Your immune system does an amazing job of defending against disease and bad microorganisms. However, sometimes invaders get through and make you sick. Is it possible to reduce the risk of disease-causing microorganisms getting through? Can you improve your immune system by making simple lifestyle changes?
How Can You Boost Your Immune System?
There’s a lot of information about ways to boost immunity. However, there isn’t one single solution out there that will achieve this. The immune system isn’t a single entity; it’s what the name suggests, a system. To function at its optimum levels, it needs balance.
The effects of your entire lifestyle are all important for a strong immune system. Researchers are exploring the effects of diet, exercise, stress, mental health, age, and many other factors that affect your immune system. However, for now, there are several lifestyle changes and strategies that can provide benefits for your immune system.
A healthy lifestyle is the first line of defence for a healthy immune system. Following general health guidelines is a good start towards naturally boosting your immune system. Your entire body can function much better when it’s protected from outside invaders. Some healthy lifestyle choices that will benefit your immune system include:
- Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Don’t smoke
- Drink in moderation
- Get plenty of exercise
- Get enough sleep
- Minimise stress
The Immune System and Stress
Many of us have heard about the close link between the mind and body. Emotional stress has been linked to a number of conditions, such as hives, chronic disease, heart disease and digestive problems. The effects of stress on the immune system is also becoming clearer.
Scientists studying the relationship between stress and immune function are not looking at short-lived stress or acute stress, however, they are interested in how constant chronic stress takes a toll on the immune system.
Exercise and The Immune System
Maintaining an active lifestyle is one of the most important factors for overall healthy living. Exercise lowers blood pressure, controls weight, improves cardiovascular health and protects against disease. But does exercise boost the immune system? Regular exercise contributes to overall good health and this includes the immune system. It’s thought that exercise may also contribute directly to a healthy immune system by promoting good circulation. This may allow cells of the immune system to move freely and do their job more efficiently.
Diet and Your Immune System
A healthy diet is one of the most important parts of keeping your immune system strong and healthy. Most of your immune system is in the gut, so it makes sense to keep your digestive system healthy.
Scientists have understood for a while, the link between malnutrition and poor immunity. There is also evidence that certain micronutrient deficiencies alter the immune response, such as iron, zinc, copper, selenium, folic acid and vitamins A, B6, C & E.
Selecting Healthy Foods to Boost Immunity
Diet is an essential step in maintaining a healthy immune system. A diet high in whole foods such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and legumes provide a rich source of nutrients and antioxidants.
Antioxidants help to decrease inflammation, while the fibre in plants food provide a source of food for your gut microbiome. A healthy gut microbiome improves immunity and helps to prevent harmful pathogens from entering your body. Another way to support your gut microbiome is with fermented foods.
Fermented Foods and the Immune System
Fermented foods provide a source of beneficial bacteria (probiotics). The probiotics contained in many fermented foods can help to re-populate and balance your gut bacteria. This strengthens the gut lining, preventing pathogens from getting through and helping to boost your immune system.
There is some evidence that regular consumption of fermented foods improves the immune system’s function and is helpful at reducing the risk of infections. Probiotic foods have also been shown to assist with a faster recovery from viruses.
Another benefit of fermented foods is that many of them contain high levels of vitamin C and iron. Bother of these nutrients contribute to a healthy immune system and the fight against pathogens. Here are some fermented foods that provide a good source of beneficial bacteria:
Most fermented foods are simple enough to make at home. Sauerkraut only requires a few ingredients. Kefir and kombucha are also very easy to make. Although they require very little ingredients and equipment, you may want to buy kefir supplies to get started.
Cruciferous Vegetables Sources
A recent study using mice has shown that consuming cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and kale help the immune system fight intestinal pathogens. The research shows that certain immune cells in the gut have Ah receptors that bind with molecules derived from cruciferous vegetables. When these molecules bind to the receptors it stimulates the immune system to be alert for possible toxins or pathogens.
This research suggests that cruciferous vegetables prime the immune system response to be ready and able to kill invaders that may accompany food in the gut. Cruciferous vegetables include:
- Brussel sprouts
- Bok choy
Some of these vegetables may even provide twice the benefit to the immune system. For example, cabbage is the main ingredient in sauerkraut. Therefore, cabbage not only provides the benefits of cruciferous vegetables, you can also gain the immunity benefits of beneficial bacteria.
Broccoli is another versatile cruciferous vegetable. Broccoli can be eaten raw, cooked, as a quick snack or with dip. You can even grow your own broccoli sprouts easily at home with our broccoli sprout kits .
Key Takeaways in Boosting Your Immune System with Healthy Foods
- Eat a diet rich in plant foods
- Consume fermented foods
- Add cruciferous foods to your diet
- Consume a variety of food high in antioxidants and essential nutrients
Boosting your immune system requires a number of lifestyle factors working together. Diet, exercise, stress and sleep are all important measures to focus on for strong immunity. Your immune system needs a holistic approach to keep it healthy, and each small change can make a difference.