Cold and flu season are fast approaching so now is the best time to start beefing up your immune system! While you’ll never be able to avoid illness completely, maintaining a healthy immune system is the best way to help prevent seasonal illness. Boosting your immune system can be attained by making a few simple adjustments to your daily routine and maintaining those adjustments for long term wellness.
Your immune system is your body’s most important defense in staying healthy. So how exactly does the immune system work to ward off illness? Many cells work together to protect the body from illness- white blood cells being one of the most important in assisting the immune system. Phagocytes are the white blood cells that help destroy foreign organisms, while lymphocytes help the body keep a record of these invaders to create antibodies for future exposure.
The immune system keeps a record of every foreign organism your body has ever fought off. When the body senses these foreign antigens the immune system triggers the production of proteins (immunoglobulins) that bind to the antigens. In order to destroy the antigens these proteins need the help of T cells, also known as killer cells. The goal of boosting the immune system is to increase these T cells in the body. Certain lifestyle decision can lower the amount of T cells in the body. Making a few simple lifestyle adjustments can help boost T cell production to help fight off illness during cold and flu season. Here’s what you can do to start ramping up your immune system this season.
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Prioritize Better Sleep
Sleep is so medicinal to overall health and wellness. During sleep the body is restored through cellular turnover. This process allows your body to repair damaged cells and tissues, and revitalizes energy. This is why when you’re sick a physician will recommend getting lots of rest. You may think getting four hours of sleep each night is right for your particular body, but in reality your limiting the time your body has to repair damaged cells. The average adult needs 7- 9 hours of sleep each night. I personally try to shoot in the middle and get 8 hours each night. Keep in mind anything over 9 hours can be counteractive to your health unless your actively fighting off an illness or disease.
Focus on Anti-Inflammatory Foods
Viruses and diseases thrive in an inflammatory environment. Eating a diet of high inflammatory foods like highly processed palatable foods creates a breading ground for illness in the body. These diets are also generally low in nutritional content- keeping your body from having the proper nutrients to assist the immune response.
The easiest way to maintain an anti-inflammatory diet it to minimize fast food, junk food, and highly processed foods (anything that comes in a box or premade is usually highly processed). Try sticking with foods that are closest to their natural form like fruits, veggies, whole grains, and organic meats. When cooking use lots of organic herbs for seasoning and oils like avocado, or virgin olive. Harvard Health has a great in depth article on foods that help fight inflammation. I highly recommend reading it if you’re interested in transitioning to an anti-inflammatory diet.
Staying active by incorporating regular exercise into your daily routine can help ward of illness and boost your immune system. When the body sweats during times of strenuous activity it releases toxics that build up in the lymphatic system. The build up of these toxins can eventually cause illness or make it harder for your body to fight off illness when exposed to viruses and bacteria.
Exercise increases your blood flow helping immune cells to circulate more freely in the body. It’s estimated that killer T cells can circulate at a high rate throughout the body for three hours after exercising. Try to find active movement that you enjoy and perform that activity at least three times a week for thirty minutes or more.
Up Your Water Intake
Water helps your body function properly by carrying oxygen to the blood cells. It also helps to remove the build up of toxins that can eventually cause illness or decrease the effectiveness of immune responses when faced with viruses and bacteria. Try to drink at least eight glasses of water each day and more during times of strenuous activity.
Try to Reduce Stress
I know, easier said than done. Minimizing stress plays a huge role in T cell production. When the body is stressed it produces the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is necessary for survival by assisting in fight or flight mode during times of emergency. However, when the body is overly stressed for long periods of time excess cortisol in the body can damage T cells making the body more susceptible to illness or creating an environment where it’s harder to fight off illness.
Try minimizing your stress by incorporating meditation, self care, and exercise into your daily routine. If making these change doesn’t seem to help reduce stress it may a good idea to seek therapy. A therapist can help you work through stress by healing past trauma and working with you to create a plan of action to counteract stressors in your life.
Limit Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol is a highly inflammatory substance. While a glass with dinner or on occasion is probably not going to throw your immune system for a loop, consuming high amounts of alcohol on a regular basis can damage the cells responsible for fighting off illness. Try swapping out your nightly beverage for a euphoric like Zenify.
Add Some Herbs to Your Diet
Adding certain herbs to your diet is a great way to support the immune system. Herbs have been used for thousands of years for their medical properties to help aid wellness. Incorporating herbs and spices like echinacea, oregano, ginger, cinnamon, turmeric, and elderberries into your diet can have a huge impact on overall health. Try cooking with fresh organic herbs and drinking herbal organic teas as a simple way to enhance immune support during cold and flu season.