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Tips to boost your immune system

Tips to boost your immune system

Immune boosting foods and habits can help you avoid those so-called bugs that always seem to be going around.

Lifestyle insight
Reading time: 3 minutes

If you feel like you have more than your fair share of coughs, colds and trips to the doctor, try these simple tips for developing a strong immune system.

1 — Diet

To keep your immune system healthy, you need good nourishment. Ideally, you’ll get everything you need from your diet.1

Tip: If you suspect that your diet isn’t cutting it, think about taking a supplement that is clinically researched to support your immune system.1

2 — Gut health

Your gut is your personal gatekeeper. It lets the good in and keeps the bad out – but only when it’s in good form.When it’s in bad form, or “leaky”, that means its damaged and can’t always let the good in or keep the bad out. The upshot? Inflammation and pain!2
Tip: Cut back on alcohol and coffee, and try some immune boosting foods:2,3
  • Probiotics such as natural yoghurt
  • Fermented and cultured foods like kimchi and pickles
  • Sprouted vegetables such as alfalfa and mung bean sprouts
  • Gut-soothing foods – almonds, coconut oil, figs, parsley and prunes
  • A fiber boost – more fruit, vegetables and grains

3 — Stress

Stress isn’t just in your mind. It causes a release of hormones that have physical effects.
Tip: Take up relaxing meditation, focus on positive thinking, break habits that lead to stress, and reach out to your family and friends for support.4

4 — Sleep

Sleep is when your body heals and defends itself, by doing things like making protective cytokines and enhancing the formation of immunological memory. So lack of sleep can affect your body’s ability to make enough cytokines and fight off disease.5
Tip: Get into these healthy sleep habits – known as sleep hygiene:6\
  • Try going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day
  • Create a relaxing bedtime routine – it could be as simple as writing in a diary to get all your day’s stress out of your head
  • Avoid daytime naps
  • Exercise daily, at any time that’s not straight before bed
  • Make sure your bed is comfortable
  • Don’t check your phone right before bed – its light can disrupt sleep

5 — Sunshine

Vitamin D is important for your immune system, and regular sun exposure is one of the best ways to get it.7
Tip: Get outside every day, but remember to be sun smart and avoid getting sunburnt.

6 — Exercise

Regular exercise is a great way to improve your health, including the health of your immune system. Scientists are still working out exactly how exercise improves immunity, but it’s effects are not surprising given that it also helps with many other things like heart health and weight control.1
Tip: If you’re already in a good exercise habit, keep it up or maybe step it up. If you haven’t exercised for some time, talk to your doctor about getting started.
  1. Harvard Medical School. How to boost your immune system. Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-boost-your-immune-system Accessed August 2018.
  2. Blum S. What healing your gut can do for your immune system. Available at: https://www.mindbodygreen.com/articles/arthritis-and-your-immune-system  Accessed August 2018.
  3. Dr Axe. Sprout guide: how to sprout grains, nuts & beans. Available at: https://draxe.com/sprout  Accessed August 2018.
  4. Goliszek A. How stress affects the immune system. Available at:  https://www.psychologytoday.com/intl/blog/how-the-mind-heals-the-body/201411/how-stress-affects-the-immune-system Accessed August 2018.
  5. Mayo Clinic. Lack of sleep: Can it make you sick? Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/expert-answers/lack-of-sleep/faq-20057757  Accessed August 2018., Besedovsky, L., Lange T. Born, J., Sleep and immune function, Pflugers Arch - Eur J Physiol (2012) 463:121–137
  6. National Sleep Foundation. Healthy sleep tips. Available at: https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-tools-tips/healthy-sleep-tips  Accessed August 2018.
  7. Nazish N. Why sunlight is actually good for you. Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/nomanazish/2018/02/28/why-sunlight-is-actually-good-for-you/#34e0db535cd9  Accessed August 2018.
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