As exercise strengthens your muscles, doing a bit of immune-system upkeep by avoiding destructive habits and embracing some simple immune supports can go a long way towards keeping you as healthy as possible. During this unprecedented time where each of us need all the help we can muster to stay healthy, here are a few pointers to naturally bolster your immune system.
Get gutsy. Your gastrointestinal tract harbors 80% of the cells that provide your immunity. Amazing, right? It’s the natural frontline of defense in many cases where our body decides, friend or foe. These immune cells don’t just protect your intestinal lining but serve to play a large role in maintaining the health of your entire body. The Gut Microbiome includes close to 40 trillion bacteria and over 1000 species that live inside your intestinal tract and communicate with those immune cells. Interestingly, the foods you eat, or don’t eat, affect the diversity of your gut bacteria which can either strengthen or weaken your body’s ability to ward off disease.Consistent probiotic use, particularly one with multiple bacterial strains, works to repopulate your gut with healthy, immune-supporting bacteria. When you add a healthy, non-inflammatory diet to regular probiotic use, not only is your digestion aided and nutritional uptake enhanced, but your immune system can turn its focus elsewhere and work to lessen inflammation throughout the body. Look for a multiple-strain probiotic with 15-30 billion CFUs (colony-forming units) and double up if you are ill or taking antibiotics that alter the gut microbiome. You can find probiotics in fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kombucha and kimchi.
Certain foods and nutrients have superpowers when it comes to bolstering your immunity. Vitamin C (1000mg per day) is a catalyst for collagen repair and healing as well as an immune support. Foods highest in Vitamin C include cantaloupe, citrus, sweet potatoes, parsley, bell peppers and everyone’s favorite, kale. Vitamin D (2000 IU per day) works intimately with your immune cells to modulate your immune responses. Deficiency is associated with an increased susceptibility to infection. Foods high in Vitamin D include salmon, dairy, spinach, egg yolks and once again, kale. Bone broth, a staple of every cross-fit loving athlete, also merits mention. Natural collagen and amino acids in bone broth soothe the gut, reduce inflammation and support healing and recovery. Some of the most powerful anti-viral and anti-cancer substances known to science are present in certain mushrooms. Shiitake mushrooms are high in antioxidants and delicious to eat. Reishi mushrooms are typically dried and the powder encapsulated.
Get moving. Moderate physical exercise improves your antibody response to infection. Over-exercising, or over training without recovery, however, increases your susceptibility to infection and to injury. Attempt to exercise daily, but mix it up switching between cardio, strength, stretching and meditation. The use of an infrared sauna as an additive support to exercise’s immunity boost has recently come into vogue. It works to raise your core body temperature, and allow for deep relaxation. Many infrared saunas utilize chromotherapy (color therapy) with roots in Ayurveda, ancient Egyptian and Chinese healing to stimulate or evoke health and stress reduction.
Be still. We all know the importance of Chronic sleep deprivation or a disruption in the sleep-wake cycle leads to an inflammatory immune response and a set up for illness and disease. Aim for 7-8 hours per night on a regular basis. Strive for stress reduction in any way you know how. Just like sleep deprivation, chronic stress results in an increase in baseline cortisol and subsequent inflammation and dampens our immune response to bacteria and virus attacks. Plan a daily meditation and reflection ritual and look forward to just being still. Whether it’s a five-minute break to just breathe, soak in a warm bath, read some inspiration or focus on the positives in your life, the impact is additive to all your other efforts to boost your immunity and strengthen your health.