Your immune system plays a vital role in the overall health of your body. In the short term, a strong immune system will help fight off cold and flu viruses and other potentially harmful bacteria. In the long term, it may lower your risk of developing serious diseases like cancer, which has been directly linked to proper immune function.
Now let’s take a look at 5 immune system “boosters”, and 5 “breakers”…
5 Immune System Boosters
1. Regular exercise
Exercise has been shown to increase antibody production by as much as 300%. It has also been shown to increase infection-fighting cells that circulate the body.
In this study, mice were infected with a particularly powerful flu virus. One group of mice were inactive, the second group ran for 20-30 minutes at a moderate pace, and the third group ran for 2.5 hours straight. This was repeated for three days.
The end result: Only 12% of the moderate exercising mice died, as opposed to 50% of the inactive mice, and 70% of the heavily exercising mice.
The conclusion of this, and other similar studies: For optimal immune system health, don’t be sedentary, and don’t exercise excessively.
Tip: Aim for 20-30 minutes of moderate activity, 5 days a week.
2. Vitamin D
It’s no question that vitamin D plays an important role in the strength of your immune system. Since not many foods contain high levels of vitamin D, deficiency is common in individuals who get limited sun exposure.
Tip: Consider taking cod liver oil or vitamin D3 supplements in the winter months if sun exposure is very limited in your climate.
3. Fermented foods
Did you know that your digestive system comprises 70% of your body’s immune system? Simply put, the friendly bacteria in your gut play a huge role in your body’s ability to fight, and by eating fermented foods we encourage the “good” bacteria to flourish.
Tip: Sauerkraut and kimchi are two excellent sources of beneficial bacteria. They can easily be made at home, and are also readily available in health food stores. If purchasing in store, be sure that they have not been pasteurized.
4. Berries, garlic and nuts
Although most whole foods contain beneficial antioxidants that benefit the immune system, berries, garlic, and nuts are particularly powerful foods.
Tip: Goji berries, currants, almonds, walnuts, and pecans are particularly powerful sources of immune boosting phytochemicals and flavonoids.
Protein provides the body with amino acids that play a large role in immune system function. Studies show that consuming too little protein can have a negative impact on the number of immune cells in your body, as well as your body’s ability to generate antibodies.
Tip: Aim for high quality sources of protein like whey, hemp, eggs, fish, and other organic meats.
5 Immune System Breakers
1. Excessive alcohol consumption
Too much alcohol inhibits the production of signalling molecules that the immune system needs for optimal function. This can last for up to 24 hours after drinking.
Tip: Drink less alcohol, and stick to drinks that are low in sugar, since sugar is also thought to have a negative impact on the immune system.
2. Lack of sleep
Simply put, lack of sleep plays a toll our your immune system, and almost all other bodily functions. Not only are those who lack sleep more likely to get sick, they are also more likely to have more significant symptoms of their ailment.
Tip: The amount of sleep required varies by age, diet, activity level etc. Most experts recommend 8 hours of quality sleep each night.
3. High stress levels
From the American Psychological Association:
“Lab studies that stressed people for a few minutes found a burst of one type of “first responder” activity mixed with other signs of weakening. For stress of any significant duration – from a few days to a few months or years, as happens in real life – all aspects of immunity went downhill. Thus long-term or chronic stress, through too much wear and tear, can ravage the immune system.”
Tip: Nearly everyone is faced with some form of stress in their life, but some of us are able to cope with it better than others. If you suffer from chronic stress, try to take up stress relieving activiteis such as yoga, meditation, or exercise.
4. Depression and negative emotions
Studies have show that people who suffer from depression, have negative emotions, and are socially isolated suffer from weakened immune systems.
Tip: Try to think positively and be a happy person, put effort in to maintaining your social circle, and if you think you suffer from depression, get professional help.
5. Processed foods
These foods contain high amounts of sugar, unhealthy oils, GMO’s and other chemicals that hinder immune function.
Tip: Eliminate processed foods from your diet, and replace them with immune boosting whole foods.
By following the tips in this article, you will help boost your body’s natural immune response. In turn, this will help your body become more efficient at fighting off infection, and decreasing the severity of symptoms if you do become infected.
Do you think you have a strong immune system? How many colds do you get each year? Please leave a comment below and let us know!