Our immune system is our main line of defence against illness and infection, but how much do you think about looking after it? We might think about our heart health, or staying at a healthy weight, but our immune health isn’t something tangible – it’s difficult to know what our immune system is, or where it is, so it can be confusing knowing what’s best and our immunity may be neglected.
But neglect it at your peril! Common colds, flu and stomach bugs aren’t just annoying they can all impact how well we train, our performance at work, our relationships and even our food choices if we’re constantly feeling ill. Then we’re in a vicious cycle of trying to feel better but being unable to do the things in life that make us thrive.
Our immune system is a complex system of cells, molecules, tissues and organs that runs throughout our entire body. Keeping it healthy will help us fight off common pathogens and invaders and keep us on top of our game. Here are my top tips on keeping your immune system strong.
Boost your vitamin status
The immune system relies on antioxidant vitamins such as vitamins C and E that help to ‘mop up’ damaging compounds called free radicals. If allowed to build up, free radicals can lead to chronic inflammation, that can damage the immune system and lead to chronic disease.
Eating a wide variety of whole foods, fruits and vegetables will help to ensure you’re getting plenty of antioxidant vitamins and minerals. But if in doubt, a daily multivitamin will help to top you up where you might be missing out.
Don’t forget omega 3
Omega 3 fatty acids are another nutrient that helps to support a healthy immune system. Known as healthy fats, omega 3 fatty acids are found in foods such as oily fish, walnuts and flaxseeds.
These fatty acids also help to decrease levels of inflammation in the body, which if left to become chronic, can suppress the immune system. Our high-strength omega 3 fish oil supplement is also a great way to ensure your daily omega 3 intake is being met.
Seven to eight hours of restful, restorative sleep is beneficial for our every day functioning. But it’s important for our immune system too. Studies show that consistently experiencing little or poor quality sleep can mean that we’re more likely to fall foul to any cold bugs that might be going around.
Take steps to achieve better sleep by ensuring that your bedroom is cool, dark and as free from noise and clutter as possible. Also avoid eating a heavy meal, strenuous exercise and alcohol in the hour before bed. They can all interfere with our sleep patterns, as can the blue light emitted from our phones, tablets and laptops which tricks the brain into thinking it’s daytime.
Keep stress under control
Easier said than done, I know. But stress releases hormones such as cortisol and adrenalin, which interfere with our sleep and can lead to chronic inflammation. Which as we discovered above, spells bad news for our immunity.
Practising mindfulness and yoga helps the body deal with stress, as can doing things that you enjoy, such as spending time with friends, exercising or relaxing in the bath with a good book. Never underestimate the power of an outdoor walk either. Spending time outside is proven to be beneficial to our wellbeing, in as little as 20 minutes per day.
Talking of exercise…
Regular, moderate exercise helps to reduce immune system-damaging chronic inflammation, so aim for at least the recommended 150 minutes of cardio plus a few sessions of strength training per week.
If you are unable to make it to the gym to exercise, my bodyweight training apps provide a variety of core, strength and cardio workouts, that’ll push you out of your comfort zone and leave you aching for more. And with over 2 million downloads, you’ll be joining a community of fitness enthusiasts who’ve been transforming their bodies whilst simultaneously supporting their immune health. Bonus!