· By Ashley Heeley
How to boost your immune system
How to boost your immune system
As we enter the final month of the winter season, we may be looking forward to spring and the feelings of joy and relief that comes with it, after enduring so much cold and darkness. With covid restrictions being lifted and the days becoming slightly longer we could be inclined to socialise more, becoming busier in our day-to-day activities. After 2 years of on-and-off lockdowns, masks, and the persistent sanitization of surfaces wherever we go, our immune systems are likely to be weaker and more vulnerable. Below are some steps you can take to boost the health of your immune system so you can go back to normal life without getting wiped out by any cold, flu or virus synonymous with the change of seasons.
Get your micronutrients!
The best way to equip your immune system for fighting off viruses and disease is by consuming a healthy diet full of fresh fruit and vegetables and drinking plenty of water. Although with rising costs of living and inflation, this is not always possible for everyone to achieve.
To make sure the body’s needs are met it is recommended to take supplements to fill in any gaps the diet may not be providing. Here are some of the most important vitamins and minerals you need for immune strength:
An antioxidant that is vital in supporting the function of cells within the immune system. It protects the body from environmental stress and fights against free radicals and pathogens. Not only is vitamin C an essential contributor to immune defence but it also prevents ageing of the skin. Your body cannot produce its own vitamin C therefore, it must be consumed either via food or supplements. Vitamin C also helps with the absorption of iron, another important micronutrient for immune health.
Many people in the UK are deficient in vitamin D. This vital sunshine vitamin regulates the immune system and protects the body from pathogens. To read more on the benefits of vitamin D check out this blog post.
Zinc activates enzymes that break down invading bacteria and viruses, stopping them from spreading within the body and making you ill. Zinc has actually been shown to shorten the length of the common cold, as it hastens the recovery processes in the body. By activating cells responsible for fighting infection, zinc is a vital mineral and one which your body needs from external sources, as we do not produce our own.
Iron is responsible for immune cell-reproduction and maturation. It is fundamental for the development of the body’s immune system and in both first and secondary immune responses. Iron deficiency can cause higher vulnerability to infection; as well as generally feeling run-down there are external symptoms such as brittle nails and cracked lips. Women need more iron than men and vegetarians, in particular, will benefit from iron supplements as iron from plant-based sources can be more difficult for the body to absorb.
Likewise to vitamin C, copper aids the body in absorbing iron. It is a crucial mineral and required for several bodily functions. Copper helps support the immune system by making red blood cells which in turn prevents anaemia. Being anaemic makes the body and thus immune system weaker. Luckily, most people get enough copper from the foods they eat. Fruit, veg, nuts, beans, seafood and even chocolate contain this micronutrient. Shiitake mushrooms are a particularly good source of copper.
Exercise, Rest & Recovery
Getting your body moving is a really important element in strengthening your immune system. Exercise increases circulation and blood flow all over the body, including the immune cells. Consistent short amounts of exercise are more effective than irregular long bouts, which can send the body into overdrive and actually lower immunity as the body shifts all its focus to repairing muscles and potential injuries. 20 minutes of moderate exercise per day is sufficient, some may already be fulfilling this by simply walking or cycling to work. If you do spend a lot of time sitting down, try getting up once an hour, get the body moving so those white blood cells can do their job properly and fight off any invading infection!
Rest and recovery are just as crucial as doing exercise in keeping the immune system strong. For athletes or even those who are just very busy and always running from place to place to get things done, it is really important to get enough downtime to unwind and allow the body to process any physical and mental stress, which can be a major trigger for illness. Sleep is when your body does the majority of its repairing; energy that would otherwise be used moving your muscles and engaging your mind whilst you are awake, is able to support the cells in your body that work hard to keep you well by healing wounds, fighting off infection and repairing itself ready for a new day, whilst you sleep. This is why when you are sick you feel the need to sleep much more. Most people need between 6 to 8 hours of quality sleep per night to adequately facilitate the activities of the immune system.
Stress hormones prevent the immune system from functioning optimally and reduce its ability to fight off antigens. CBD’s anti-anxiety and anti-inflammatory properties mean it can therefore, be used to help support immune health. Numerous studies have highlighted that cannabis aids in preventing and treating sickness, with one recent publication providing evidence to declare that cannabis compounds may reduce the likelihood of an individual contracting covid as they were found to be effective at blocking the virus from replicating in the body during early stages of infection. Now, I would not suggest smoking cannabis as a way to ward off disease, as this has negative impacts on the lungs, however, a few drops of CBD oil each day is a fantastic aid to a healthy lifestyle and a great complement to rest and recovery.
Stress, inflammation, and dietary deficiencies cause a weakened immune response. Nutritious whole foods, sufficient sleep, fresh air and exercise are the best ways to equip your immune system for fighting off viruses and disease. But trying to manage work, family, household chores and a social life can result in neglected self-care, and perhaps make it difficult to achieve all of the steps for optimum immunity on a daily basis. Something like Hippie Turtle Herbal Co’s Vitality is a great option in order to kick-start your immune system and keep illness at bay. Not only does it contain a multivitamin complex designed to improve energy levels and strengthen immunity, but its other ingredients such as a super mushroom blend and ginseng keep the immune system balanced and are known for their beneficial antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, recognised in Chinese medicine and Ayurveda for centuries. Made with organic natural fruit flavouring, just one to two spoonfuls of Vitality a day are needed to fulfil daily requirements meaning one pouch could last you for up to two months.