As we are entering the winter season, we tend to catch colds easily and have low energy. That ‘’meh’’ feeling slows us down in everything we do. We hit the snooze button one too many times in the morning and we call in sick more than usual because our immune system just had enough of our bad eating habits, late nights at work and Netflix binge-watching marathons.
The good news is that you don’t need to break the bank to get your immune system ‘’on fleek’’. I will share with you some very easy and inexpensive tips to boost your immune system in need of some TLC. But before we get into it, let’s nerd out for a second.
I found an amazing analogy of the immune system on Kerri Knox's website, a Functional Medicine Practitioner. She says : ‘’The immune system like an orchestra. Each musician may play beautifully on their own, but they can hardly compare to the beauty and complexity of an entire orchestra playing perfectly together’’. Our immune system is just like that. It is made up of a network of cells, tissues, and organs that work together to protect our body from all sorts of invaders. ‘’Its functioning is like an orchestra too. If one violinist didn't show up, we would hardly notice. But if the entire string section were to go missing then the quality of the music would be greatly affected.’’
This is what happens when invaders attack our immune system. Invaders can be toxins such as household chemicals, pollution, pesticides or junk food. If our immune system is not strong enough, we get all sorts of inflammation, from a simple cold to more serious diseases.
A huge proportion of our immune system is located in our gut. We need friendly microbes in the gut to help us digest the food, absorb the nutrients effectively and eliminate the waste.
It doesn’t have to be complicated to restore or maintain a healthy gut, so let me share with you what has helped me along my journey to optimal gut health.
Studies show that the immune system is extremely vulnerable to emotions (Segerstorm and Miller, 2004). So find a reason to smile every morning and be grateful for all the amazing people you already have in your life.
Stock up on immune boosting foods and beverages for your morning magic potion. Apple cider vinegar is a strong antiviral that can help fight colds and infections. Ginger is anti-inflammatory and rich in antioxidants which can help against throats and upset stomachs (PMS pains, bloating, nausea, etc…). Cinnamon contains antioxidants that can help fight free radicals.
Walk to work. Our body is able to produce vitamin D3 from cholesterol when exposed to the sunshine, which increases the immune function.
For your meals, fill your plate with rainbow foods that feed your good bacteria such as broccoli, cabbage or any other cruciferous vegetable (prebiotics). Get some oily fish (or a vegetarian alternative such as chia seeds) for their omega 3 content, which can enhance the immune cells' functioning. Season with oregano or garlic as they have anti-fungal properties. Add a source of vitamin C such as bell peppers. And don’t forget to keep some space for organic fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut, pickles or kimchi to nourish your gut with friendly bacteria. However make sure these fermented veggies are high quality ! Indeed most mass-produced fermented vegetables are in reality barely fermented and contain too much sugar, which feeds the bad bugs in your gut. More on that in another article.
Exercise and laughter can support the immune system because they can decrease stress hormones and induce the release of endorphins, the ‘’feel-good ‘’ hormones, improving the body’s resistance to diseases.
Last but not least, in the evening aim for magnesium-rich foods such as dark leafy greens, nuts and seeds, mackerel, yogurt etc. Magnesium has a calming effect on the mind and relaxes the muscles, so you can get a restful night’s sleep, which should be around 7-8 hours.
Try this for a week and your immune system will be forever grateful!
Segerstorm, S., Miller, G., (2004), Psychological Stress and the Human Immune System: A Meta-Analytic Study of 30 Years of Inquiry. Available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1361287/
Kerri Knox, Easy Immune System Health. Available at : http://www.easy-immune-health.com/Kerri-Knox.html