6 Ways to BOOST Your Immune System

 

The winter months generally are a time when we are all fighting to stay away from colds and flu, but this year we are being faced with new strains which are affecting the population very differently from what we have seen before. 

We are all responsible for practicing good personal hygiene and thorough hand washing should be standard practice for all of us to prevent spread of bacteria and germs. In addition to taking care of our own hygiene, here are a few tips to boost your immune system and help you to prevent and fight infections:

 

  • Eat a range of fresh fruit and vegetables
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Get outside in the fresh air
  • Enjoy quality sleep
  • Take regular exercise
  • Reduce stress
 
  • Eat a range of fresh fruit and vegetables

The phrase ‘you are what you eat’ is absolutely true. What we put into our bodies has a direct impact on our energy levels, cognitive function, muscle recovery and our ability to fight infection and heal the body. A nutritious, balanced diet that includes a range of colourful fresh fruit and veg will give your body all of the essential vitamins and minerals it needs to function optimally. Include dark leafy greens, root veg and beans/ pulses and complement with lean protein and healthy fats.

Foods high in sugar, trans fats and salt (often processed) will reduce our macronutrient intake and have been linked to long term conditions, so it is best to avoid these as much as possible or keep to a minimum. Some common foods, which have been suggested to boost the immune system, include; citrus fruits, berries, ginger, garlic, oatmeal and yoghurt.

  • Drink plenty of water

We should all aim for around 2 litres of water a day, or more if we exercise regularly. The body is made up of around 80% water, which helps to flush toxins through the body, regulates body temperature, absorbs nutrients, lubricates joints and promotes flow of oxygen and nutrients through the body. We can last without food for much longer than we can without water and some will experience the effects of dehydration in a few hours. It’s a good idea to carry a reusable water bottle with you to make sure you are topped up throughout the day!

  • Get outside in the fresh air

Getting outside in the fresh air will give your system a much-needed boost. Any activity that gets your blood pumping will increase your oxygen levels promoting cell renewal and contributing to a strong healthy body. Take some deep breaths in through the nose and out through the mouth whenever you are outside in clean open space. Being outdoors will also give you a much-needed dose of vitamin D, which isn’t always easy to come by through the winter months in the UK. Our bodies need sufficient Vitamin D to fight viruses and bacteria, so try to get outside in the day whenever you can. Even if the sun isn’t out, you will still reap the benefits!

  • Enjoy quality sleep

Many of us don’t get as much sleep as we really need. Restful sleep is essential for a healthy body and mind. When you sleep, the protective immune system chemicals in your body increase in levels, while inflammatory cells decline, which is why less sleep could result in a deprived immune system. Quality sleep will keep your immune system in fighting shape, and also protect you from other health issues including heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.  If your sleep schedule is interrupted by a busy work schedule or other factors, try to take a nap in the day if practical. Taking a nap no longer than 30 minutes has been shown to help decrease stress, improve cognitive function and offset the negative effects that sleep deprivation has on the immune system. Try to stick to a regular schedule for going to bed and waking up. Avoid screens, eating late and exercise right before bedtime.

  • Take regular exercise

Regular exercise is good for the body and mind. It helps to keep our heart and lungs functioning as they should do as well as maintaining a strong and flexible body and helps to promote quality sleep. Exercise has also been shown to reduce stress, which itself can have a huge impact on our body and immune system. It is a good idea to include a variety of exercise in your routine that will raise your heart rate and also strengthen and condition the body, promoting muscle and bone development and toning. Get outside and embrace the elements for a healthy dose of clean air and vitamin D, which will also do you the world of good. *If you are planning on a new exercise programme or routine and have any health concerns, do speak to your GP or seek advice beforehand.

  • Reduce stress

Life can be incredibly stressful with demands at work, home, relationships or family life. Our lifestyle can have a huge impact on how we function physically or mentally and everything we do is inter-linked. Research shows that stress can have a direct impact on the immune system and those that report low levels of stress are less likely to develop cold symptoms and have improved recovery from injury or illness. Essentially, your body does a better job fighting off illness and healing wounds when it’s not under stress. A healthy diet and regular exercise can help to reduce stress, but its good to think about the factors that are causing us stress in the first place an eliminate those as far as possible, or find an effective coping strategy. Try practicing mindfulness or yoga, or any other activity that helps you to focus on you and relax and wind down.

 

Getting into these healthy habits will help your body to fight infections and speed up recovery if you do get ill. A healthy lifestyle will also help to prevent long-term conditions that can lead to a multitude of illnesses such as diabetes, obesity, heart disease and respiratory problems.

Making some positive changes now will mean you can get more out of later life, keep well and not to mention, reduce some of the pressure on our NHS and save them a huge amount of money! If there was ever a time to really think about your health and lifestyle choices and make some positive changes it is NOW…

 

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