With cold and flu season upon us, more and more people are looking for ways to "boost their immune systems". Unfortunately, there is no one supplement or food group that will increase how your immune system functions. It really comes down to a multitude of factors, some that are within our control but many of which we have no control over at all. What we can do is introduce small daily practices that will support our immune systems and help us improve all areas of our health. With that being said, here is the list of foods, supplements, and practices we will be adding to our daily routines and have done in the last few years with great success.
Exercise - Fresh air, increased blood flow to our brains and organs, nature, and sunlight. These are some of the amazing benefits we can obtain by getting outside each day to exercise. A lot of us will be used to attending gyms and group classes but during this time we need to continue to keep exercise as a top priority. Studies have shown time and time again that exercise reduces pro-inflammatory markers and increases longevity. Exercise is also one of the best stress-busting activities we can engage in. When we are stressed, we produce higher levels of cortisol, which has an immune-suppressing effect.
Exercise, especially when done out in nature naturally reduces our cortisol levels and helps to support our immune systems. Aim to get outside for 30 minutes each day and get your heart rate elevated. Youtube and Instagram make working out from home so accessible to everyone, whilst being enjoyable.
Eating a Varied Diet - It's easy to get into a routine of always eating the same foods, but studies show that a diet rich in diversity which includes “all major food groups” (fruit, vegetables, dairy products, meat, nuts, seeds, and whole grains) is associated with a reduced risk of developing chronic illnesses and an increased take of the essential nutrients that work to support our immune systems. Such as vitamin C, A, Zinc and a wide variety of phytonutrients.
Here are some simple ways to increase the variety of nutrients you consume:
- Start your day with a smoothie. Add some of the following ingredients; berries, spinach, kale, flaxseeds, avocado, ginger, lime, turmeric, apple, and nuts.
- Pick two new vegetables next time you're shopping and google a recipe that includes them.
- Roast a large tray of vegetables a few times per week and use them as the base of soups, add to salads or an omelette.
- When cooking, add fresh and dried herbs to your meals.
Vitamin D Supplementation - We now know that vitamin D is hugely important for the proper functioning of our immune systems, and we have thousands of studies to back it up. Dietary sources of this crucial nutrient are oily fish, eggs and fortified foods but their levels are low. Known as ‘The Sunshine Vitamin’, the best source is direct sunlight onto the skin but long winters and living in the Northern Hemisphere make obtaining optimal levels quite difficult. This requires most people living here to supplement, especially throughout Oct-March.
Thankfully we can reach adequate levels through supplementing regularly. The dose you take can depend on many factors, firstly what your current levels are. If you aren't sure what your current vitamin D levels are, check with your GP or via a home testing kit (we hope to offer these very soon). During winter months, we should all aim to supplement with between 2000iu-3000iu of vitamin D daily to get our levels >75nmol/L. Our go-to vitamin D supplement is from an Irish brand called Somega. Each spray contains 3000iu of vitamin D, which makes hitting those optimal targets so simple. https://yourwellnesscollective.ie/products/vitamin-d-spray
Sleep - A good night’s sleep is crucial for maintaining a healthy body, but most importantly a healthy immune system. Sleep enriches our ability to learn, memorise, and make logical decisions. It restocks our immune system, fine-tunes our metabolism and regulates our appetite. Good quality sleep has also been shown to reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Diabetes by allowing the brain and body to heal. Right now we want to make it top of our priority list. The main thing is practising good sleep hygiene. This means doing things which are known to improve sleep, and avoiding those things which disturb sleep. Sleep expert Matthew Walker recommends we aim to get around 8 hours of sleep per night. “A growing body of scientific work” shows that “a solid seven to nine hours of sleep a night serves functions beyond our wildest imaginations.”
- Move your body, preferably outside in nature.
- Eat a wide variety of whole foods to ensure adequate nutrient intake.
- Supplement with vitamin D.
- Prioritise sleep - aiming for 8 hours per night.
We hope you find this information useful and easy to implement into your daily routine. If you have a family member or friend that you feel would benefit from this article please forward it on. Sharing is caring :)