As we transition from fall to winter, it's never been more important to check in on our immune system and the daily practices we're doing to keep it strong. Below, we've gathered our top 8 tips for maintaining a healthy immune system so you can stay healthy and happy all year long.
1. Wash Your Hands Frequently
If there's one thing that the Covid-19 Pandemic has reminded us of, it's the importance of making sure our hands are clean and germ-free. Hand-washing is our first line of defense against the spread of many illnesses and is something that we can easily implement into our days as much as needed.
For your best defense against germs, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds and rinse under warm water. Lather the soap between your fingers, on your wrists, the backs of your hands, and under your nails.
2. The Power of Food
A colorful, nutrient-filled diet is oh-so-important for maintaining optimal health and keeping the immune system in tip-top shape. And there are so many different ways to fill your plate.
Fruits and Vegetables
Eating loads of fruits and vegetables throughout your day supplies you with vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, and other micronutrients your body needs to stay healthy. Fruits and vegetables like leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, peppers, sweet potatoes, and squashes are high in immune-boosting vitamins A and C.
Protein is essential for a healthy diet, but it's vital for the immune system too. Protein is the body's building blocks and is essential for keeping your immune and detoxification systems strong. Balance your plate with your favorite animal or plant-based proteins at each meal and snack.
Herbs and Spices
Cooking with herbs and spices with anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties can be a powerful boost for your immune system and add a flavor boost to your favorite dishes. Ingredients like garlic, onion, ginger, turmeric, clove, oregano, thyme, cinnamon, and cumin have been shown to benefit the immune system and prevent the growth of bacteria and fungi. Try adding these beneficial herbs and spices to soups, stews, curries, vegetables, and other dishes.
What to Avoid
Consuming too much processed food, refined sugar, and alcohol can take a heavy toll on the health of your immune system. It's best to avoid these foods as much as possible.
3. Get Those Good ZZZs
Sleep and immunity are intimately tied. Studies show that those who get less sleep or inadequate sleep are more susceptible to sickness than those who get enough good quality sleep. This is because our bodies' immune systems use sleep to help defend against infection and disease.
The amount of sleep you need each night depends on factors like your age, but in general, adults should aim to get at least 7 or more hours of quality sleep each night. Teenagers need between 8 to 10 hours, while younger children and infants can get up to 14 hours.
Oh, and if you feel tired during the day and want to take a nap—DO IT! Your body (and immune system) will thank you.
4. Exercise Regularly
Moderate, regular exercise like swimming, walking, hiking, biking, or jogging, can give your immune system a much-needed boost by reducing inflammation and promoting healthy turnover of immune cells. All you need is to carve at least 10 to 30 minutes out of your day to get your body moving.
5. Immune Boosting Supplements
Making sure your body has all of the necessary nutrients to stay healthy is essential for maintaining a healthy immune system. Incorporating immune-boosting supplements like multivitamins, B vitamins, vitamins C and D, zinc, elderberry, and mushrooms in addition to a healthy, well-balanced diet can be an easy and highly beneficial habit that ensures your body has all it needs to stay healthy and strong.
6. Settle Your Stress
Chronic stress isn't good for us, really ever. Stress can weaken our immune systems, making us more vulnerable to illness. It affects our body’s immune system by causing us to produce extra levels of cortisol and cytokines, triggering inflammation. This can affect the availability of white blood cells that fight infection, leaving you more vulnerable to getting sick.
Techniques we love for settling stress and calming the nervous system include meditation, yoga, breathing techniques, and relaxing activities like reading.
7. Get That Good Gut Bacteria
Scientists now believe that the health of our gut affects the health and function of our other bodily systems much more than previously thought. In fact, up to 80% of our immune system could be in our gut. Though the interconnection between the two is a bit complicated, in short, when the gut microbiome is healthy and running smoothly, the gut can send signals to the immune system to help modulate its responses.
Improving the health of your gut can be done by improving your diet: cutting out processed, nutrient-lacking foods and filling up on healthy prebiotic fiber from fruits, vegetables, and legumes that increase microbiome diversity. Taking digestive enzymes or eating probiotic-rich foods like kefir can also help your gut-immune connection.
8. Warm Up with Hot Drinks
When you're sick, your body naturally heats up to combat pathogens and kick the immune system into gear. But even when you're not sick, making sure to keep your body temperature warm can significantly help your immune system stay healthy and alert.
At Herbalary, we love staying warm while drinking hot nutrient-rich drinks that will warm up our bodies and help protect our insides. Drinking hot tea with immune-boosting ingredients like ginger, tulsi, turmeric, cinnamon, echinacea, and elderberry day or night can give your body the natural defenses it needs to stay healthy all year long.