Your immune system is constantly at work to support your health and well-being. However, it goes largely unnoticed until your system becomes overwhelmed. When your body is put under stress, extra support is needed to assist your immune system so that it can fulfil its function as your body’s defence mechanisim. There are many ways you can support your immune system so that it functions well and many of these ways are considered fundamental health basics. Whether it is incorporating immunity supporting herbs or eating a nutrient-dense diet and antioxidant rich foods, this is our reminder that good health doesn’t need to be complicated.
Back to basics – Hydration
Water transports nutrients around the body helping to regulate our temperature, aid digestion and flush out toxins. An essential nutrient, water keeps our skin, tissues, organs, and cells lubricated and supports a healthy immune response in the body. Keeping hydrated also helps the brain to function and reduces drowsiness. It is important that we are drinking around 2 litres of water each day and more if you are consuming caffeine.
Tip: Keep a glass of plain water on your bedside table to drink when you wake; whilst you have been sleeping your body has been working hard to grow and repair any damage and needs the hydration.
Back to basics – Exercise
Research suggests regular exercise helps to reduce the number of infections we face each year, not only because it supports our immune system, but it helps to flush toxins from the body. Exercise helps to oxygenate the lungs while supporting circulation, energy levels and sleep. Moving your body is one of the simplest ways to connected with yourself. If you are feeling overwhelmed, it is best to avoid strenuous exercise as this can put your immune system under more pressure.
Tip: Whether it is going for a run, taking a walk in nature, dancing taking the kids to the park or practising breath-focussed movement like yoga, Pilates or tai-chi; make sure you move your body in a way that is enjoyable every day.
Herbs – Astragalus
Astragalus is one of the most important Chinese herbs for invigorating vital energy. Considered an immune tonic, Astragalus supports our immune response. Also considered an antioxidant, Astragalus helps the body deal with damaging free radicals as well as working as an adaptogen to support our nervous system to respond to stress in a healthy way.
– Olive Leaf
The olive leaf has been used by traditional practitioners for thousands of years. The tree itself can withstand major weather events, environmental stressors, and pollutants. The reason for this, is that compounds within the olive strengthen the tree and inhibit several viruses and bacteria, making it a wonderful tonic for our immune system when we make it into an extract. Scientists have long been researching the olive tree, confirming the traditional use of the leaf as an antioxidant and anti-microbial. A strong antioxidant, olive leaf supports our immune system and the body’s response to oxidative stress.
Vitamins – Vitamin C
During times of stress, our stress hormone cortisol is released which depletes our Vitamin C levels. Vitamin C is crucial to our immune system, and we cannot produce it internally. Our need for dietary and supplemental Vitamin C increases enormously when we are stressed. Vitamin C is essential for our collagen production and to act as an antioxidant in times of stress. Vitamin C can be found in citrus, berries, capsicum, and dark leafy greens, and can even be found in animal organs! The consumption of this wonderful vitamin also helps to absorb other immune supporting nutrients such as iron and zinc.
Tip: Up to 100% of Vitamin C can be destroyed through cooking and storing, therefore it is best eaten fresh or taken in a supplement.
Vitamins – Vitamin D
Produced through adequate exposure to direct sunlight, levels of vitamin D are decreased by sunblock use in the summer and the unavailability of UVB rays from the sun in winter. Vitamin D is often found in low levels in people with poor immune systems, demonstrating the importance of Vitamin D. Vitamin D can also help to support lung health as well as respiratory tract health. Vitamin D3 is the form we need from our diet when UVB is unavailable, and we can get that from fatty animal foods, especially eggs, butter, kidneys, liver, fish, and free-range pork. You could try a quality cod liver oil, which has vitamin A and D3 in the right ratio – make sure it’s a brand that do not remove all of the vitamins and then put synthetic ones back in!. Use a vitamin D3 supplement only if absolutely necessary.
Minerals – Magnesium
Involved in over 300 processes within the body, magnesium plays an essential role in our lives. Coffee and alcohol, increased stress, and decreased sleep, amplify our need for magnesium. Magnesium has a direct influence over the parasympathetic part of the nervous system, also known as our ‘rest and digest’ branch. It is when the parasympathetic branch is active that we are the most relaxed and our immune system is able to function at its best. Because magnesium supports smooth muscle relaxation, it can be used to support healthy bronchial and respiratory systems and support recovery from winter ills.
Minerals – Zinc
Found in every cell of the body, Zinc works as the precursor to white blood cells, the cells of the immune system. Because of this, it functions well both as a preventative as well as a treatment. Zinc supports our immune system and maximizes the bioavailability of a range of vitamins and minerals, ensuring our body can function optimally.
Self-care – Adequate sleep
If we do not receive adequate sleep each night, not only is our mood and mental focus compromised, but our immune system is as well. It is during sleep that our cells undergo repair, making sleep crucial for everyday function. Aim for 8-9 hours of sleep per night so that your immune system can function optimally, and you can feel your best.
Tip: If you are having trouble sleeping, a bit of protein taken at night, or an Epsom salt (magnesium) bath may help to relax your nervous system for a good night’s sleep.
Nature has supplied us with some great effective vitamins, minerals and herbs that can support a healthy immune system. Nourishing your body with these key nutrients will support your body during these uncertain times and prepare you for the winter season ahead.