise in body temperature during and after working out may even prevent bacteria from growing. This temperature rise may help the body fight infection better. Lastly, exercise slows down the release of stress hormones, and lower stress hormones may protect you from getting sick. So, step #1 is to get in your weekly exercise! This could be as simple as taking a 20 minute walk, playing golf, or bicycling a few times a week. Get out there and get active!
Maintaining a healthy diet helps keep the immune system balanced and ready to fight against infections and viruses. Since your immune system requires a healthy balance of real foods, these nutrients should be a top priority for your everyday eating pattern. This is step #2: make healthier choices with the foods you eat.
Protein: Protein is the building block of immune cells. A diet lacking in protein can seriously put a damper on your immune function. Most adults need at least 50 grams of quality protein per day (or a palm-sized portion per meal). It may help to make a weekly meal plan so that it’s easier to incorporate healthy protein. This could be doing eggs for breakfast, turkey chili for lunch, and salmon for dinner. Also, throw in a handful of pumpkin seeds, many people don’t know that they are packed with protein!
Antioxidants: Fill your plate with some colorful foods! A general rule of thumb is that the more colorful the foods on your plate, the healthier they are (unless it’s a bag of M&M’s, of course). Deep, rich colors indicate micronutrients and antioxidants, which your body needs for protection and for recovery from illness3. Studies have shown that antioxidants improve immune responses, so don’t be afraid to throw some bell peppers, purple cabbage, and green beans on your plate.
Supplements for success
In addition to these immune-boosting tips, we also encourage you to take a look in your medicine cabinet (or kitchen pantry). Odds are, there are a few different type of vitamins and supplements in there that can help boost your immunity. You can combine several different types of supplements, in order to really fortify and build that immune system. Your vitamin C supplement, combined with a daily probiotic, and even a nutritious powdered green drink, can pack quite the punch to any would-be illnesses, and stop them in their tracks. Something extra to add to the mix is a supplement containing Aged Garlic Extract. Supplements that contain this potent ingredient can really strengthen your cardiovascular and immune system by maintaining circulatory function and promoting overall well-being.
Finding balance in your routine and making changes to diet and exercise habits can be tough, so start small. Try introducing/eliminating one new food item each week, and adding 10 minutes of exercise to your regimen each week as well. Here’s to staying healthy and flu-free this fall and winter!
This article is for informational purposes only. This article is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.