How can you boost your immune system? As the winter drags along and colds, flus and vomiting bugs are widespread, it is worth taking some time to figure out how to boost your immune system from diseases and infections.
The science of it all is easy. Your immune system is an elaborate and interactive network of organs, cells and proteins that protect the body from viruses and bacteria or any foreign substances. Your immune system works constantly to neutralise and remove bacteria and viruses that enter the body. It recognises and neutralises harmful substances from the environment, and fights against the body’s own cells to keep the harmful elements from taking hold and manifesting themselves in an illness. In summary, your immune system is what fights back on behalf of your entire body!
Now that is accepted, what are the best ways of naturally boosting your immune system?
In almost every one of these “5 ways to …" blogs, exercise is always a feature. And there is a reason for that. Exercise and fitness brings a vitality, strength and positivity to your body and mind that promotes your health in many different ways. The protection of your immune system is just one of them.
Regular exercise has a huge positive effect on your natural immunity. Just like a healthy diet, exercise contributes massively to general good health and therefore to a healthy immune system. It supports the digestive system, which can destroy some bacteria and viruses that we ingest through food. Exercise improves cardiovascular health, lowers blood pressure, helps control body weight, and protects against a variety of diseases.
Exercise contributes even more directly by promoting good circulation, which allows the cells and substances of the immune system to move through the body freely and do their job efficiently.
Sweating during exercise will help the body in its detoxification process, when combined with a decent intake of water. The trick is to exercise a little over your comfort zone and increase intensity. That should make your heart rate increase and sweat.
So regular exercise of any description will help keep your immune system strong and give you a better chance of avoiding illness.
Vitamins boost your immune system and help fight off a variety of illnesses and protect the body from damage to cells. That is an accepted fact.
The challenge then becomes getting those vitamins you need into your body.
Many foods and fruits contain vitamins that protect the immune system. Although many dietitians recommend getting vitamins from your diet, and that is the ideal, taking vitamin supplements can be a helpful and easy way to absorb the vitamin into the body if particular foods are not available. Vitamin supplements can make up for poor diet choice and help you get the required vitamins into your system despite a busy lifestyle. Not everyone has the time to chop pineapple or melon first thing in the morning!
So what are the best vitamins for protecting your immune system, if we are to pick a few?
The first is undoubtedly Vitamin C. Our bodies do not have the ability to make our own Vitamin C, so we need to consume it in our diet. Vitamin C also has antioxidant functions, has been shown to protect white blood cells from oxidative damage, and enhances the function of the immune system. Many fruits and veggies give us natural Vitamin C, but daily vitamin supplements are necessary unless you are sure your diet gives you enough natural Vitamin C, which it usually won't unless you are very focused.
Vitamin E is next. Like Vitamin C, Vitamin E can be a powerful antioxidant that helps your body fight off infection.
The next important one is Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin. This can regulate the expression of hundreds of genes involved in skeletal and other biological functions, and is essential for maintenance of bone mineralisation, and particularly for activating our immune defences and endocrine system.
So where do we get them? Vitamins are found in many different fruits, and a regular intake of fruit will boost your vitamins and therefore your immune system. However, as you are unlikely to consume all the required vitamins in even a decent fruit intake, a good solid natural multi vitamin will boost your immune system when taken daily. In addition to that, you should also consider boosting your vitamin intake even further at certain points in the year, such as an additional Vitamin C boost when the seasons are changing, or if you are stressed or worn out and therefore more susceptible to infection.
Vegetables have a lot more to offer the immune system than just their vitamins and minerals. The phytonutrients, antioxidants, fibres, oils and acids in vegetables, which are responsible for their various flavours and colours, are also responsible for their many health, healing and immune-modulating properties. These bioactive compounds are used by the body to directly combat inflammation and infections and support detoxification and immune cell function through a multitude of mechanisms. That's the scientific explanation as to why "meat and two veg" was a standard Irish diet for decades!
For example, vegetables such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale and turnips, are rich in folate and chlorophyll, and also rich sources of glucosinolates.
Chopping or chewing vegetables releases "myrosinase", an enzyme that breaks down glucosinolates into biologically active compounds, such as indoles and isothiocyanates. Consuming vegetables either raw, or just lightly steamed, is the best way to get maximum benefits.
If we are to pick 3 vegetables to help boost your immune system, what would they be?
Spinach made our list, not just because it is rich in Vitamin C. It is also packed with numerous antioxidants and beta carotene, which may increase the infection-fighting ability of our immune systems. Similar to broccoli, spinach is healthiest when it’s cooked as little as possible so that it retains its nutrients.
Garlic may also help lower blood pressure and slow down hardening of the arteries. Garlic’s immune-boosting properties come from a heavy concentration of sulfur-containing compounds, such as allicin.
Broccoli is supercharged with vitamins and minerals. Packed with Vitamins A, C, and E, as well as many other antioxidants and fiber, broccoli is one of the healthiest vegetables you can eat. Unfortunately though, brocoli is not everyone's favorite and certainly children are usually not keen on it!
The challenge with boosting your immune system with vegetables is that they often don’t taste as nice as fruits. And children are usually extremely selective when it comes to their veg, and many children will only eat one or two vegetables, if even that! We know many adults who are the same!
What many don’t consider when it comes to vegetables is that there are many healthy vegetable supplements available nowadays. These can help children in particular if brought into their diet, and ensure that they can get an immune boosting veg intake without having to convince them that broccoli tastes yummy! An example is doTERRA's TerraGreens but of course be free to try others. If you feel that your diet of veg is limited, which it often is, then you could consider vegetable supplements.
Eliminating sugar from your diet will assist a stronger immune system.
Refined sugar decreases the immune function. Sugar impacts your white blood cells by competing for space in those cells with Vitamin C. Sugar and Vitamin C are similar in their chemical structure. When you eat sugar, it directly competes for space in your immune cells with Vitamin C and sugar may often win that competition! The more sugar in your system, the less Vitamin C you can get into your white blood cells. Sugar leads to in a weakened defence from infections.
Healthier sweeteners such as organic honey can be used in moderation as a replacement, but avoid artificial sweeteners as they are even more toxic than refined sugar.
And finally, at Purity of Earth, we believe in gradual change. A few moderate changes to boost your immune system will remain with you for life. This will become especially important as you get a little older. Don't stress out if you find it hard to immediately increase your consumption of fresh greens, whole fruits and veg. Diet changes take time, and if you want your new healthy habits to stick, do it gradually. Switch your sugar for organic honey. Add a fruit or veg supplement to your smoothie. And these habits will integrate into your daily routine very quickly.
Purity of Earth is dedicated to sharing nutritional, healthy living and essential oil products made by doTERRA. If you are interested in more information on these products, or the fantastic business opportunity of becoming a Wellness Advocate, please get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org!