3 easy steps to strengthen your immune system, naturally
The covid-19 pandemic has shone a much needed light on health. With the world reacting to crisis, many have begun to contemplate the importance of baseline wellbeing. After all, a functional immune system is a key factor in protecting against infection. Questions have been raised like: How do we build a healthy immune system? How can we empower our bodies to fight off infection, should it occur? How can we maximise a swift and effective response? Let’s look at three natural steps that have been proven to activate an appropriate immune response and that may protect us in times of need. Prioritise sufficient sleep When a foreign invader infects the body, the immune system must identify it and destroy to halt its progress and potential damage. This isn’t as simple as it sounds. See, viruses and bacteria can fly under the radar, poorly detected. But, these invaders have molecules called antigens that mark them out as abnormal: think of these abnormalities like a key. The human body has sleuth-like cells that hunt these antigens down. Once found, they attach an antibody: think of these like a lock that fits the antigenic key.
When the antigen-antibody complex is generated, the infective agent becomes much easier to identify. This complex prompts other immune cells into action, leading to a targeted immune response to eliminate the threat. It also contributes to immune memory creation. This is where sufficient sleep comes into play. Enhancing sleep quality helps the antigen-antibody complex and other immune cells to find each other. Slumber also elevates immunological memory, allowing recognition of this foreign invader on the next exposure, leading to a speedier response. Focus on healthy food Vitamins, minerals and fatty acids from food are involved in healthy immune system function. Vitamins A, C, and D, the mineral, zinc, and omega-3 fats each regulate immunity… Vitamin A helps to protect the mucosa, including the lining of the mouth, throat, intestines and lungs. These barriers are important in stopping microbes from crossing over into our body and bloodstream. This nutrient is also important in the antibody response we talked about above. Organic meats, wild caught salmon and tuna, and eggs provide vitamin A. Vitamin C assists in killing microbes. It then helps to clear away the dead cells that have resulted from the fight, protecting against tissue damage. Kiwi fruit, green capsicum, guava, blackcurrants and citrus fruits contain ample vitamin C. Vitamin D, amongst many immune functions, is involved in stepping up the pathways that lead to the destruction of foreign invaders. This is best obtained through safe, sufficient sun exposure. Limited foods contain this important nutrient including eggs and fatty fish like herring, mackerel and salmon. Zinc helps to kill microbes, produce chemical messengers that are important for appropriate immune response, and support the cells that engulf foreign invaders like PacMan does his enemy ghosts. Oysters, organic grass-fed beef, firm tofu, hemp seeds and lentils contain healthy levels of zinc. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to increase B cell populations, an important type of immune cell. Again, fatty fish are a great option. Think anchovies, mackerel, salmon and sardines. Flax seeds, chia seeds and walnuts are rich vegetarian options. Exercise regularly Being active is a key step to a healthier life. Research also suggests exercise can increase the body’s ability to respond to infection. One study found that 20 minutes of high intensity cycling mobilised lymphocytes into the bloodstream. The authors concluded that exercise “may enhance immune-surveillance.” The faster we detect a foreign invader, the quicker we may respond. The current pandemic has illuminated our potential vulnerabilities to infection, dragging it to front of mind. How well we sleep, what we eat, and how physically active we are impacts not only on our wellbeing, but how well we respond to possible infection. Now is the ideal time to focus on a healthy lifestyle to protect yourself and your loved ones.