Below are the first 2 of the 5 lifestyle strategies I mentioned in last weeks blog that help strengthen the immune system.
One of the most neglected and misunderstood strategies to improve immune function, immune resilience and to avoid infections is good sleep. Certain immune system cells (natural killer cells and T-cells) that are used to fight infection are boosted and activated when we sleep. When we sleep the body repairs itself and we are at peace. When we wake up feeling refreshed and ready to start the day, it’s a sign that we have had adequate sleep. When we are grumpy and bumpy, groggy and cranky, that’s a sure sign we didn’t get enough sleep. The day ahead will be long. Adequate sleep is fundamental to a well-working immune system and immune resilience.
Go to bed early. Try to sleep at least 7 hours a night. It is well known that people who sleep less than 7 hours are more prone to heart attack. And 90 minutes before bedtime, turn off all devices and televisions. Let your mind breath…and relax. I know it’s easy to say go to bed early when all you want to do is watch some television or stay on your computer because you feel as if your day has been all work and no play. It seems unfair. But start off by doing it a few nights a week, try reading a book in bed for ten minutes to relax and wind down. You’ll soon see that you’ll get into the habit of it and start feeling much better.
Remember that there is not a single tissue within the human body and not one process within the brain that is not enhanced with adequate sleep (minimum 7hrs per night), or in the other case, impaired without enough sleep (less than 6hrs per night).
Proper Diet and Nutrition
What is nutrition, is it simply food that fills us up without giving us any health benefits, or is it food that is overflowing with vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, etc, that helps us grow, develop, renew, and stay healthy? You guessed it, it’s the latter.
If you look up the word nutrition in the oxford dictionary, it is the “process by which living things (including humans) receive the food necessary for them to grow and be healthy.” Without good nutrition we cannot possibly be healthy, and we cannot possibly have a robust immune system.
This, I believe, is what most people in today’s world don’t understand. The foods we eat build us up or tear us down. They build our immune system and push hormone production – hormones, in turn, support a healthy and robust immune system and really improve our immune surveillance…killer cells at work!
So, what should we do? Firstly, we need to cut out processed sugars, and concentrated sugars from your diet. That would include concentrated fruit juices, sweets, chocolate, fizzy drinks, etc. Anything that has a high amount of concentrated sugar in it needs to disappear from your diet. Plus, they are empty calories that don’t provide you with any nutrition, at all!
We need to eat lots of colourful and varied fruit and vegetables which are high in flavonoid antioxidants, which really help our overall immune system strength. Another major helper is to diversify our microbiome. In other words, we want to have as many different healthy bacterial species in our gut. A healthy gut is essential for a healthy immune system. In fact, believe it or not, approximately 80% of our immune system is found in the gut. Eat multiple kinds of vegetables but try to change the vegetable you eat. Don’t eat the same fruit and vegetable all the time…change them, this way you will really improve your immune resistance, by improving your gut microbiome.
Finally cut out inflammatory foods. Avoid such things as fried foods, processed foods, high floury carbohydrates (eg pasta, breads, pizzas), which cause insulin surges, make you tired (it’s the insulin surge that makes you tired), and they also deplete antioxidant reserves.
Also, avoid partially hydrogenated fats which deplete our antioxidant reserves – they usually come in packets or boxes. Read the labels on the foods you buy.
Next week I will give the final 3 steps to keep your immune system in the best condition it can be.