Our immune system defends us daily against diseases. The older we get, and the more we mistreat our bodies, and the weaker our immune system becomes.
Although it is quite enticing to believe that there are short cuts to boost our immunity, the reality is less glamorous than we think. We can’t walk into a pharmacy and help our body defense system by simply buying one well-marketed product standing on the shelves.
Many talks about Vit C to prevent cold and flu, but do we really believe a fizzy and sugarish Vit C supplement can help our cells prevent bacteria and viruses from entering our bodies? Quite unlikely. It can support our system, but it won’t help us unless we put other changes in place.
The reality is that we are constantly bombarded by different types of bacteria and viruses; especially as parents, sometimes we can’t even catch a break between one illness and the other, and we go through life feeling miserable, tired, and showcasing massive bags under our eyes.
Here comes the question: how can we help our bodies toughen up and get ready for seasonal changes?
1-Stress reduction and sleep: it should be common sense to sleep at least 8 hours per night and to be able to relax and unwind at the end of the day. Most of the time, it doesn’t happen. Heavy workload, kids, wired and tired brain…you name it.
Sleeping is as important as eating well and drinking enough water. Without sleep, we can’t survive, and when we are sleep deprived, we are more prone to catch germs and get sick. If you don’t sleep well, take napping as seriously as you would take a full-time job; if you can’t nap, give resting, meditation, and gentle stretching a chance. Your body needs to heal, rebuild itself, while your mind needs to unwind and relax. Make that a priority.
2- Don’t take antibiotics unless they are SERIOUSLY needed. Antibiotics indiscriminately kill bacteria, both good and bad. It takes only 1 round of antibiotics to change our bodies dramatically …and it takes years to recover. According to WHO, the overuse of antibiotics has recently led to bacteria that have developed antibiotic resistance by altering their genes after being in contact with antibiotics. Question your doctor next time he prescribes you with “precautionary” rounds of antibiotics.
3- Decrease alcohol and quit smoking: smoking is bad for your health. Full stop. If you have a recurrent cough, if you live with minors and are constantly tired, smoking shouldn’t even be an option.
Alcohol weakens your liver and your metabolism altogether. Not only it depletes your nutrients absorption and leads to impaired gut functions; in the long term, drinking may also affect your mental health and lead to anxiety and even depression.
4- Get some sun: Vitamin D protects us against illness and a range of chronic diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Sunlight is the easiest and healthiest way to get sufficient vitamin D; aim for 10 to 15 minutes of sun exposure a day (without sunscreen).
5- Exercise regularly: Keeping active is essential to improve the cardiovascular and respiratory systems and maintain mental sanity. Go to a strength training, yoga or Pilates class, take a couple of hours for yourself on the weekend and go for a hike. Whatever you chose to do, make sure it’s fun, and that leaves you energised.
6- Eat well. The immune system needs proper, constant nourishment. Cut down on the foods that work against your body’s optimal health (pre-packaged meals, sodium, sugar, and trans-fat loaded aliments), increase your consumption of veggies (rich in different vitamins), fruits (Vit C…remember? The real one filled with antioxidants, antiviral and antibacterial), seeds and nuts (Selenium, zinc, magnesium, you name it) and lean healthy (organic when possible) proteins.
DOWNLOAD the printable “Strong Immunity Resource Guide” to find more about the optimal foods, supplements, herbs, and essential oils to support your immune system.
7- Probiotics. Remember that the gut is our second brain? It goes without saying that it needs to be pampered with loads of living bacteria, every day ( sauerkraut, Kefir, Kvass, Yogurt, etc.)
8- Wash your hands often, especially during the cold and flu season. A simple task like washing your hands can drastically reduce your chances of getting infected. Wash your hands with warm soapy water while singing “Happy Birthday,” twice. This is the time it takes to kill unwanted germs. Also, avoid using hand sanitisers too often, as they are too harsh on the skin, and they can deplete our natural immune functions.
9- Trust the herbs. Garlic is rich in vitamins A, C, E, and minerals such as selenium, sulfur, and zinc (all vital to immune function). It also protects against infections, colds, and flu and has antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties. Echinacea increases the activity and number of immune cells, such as macrophages and T-cells, making them more efficient in attacking bacteria and viruses such as colds and flu. Thyme kills bacterias and infection; Turmeric is anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiviral, and is a natural antioxidant.
Next time you cook, add your herbs, and look at the magic unfold.
10- Be social. We are social animals. We weren’t born to be isolated. Isolation can lead to depression, constant sadness, and it does affect our immune function. Call up that old friend of yours, as laughing and sharing life can only benefit your health.
The REAL secret to a more robust immune system?
Be mindful, respect your body clock, and eat whole, nourishing foods when hungry. And laugh a lot — every day.