By Sue Bedford (MSc Nutritional Therapy)
Effective immunity requires appropriate nutrition and lifestyle choices. Deficiencies of certain nutrients can result in the suppression of immune function. Environmental toxins, stress, lifestyle factors, pollution and genetic make-up can place further strain on our immune system. Effective immune function needs adequate levels of specific nutrients to protect against invasion from unwanted micro-organisms and also to help to assist where necessary to return our immune system to a ‘resting’ situation when protection is not required. The essential defence mechanisms in our body rely heavily on the entire gastrointestinal tract functioning efficiently including the bacteria present in the gut (the microbiome).
Why not try incorporating some of these simple yet effective 8 nutrition and lifestyle choices into your daily routine too support your wellbeing this winter and beyond?
Eating foods that support the immune system is an excellent method to help protect the body from infection. Consume a rainbow of fresh fruits and vegetables, as well as oily fish and whole grains. Pre- and probiotic-rich diets assist to increase microbial diversity in the gut, which has a positive impact on overall health. Benefits can be obtained by eating foods like onions, garlic, leeks, kefir, live yoghurt, and sauerkraut.
Increase your intake of vitamin C-rich foods, which play a key role in immune system function and include potent antioxidants that assist to mop up free radicals that can cause stress and cell ageing.
Avoid foods that promote infection like heavily processed foods, sugar and fizzy drinks is also key to enriching the microbiome and supporting immunity. Make good choices here and drink plenty of fresh water, herbal teas or make your own juices, smoothies and shots containing citrus fruit, ginger and turmeric.
Get outdoors in the fresh air – great for body, mind and giving the immune system a boost.
Increase your vitamin D intake – Vitamin D is sometimes referred to as the “Sunshine Vitamin” because it requires sunlight to be synthesised (which is produced underneath the skin following exposure to sunlight). Vitamin D comes in two forms: vitamin D2 (found in a small number of foods) and vitamin D3 (produced by the skin when exposed to sunshine). Because exposure to sunshine is limited for individuals living in the northern hemisphere, those who spend a lot of time indoors, and those with darker skin, it is recommended (in the UK) to supplement vitamin D by taking 10 micrograms a day from October to March, however some people may benefit from taking it all year round (chat with your GP, Qualified Nutritional Therapist or Dietician).
Ensure you are getting enough quality sleep. Inflammatory responses in the body can be triggered by sleep loss, which can impair the immune system. In comparison to healthy sleepers, insomniacs are more likely to have impaired immune systems, according to studies.
Interleukin-6, a substance released in the body whenever there is inflammation, has been linked to infertility that isn’t explained. According to the studies, women with unexplained infertility had higher IL-6 levels than women who didn’t. Try to get a healthy sleep routine in place, going to bed at the same time and waking at the same time, reducing screen time, ensuring your room is not too hot are a few considerations.
Exercise …a fast walk each day in the fresh air for 20-30 minutes will help to reduce inflammation in the body and support a healthy immune system.
8. Schedule some “me time” to help with stress relief and relaxation. Although stress is an inescapable aspect of life, it can have a harmful impact on the immune system if it is chronic. Do something you’re interested in… Yoga, pilates, a stroll, a good book… Whatever works for you will be beneficial to your mind, body, and immune system!
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