It’s never been more important to get and stay healthy.
Here’s how food and exercise can support your immune system.
What Is Your Immune System?
Most of us know the immune system as the parts of the body that protect against (and help fight off) infection and illness.
Blood cells, mucus membranes, and the skin are commonly known parts of the immune system.
But it’s so much more than that. The parts of the immune system we can see (like tears and skin) are just the “front line”.
The gut is also a key part of the immune system, containing an astonishing number of good bacteria. Phagocytes (white blood cells) are the final line of defence.
How Does It Work?
Part of the immune system is dedicated to protection and defence, stopping stuff from getting in.
But if it does, our defender cells are there to fight.
Your body creates around 1000 million defender cells every day.
Our own cells contain antigens which help the immune system recognise them as part of us – no danger.
Your antigens are completely unique to you (unless you have an identical twin).
If a virus, bacteria, or germ enters your body, the immune system will pick up on new, unidentified antigens and get to work.
If you want to read more about nutrition and cell health, read my blog post You Truly Are What You Eat! here.
Why Immune Health Matters
If last year taught us one thing, it’s to look after our health. Immune health is crucial at any time, but the presence of a virus has brought its role to the forefront.
Supporting your immune health through exercise, sleep, and nutrition will enable your body to look after you against bacteria, infections, and viruses.
Sleep For A Stronger Immune System
When you sleep well (7-9 hours a night) your immune system will be stronger and more robust.
Poor or inadequate sleep is closely linked to higher susceptibility to illness – even the common cold. (1) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26118561/
If you already feel ill, try to sleep more to help your system fight off the illness and get you back on your feet.
Healthy Eating For Immune Health
Common sense tells us that healthy food supports a healthy body, and this is borne out by science. (2) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27881064/
Plant-based foods (in as close to a natural state as possible) are high in antioxidants, that help decrease inflammation, fighting off free radicals, and reducing your risk of numerous health conditions.
Try to eat more vegetables, fruits, berries, nuts, seeds, legumes, herbs, spices, and quality cocoa products to access these antioxidants.
Fibre In Healthy Foods: Plant-based foods like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains also contain a good amount of fibre which supports that gut microbiome of healthy bacteria. (3) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28165863/
Your Immune System Needs Some Fats
Too much fat can leads to excess calorie intake, which isn’t helpful if you want to lose or maintain weight. But some fat is crucial for a healthy diet. Be sure to choose omega-3 fatty acids either from a quality supplement or from foods like cold water fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines) and quality olive oil.
These fats help by decreasing inflammation which could suppress your immune system. (4) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23010452/
Probiotics And Fermented Foods
Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir are more than a trend. They’re a useful part of your healthy immune-boosting nutrition plan.
They foods are a good source of probiotics which are necessary for a healthy gut environment. (5) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3337124/
Exercise For Immune Health
There’s plenty of research that says moderate exercise is important for a healthy immune system.
Exercise helps us manage stress (stress being an enemy to immune health) and can help the cells in our immune system regenerate more regularly. (6) https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26477922/
Aim for a nice mix of moderate exercise like walking, biking, or dancing, with a few shorter but more intense sessions like HIIT or weights.
Your Immune System Toolkit
– Eat healthy (80/20 rule, lots of plant-based whole foods)
– Get enough omega-3 fats in your diet
– Stay hydrated
– Avoid too much-added sugar
– Exercise regularly with a mix of stress-reducing activities and intense workouts
– Sleep 7-9 hours a night
– Manage and reduce your stress
If you want to make lifestyle changes to support your short- and long-term health, get in touch.
I’m here to help you live your healthiest and happiest life.
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