The key to a boosting your immune system is living a lifestyle of good-for-you behaviors. When you take care of yourself, your immune system will take care of you.
As a first line of defense for your body to fight off infection and illnesses, your immune system requires some TLC. It’s a complex system of cells, tissues and organs including your digestive system, skin, tonsils, bone marrow, lymph nodes, and the thin membrane tissues inside the nose, throat and genitals. Basically it plays a prominent role in your entire body.
Taking action today, will help ensure your tomorrows are healthy and happy. Wondering where to start? Here are 6 ways you can boost your immune system.
Eat More Whole Plant-Based Foods
When it comes to supporting your immune system, plant based foods will always serve you well. They are loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, phytonutrients and fiber…all the things that keep your body healthy, happy and operating at an optimal level.
The antioxidants found in plant-based foods will go to work gathering up the excess free radicals floating throughout your body. Free radicals are a very normal part of our body’s make-up. And although we naturally have antioxidants in our body to balance out free radicals, their availability decreases as we age. If left unchecked, these free radicals can wreck havoc on our systems, building up to the point of chronic inflammation which leads to numerous health conditions ranging from autoimmune diseases, heart disease, alzheimer’s to certain cancers. That makes it even more imperative that we increase the amount of antioxidants we take in through our food.
In addition, plant-based foods will add a great deal of fiber to your diet. This makes the members of your gut flora (your microbiome) do the happy dance. Fiber feeds the healthy bacteria found in your gut, meaning they thrive, keeping the unhealthy bacteria to a low roar. When your gut is out of balance, your unhealthy gut bacteria are thriving…leaving you with the feeling of bloating, gassiness, constipation, diarrhea, etc. Not so fun!
Focusing on eating more plant based foods supports your gut which supports your immune system, lowering inflammation and improving your overall health.
Cut Back on Sugar and Processed Foods
Sugar. Ahhh…we all love the short-lived sweet sensation of a treat, but the long term effects of having too much sugar in our diet significantly increases not only your weight, but also the chance to develop Type 2 diabetes or heart disease. All three of these conditions weaken the immune system, leaving you more susceptible to colds, flu and infections.
Did you know there are over 56 different names for the types of “sugar” you’ll find in processed foods? Looking at the ingredient list for just SUGAR may leave you with a false sense of security. Stick to whole, real, natural sugars, (i.e. maple syrup, honey, date paste, etc.) if you find you find yourself in need of a sugar source. Have an urge for something sweet? Reach for some fresh fruit and add a couple of nuts in as well. And above all, try to limit your intake to 5% of your daily calories (i.e. 2 tablespoons or 25 grams in a 2,000 calorie diet),
Water has a starring role in many of your body’s functions, especially the immune system. Keeping your cells hydrated with water allows them to operate at an optimal level.
Water helps carry oxygen to your body’s cells, remove toxins from the body, aids in digestion and helps the body produce lymph fluid which is a critical component in the lymphatic system working properly. It also helps keep your eyes, mouth and skin properly hydrated, which is critical because these are points of entry for fighting off invaders.
Be sure you’re drinking adequate water each day.
Make Movement Part of Your Everyday
Being on stay-at-home orders does not mean we shouldn’t be moving our bodies on a daily basis. Engaging in regular exercise is an important part of supporting a healthy immune system. As little as 20 minutes of daily moderate exercise has been shown to boost the effectiveness of your immune system.
Not only will it improve immune function, it will also decrease inflammation, reduce stress, brighten your mood, keep your muscles strong and your joints fluid. It’s safe to say, regular exercise can have a profound affect on your health!
When you exercise, your sympathetic nervous system gets activated. This triggers a rise in your heart rate, blood pressure and breathing rate, all of which boosts your body’s circulation. This enhanced circulation enables immune cells to travel more easily through your body, doing what they do best, enhancing the immune function.
Catch Plenty of Zzzz’s
Sleep is all too often over-rated. Once upon-a-time, I was guilty of believing that myself. However, I’ve come to learn nothing can be farther than the truth. When you sleep, your body kicks into over-drive. That is, it goes into maintenance and repair mode.
Research shows that sleep improves and strengthens immune cells, in particular, the T cells. These T cells are critical for fighting against intracellular pathogens. When your body lacks sleep, the effectiveness of your immune cells decreases and other hormones (such as stress hormones) remain high, potentially further inhibiting the function of T cells.
At a minimum, adults need at least 7 hours of sleep for optimal health. That is a baseline number. Some people find they need much more, especially if they are battling chronic inflammation. It’s important to learn what your body needs and take steps to get there if it struggles to stay asleep through the night.
Did you know that 60%-80% of doctor’s office visits are due to chronic, unmanaged stress? Symptoms such as headaches, insomnia, heartburn, stomaches, anxiety, depression, etc. are just some of what sends people to the doctor’s office.
While stress is a natural part of our everyday lives (and our body was created to handle it in a fight or flight situation), stress that is ongoing can wreck havoc on our health. When your body is stressed long-term, it depresses the immune system’s ability to function properly, leaving you more vulnerable to colds, flu and infection.
High levels of stress can also lead to chronic inflammation. Inflammation left unchecked not only causes you to age faster, it also increases your risks of autoimmune diseases, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer, to name a few.
Some ways to combat stress include: meditation, exercise, yoga, talking with a trusted confidant, deep breathing and journaling. Keep in mind what works for one, might not work for another. It’s important to find what works best for your stress levels and do that.
Supporting your immune system looks like living a lifestyle full of good-for-you behaviors. Make each of the above a priority and you’ll start to notice how good you can feel in life. Additionally, you can feel good knowing you’ve increased your odds for fighting off or at least decreasing the severity of any colds, flus and infections that might come your way.
Focus on plant-based foods for optimal intake of antioxidants, phytonutrients, vitamins, minerals and fiber
Reduce your sugar intake
Stay properly hydrated
Move on a regular basis for at least 20 minutes per session
Get adequate sleep each night
Manage your stress levels
Join my Anti-Inflammatory Lifestyle Support Facebook Group, click HERE to join. Here you’ll stay in the know and ahead of curve for your inflammation game
Exercise is Beneficial on So Many Levels, But How Much is the Right Amount?
How much exercise do you *actually* need to get in shape?
Twenty minutes three times per week? Half-hour per day?
And how much is too much?
Do you need to sweat it out for an hour or more every day?
Let’s go over the (sometimes) mysterious amount of exercise that is ideal. Ideal for your health and wellness. Ideal for getting into shape.
Starting with the minimum.
What’s the Minimum Amount of Exercise?
Of course, you’re going to have to start from where you are right now. If you’re not already exercising regularly, there is no need to go overboard. In fact, trying too much too soon may derail your motivation, and become a reason you just throw in the towel.
So, let’s say you’re not that active (yet). What if I were to recommend “ten to twenty minutes every other day at a level you think you can do?” How does that sound as a starting point?
Pretty do-able, I’d say!
If you’re not training for a competition, you can absolutely get into great shape starting with this plan.
It’s going to longer, I’m not gonna lie. But that time is going to pass anyway, so when the next season comes around wouldn’t you want to be proud of your improved strength and fitness?
Yes, I thought so!
How to Design Your Exercise Plan
Now, there isn’t one answer for everyone. The main rule is to begin with where you are. Take note of your fitness level and your goals and increase and improve slowly. There really is no quick fix (at least no quick fix that will give you lasting long-term results).
Always consider what is reasonably sustainable for you, based on:
What is your long-term fitness goal?
What else is going on in your life (i.e. how much time do you really have)?
What is your current state of fitness?
But don’t stop there!
As you create a sustainable exercise habit, it will start getting easier. So, don’t forget to make it a bit more challenging as you go. Every week do something to push yourself a bit farther than you were before. If you’re strength training, do another repetition or grab the next heavier weight. If you’re doing cardio, go a bit longer, farther, and/or faster.
A great motivational tool is to log your workouts. A simple notepad or workbook (or app) will do! Just enter your reps, sets, and/or times each time you workout. This will not only help you to keep motivated to continue, but it will also help you see where you can squeeze in that extra challenge as you progress.
After several weeks you can stop and evaluate. Keep going the way you are, ramp it up, or change it completely. Eventually, you will find yourself getting stronger, and more fit!
Don’t Forget Your Nutrition
While exercise is very, very good for your health, wellness and longevity, it’s not the only thing to consider. What you eat is going to have as big, or bigger, impact on your shape.
Some of my favorite super-simple tips that give you the biggest “bang for your buck” are:
Eat more veggies
Swap the soda for soda water with fruit
Cut your treats and sweets in half (and hide half) before indulging
Reduce the serving size of your main meals (try using a smaller plate)
Eat slower and savor it more by chewing each bite of food more thoroughly
Carry around healthy (unsweetened fiber-rich) snacks like nuts, fruit and berries
You don’t need to exercise like crazy to get into shape. I promise! But you do need to do the following:
Start from where you are, and don’t go overboard.
If you’re a beginner, that means 10 – 20 minutes every other day at an easy level.
Log your workout progress to track improvements and keep motivated.
Slowly increase the difficulty every week as you get stronger and fitter.
Don’t forget to eat your veggies, reduce your serving sizes (especially treats) and carry around healthy snacks.
Talk with your doctor before beginning any new exercise or nutrition program.
Make an appointment to chat with me (your health coach) on how I can support you getting into shape