If you’re prone to catch every bug that passes by during flu season, it’s likely that your immune system is not in fighting shape. Whether it’s unhealthy habits that are decreasing your ability to beat viruses or a nutritional deficiency, there are some simple ways to improve the efficiency of your immune system.
The Delicate Splendor of the Immune System
Like so many of nature’s little miracles, the immune system is a complicated web of processes that hangs in a delicate balance. The body’s first line of defense is white blood cells, a set of infection-fighting corpuscles that patrol the body and attack potential threats like viruses and bacteria. These cells are short-lived and must be reproduced continuously using important resources, vitamins, and minerals.
Your tonsils and your thymus gland create antibodies – the proteins that white blood cells use to dispose of foreign contaminants – while the lymphatic system filters out contaminants as they try to travel throughout the body. The spleen also works to filter dangerous particles from the bloodstream, and bone marrow is instrumental in creating the white blood cells that make up the brute force of the entire immune system.
Add to that other immune responses that fight viruses, such as mucous membranes and body temperature, and you can see just how much energy and resources the body devotes to staying well. Any small imbalance in the system will affect the other parts as well, which is why your daily habits and diet are vitally important to the functionality of the immune system.
Consume Immunity-Boosting Foods, Herbs, and Supplements
Nutrition is usually the key to all things health-related. Certain foods contain important vitamins, minerals, and other elements that can boost the efficiency and productivity of your immune system. Here are some important foods to eat for immunity support:
- Citrus fruits – As you’ve probably heard, Vitamin C is essential to immune function because it increases antimicrobial and white blood cell activity over time. Citrus fruits are an excellent source of Vitamin C, as well as important antioxidants.
- Garlic – This flavorful spice contains high levels of sulfur and antimicrobial agents that are used to fight off infections.
- Ginger – A natural anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial, ginger is good for overall immunity and can also soothe specific symptoms such as sore throat and congestion.
- Green vegetables – Broccoli and spinach especially are excellent for immunity because they are packed with vitamins, antioxidants, and minerals such as iron. These help the immune system perform important functions.
- Green tea – This common beverage contains unique properties essential to a healthy immune system – powerful antioxidants and the amino acid L-theanine.
- Shellfish – Containing bioavailable zinc and complete proteins, shellfish can also boost the immune system.
Herbs and Supplements
Along with a variety of healthy foods, certain herbs and supplements can also give you an immunity advantage during flu season.
- Vitamin C – When it comes to your immune system, the more Vitamin C, the better (to a degree).
- Zinc – Deficiencies in zinc have been directly linked to lowered immune system function.
- Ginseng – All types of ginseng can improve the regulation of white blood cells and decrease inflammation.
- Astragalus root – An ancient Chinese remedy, astragalus root contains several active phytochemicals – flavonoids, saponins, and polysaccharides. These serve as antioxidants, antimicrobials, and anti-inflammatories.
- Echinacea – This herbal flower can increase white blood cell counts and may help to prevent colds.
- Immune Tonic – This old remedy is found under different names in different parts of the world. (It is currently sometimes called “Fire Cider.”) It is simply a combination of 5 vegetables blended with raw apple cider vinegar and left to soak for a few weeks. It may be taken as a preventative, at the first onset of symptoms, during the worst of the illness, and during recovery. It is, after all, just food. Some people find it makes a nice salad dressing! The vegetables? Garlic, onion, ginger, cayenne pepper, and horseradish.
Kick Immunity-Weakening Habits
Although avoiding bad habits may seem like common sense, it’s important to note how disastrous unhealthy habits can be to your immune system. Read the list below to see if you may be sabotaging your own wellness.
- Stay away from tobacco smoke. The cellular damage caused by exposure to tobacco smoke puts your immune system in overdrive as it works to repair the damage and remove the toxins that caused it. This weakens the entire system as a whole, meaning that there are less resources left to devote to fighting off viruses. Even if you don’t smoke, do everything in your power to avoid your exposure to tobacco smoke.
- Don’t stay up so late. While you sleep, your immune system renews some important proteins it needs to combat infections. There is a direct link between sleep deprivation and getting sick, so do yourself a favor and make sure you’re getting the sleep your body asks for – usually between seven and nine hours per day for adults.
- Don’t drink too much alcohol. Moderate drinking on a regular basis can suppress the functions of the immune system and increase your chances of contracting bacterial infections.
- Avoid sugar, which has a detrimental effect on the immune system.
- Don’t be a couch potato. This point is two-fold. First, exercise stimulates circulation and helps the entire system to pick up the pace and work more efficiently. Second, Vitamin D is vital to a healthy immune system and the best source of Vitamin D is sunlight! In short, get outside, and get moving.
By avoiding harmful activities and incorporating more healthy habits, you can greatly reduce your vulnerability to common cold and flu viruses. Flu season is already here, so better get a move on!
Read more about healthy habits and nutrition on the Living Clean blog: