Top 10 Ways to Boost Your Immune System
The best way you can do to protect yourself from colds, flu, stomach bugs and other nasties this year is to strengthen your immune system naturally.
1. Live a Healthy Lifestyle
Every part of your body, including your immune system, functions better when you
- Exercise regularly.
- Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables, and low in saturated fat.
- Get adequate sleep.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Don’t smoke.
- If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation.
2. Stress Less
If a tiger jumps out at you from behind a tree, your body immediately goes into ‘emergency response’ mode. Adrenaline shoots through your body, and your heart rate goes up, your breathing speeds up, the muscles for running or fighting tighten up, your blood sugar levels increase, so that your body is totally prepared for action. However, the maintenance systems in your body, such as your digestive system and immune system, are turned down. (Occasionally, chronic stress can stimulate a hyperactive immune system, resulting in allergies, food intolerances, some types of asthma, and autoimmune diseases.)
3. Move Your Body
Moderate exercise helps release stress and improves immune function. In a 2006 study, researchers took 115 obese, sedentary, postmenopausal women and assigned half of them to stretching exercises once a week and the other half to at least 45 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five days a week. At the end of the year-long study, the stretchers had three times the rate of colds as the moderate-exercise group.
4. Sleep Soundly
Sleep is a time when the repair hormones do their work. Lack of sleep activates your stress response, depresses your immune functions, and increases the levels of inflammatory chemicals in your body (which make you to feel unwell). In one study, researchers inoculated volunteers’ noses with cold viruses (a reward was involved!); those who regularly slept less than seven hours a night were almost three times more likely to develop a cold than those who slept eight hours or more.
5. Socialise More
It has been shown that people with richer social lives enjoy better health and longevity than loners do. You may think that the more people you interact with, the more chances you have for picking something up. Not so- researchers again blew cold viruses up people’s noses and sent them into the world. Compared with the lone wolves, the social butterflies were less susceptible to developing common colds, and, if they did get sick, they had fewer symptoms for a shorter period of time. This is because the more the immune system is exposed to new bacteria and viruses, the stronger it becomes!
Pets can also do us a world of good. Dogs and horses get us outside exercising, while stroking an animal stirs feelings of well-being, lowers blood pressure, and according to recent research, boosts the immune system. Researchers had college students pet either a stuffed dog or a live dog. Those who petted a real dog were found to have a significant increase in levels of salivary IgG, an antibody (immune protein) that fights infection. (Those who petted the stuffed dog just felt silly.)
6. Consume Friendly Bacteria
70 percent of the cells that make up the body’s immune system are found in the wall of the digestive system, so what we eat can affect the body’s immune responses. ‘Good’ bacteria line the walls of our intestinal, lower urinary and upper respiratory tracts, and they out-compete the ‘bad’ microorganisms, and help with our immune function. You can consume these good bacteria in live-cultured products such as yogurt, sauerkraut or kimchi. Probiotic supplements have a stronger effect, and can reduce the risk of antibiotic-induced diarrhoea, viral diarrhoea, vaginitis, and respiratory infections.
7. Sun-Expose Yourself
Vitamin D plays a number of roles in promoting normal immune function. A deficiency correlates with asthma, cancer, several autoimmune diseases (e.g., multiple sclerosis), and susceptibility to infection (including viral respiratory infections). One study linked deficiency to a greater likelihood of carrying the superbug MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) in the nose.
Unfortunately, nearly one-third of the Australian population is vitamin D deficient. Because few foods contain much vitamin D, your best bet is to regularly spend short periods of time in the sun (without sunscreen), and to take supplements if needed. Guidelines for the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of vitamin D are currently 400 IU/day, but are being revised, and experts predict that the new RDA will be about 1,000 IU/day (25 ug/day).
Garlic has been used as both food and medicine for thousands of years, dating back to when the Egyptian pyramids were built. In early 18th-century France, gravediggers drank crushed garlic in wine believing it would protect them from the plague. During both World Wars I and II, soldiers were given garlic to prevent gangrene. It was also used as an antiseptic, applied to wounds to prevent infection.
Today garlic is used to help prevent heart disease, including treating atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries (which can lead to heart attacks or strokes), high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and to boost the immune system. Eating garlic regularly may also help protect against cancer.
As well as being antibacterial, it is also antiviral, antifungal and antiparasitic. In one study, people took either garlic supplements or placebo for 12 weeks during the “cold season”, and those who took garlic had fewer colds than those who took placebo. Plus, when they did get a cold, the people taking garlic saw their symptoms go away faster than those who took placebo.
By strengthening the immune system, garlic may help the body fight diseases such as cancer. In test tubes, garlic seems to kill cancer cells. And population studies show that people who eat more raw or cooked garlic are less likely to get colon and stomach cancers, and cancer of the oesophagus. In fact, researchers who reviewed 7 studies found a 30% reduction in risk of colorectal cancer among people who ate a lot of raw or cooked garlic. And in a study of 50 people with inoperable colorectal, liver, or pancreatic cancer, their immune activity improved after they took aged garlic extract for 6 months.
9. Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamin C- is a crucial nutrient for boosting the immune system.
Zinc- is essential for cells of the immune system, and zinc deficiency affects the ability of T cells and other immune cells to function as they should.
Vitamin D- see 7. Sun-Expose Yourself above.
Selenium- populations with high levels of selenium in their diet have low rates of cancer, and those with low levels of selenium have high rates.
Vitamin A- vitamin A deficiency is associated with impaired immunity and increased risk of infectious disease.
Vitamin B2- there is evidence that vitamin B2 enhances resistance to bacterial infections
Vitamin B6- several studies have suggested that a vitamin B6 deficiency can depress aspects of the immune response.
Herbs, along with Vitamin C and Zinc, are the ‘big guns’ for fighting infections and boosting the immune system. Some of the key herbs used by naturopaths and herbalists for this are astragalus, andrographis, Echinacea, olive leaf, ginseng, garlic, and shiitake, reishi and maitake mushrooms.
Naturopaths use herbs, vitamins, minerals, and diet to
- Improve your gut immunity
- Make sure you have the correct levels of nutrients to fight off infections
- Provide you with specific formulas to correct any immune imbalances and to strengthen your immune system
Brisbane Acupuncture – to find out if Japanese acupuncture treatments are likely to assist with your condition, please contact our Head Therapist Peter Mills, or book in for a free Assessment.
While massage doesn’t directly treat colds or flus, it can help improve the immune system by reducing stress, promoting better sleep, and improving circulation.
To find out more about improving your immune system, or for the treatment of colds, flu, sinus, allergies, or any other immune condition, please book in for your free Comprehensive Assessment.