How to boost immune health

While we have all been washing our hands diligently and maintaining social distancing like our life depends on it maybe it’s time to ask ourselves what else might help to avoid illness and boost our immune system.

The beauty of having a strong immune system is that it can help you avoid many illnesses.

It may not prevent you catching them but it will help to fight the bugs off and to recover faster. You have much more control over your immune system than you may think. Contrary to what the adverts may tell you strong immune health does not come out of a bottle, vitamins can help but going natural will always be most effective.

Here’s what to do and what not to do for a strong immune system.

  1. Feed your healthy gut.  Much of your immune system is influenced by your gut microbiome and research shows that eating a diverse range of high fibre whole foods is one way to do this. The beauty of high fibre foods like oats, vegetables and beans is that they fill you as well as help maintain healthy blood sugars. Fermented foods like kefir, sauerkraut and kimchi are probiotic foods that are great for your digestion as well as boosting your immune system.
  1. Vegetables. It get a second mention in case you missed it first time! Increasing your vegetable intake could be the best thing you can do for your immune system right now. Get into the habit of eating as many different colours as possible but always include greens. Vitamin C is particularly good and is plentiful in red peppers, broccoli and cauliflower.
  1. Berries are the best of the fruits, they are bursting with nutrients and have lots of fibre. Try to eat a mix of blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and strawberries. They are a fantastic way to jazz up plain unsweetened yoghurt. Top it with some nuts and seeds and it’s a meal for a king. Plus, it’s really filling! If you can, eat live yoghurt with them as this too is great for your gut bacteria (also called microbiome)
  1. There’s a reason why we say sleep underpins our health. Getting those 8 hours is crucial to your immune health. We do most of our healing while we are sleeping and studies have shown that if we are not getting adequate sleep we are much more likely to catch illnesses and viruses. Particularly during this time prioritise your sleep and get as much as you need. For most adults that’s a minimum of 7 hours.
  1. Sunshine. As well as positively affecting our mood which also boosts our immune system sunshine on your skin really does produce Vitamin D which is important to your immune system. This time of the year we tend to be low in Vitamin D as we have had a long winter and we’ve been covered up. Sun holidays are not an option in the near future but we can still get a good dose of D from the Irish sun. Getting as much fresh air and natural light on your face also helps you get more quality sleep so take advantage at every opportunity.
  1. Exercise. Rather than think of it as a weight loss tool think of it as strengthening your immune system. Exercise has so many benefits but it rarely gets credit for keeping illness at bay. Try to get a minimum of 40 minutes per day but every little helps and even 5 minutes is better than nothing. In truth 5 minutes of high intensity and sweating may be better than a 20 minutes stroll. But both is best, at every opportunity. You don’t need to go for the burn, movement throughout the day is important for all of us and to keep our immune systems strong.

Here’s what can damage your immune system and put you at greater risk of catching illnesses and being sicker for longer:

  1. Stress. It can have a negative effect on your immune system also and increase inflammation which can worsen many symptoms.
  1. Sugar and processed foods. Food manufacturers do not concern themselves with your immune system, they create addictive foods most of which have added sugars. These foods and drinks can really wreck your immune system and no amount of exercise will make up for it. One fizzy drink and breakfast roll can lower your immune system for an hour!
  1. Alcohol. Beer tends to be laced with sugar so if you are overweight or at risk of diabetes be mindful of this. Also, do not add fizzy drinks to shots as this will be a double whammy on your immune system as well as your liver and blood sugar.
  1. It’s not just lungs that are affected by smoking, it too will deplete your immune system. Particularly in this covid -19 crisis your immune system and your lungs need to be as strong as possible. It’s never too late to quit and the benefits are almost immediate.

The beauty of implementing some of these means not only will you boost your immune system, you will also reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes, some cancers and Alzheimer’s disease as well as losing weight (if necessary), having more energy and improving your mood.

What’s not to love about that!