At this time of year, coughs and colds can bring down your entire household for weeks. Here are a few simple and inexpensive immune boosting things you can do to reduce the risk of getting ill, and speed up the whole process if it does happen!
I bet you know at least one person who’s laid up with a heavy cold at the moment. Perhaps it’s you (if that’s the case, thanks for choosing to read this whilst you’re poorly!) It’s the time of year for it, with the change in weather, kids back to school, and a shift in healthy habits playing a big part.
There’s no magic pill for immune health, but there are several things you can do to support your body’s natural immunity and to make the process faster if you do get ill.
What exactly is the immune system?
The immune system isn’t one thing, it’s a network of cells, tissues, and proteins that work to keep you healthy. This includes your skin, mucus membranes, blood cells, and digestive system. As anyone with an auto-immune disease will know, the immune system is incredibly complex.
3 common problems that hurt immune health
To support your immune system, you might not even need to introduce new practices. For many people, fixing existing habits can make a huge difference.
Chronic stress (the ongoing kind) increases inflammation in the body which has a direct negative impact on immune health. Stressful experiences alter parts of the immune system, and make you more vulnerable to adverse medical outcomes. (1)
Even a small reduction in stress makes you healthier. If you can’t reduce stress, bring in ways to manage it. Less phone use, more walks outside, journaling, laughing, meditating or unwinding some other way – all these things will keep you healthier.
If you regularly get less than 7 hours quality sleep, you’ll already be feeling sub-par. The bad news is that this lack of sleep is affecting your immune system as well as your brain power. It’s time to take sleep more seriously. Go to bed earlier (certainly before midnight). Keep your room dark and cool. Eliminate lights and noises. And don’t take your phone to bed…
You’re busy, which means you spend a lot of time sitting at your desk, laptop or travelling. Even more reason to get intentional about daily movement. Walk 8,000-10,000 steps a day. Get outside at least once a day. Stretch, do a bit of yoga. Just keep your body moving.
Easy ways to support your immune health
I’ve already talked about sleep, stress, and general activity. Here are some more things you can do to support your immune system, starting today:
Eating a healthy diet of mostly natural unprocessed foods is a great way to support your immune health. Processed foods are typically high in sugar and unhealthy fats which increase inflammation in the body. Load up on vegetables, fruits, root vegetables (as colourful as possible), whole grains, legumes, beans, lean protein and oily fish. Garlic, citrus fruits, spices, and fresh herbs are all great immune boosters. (2)
Consider taking Vitamin D (especially from October-April), Vitamin C, omega 3 fish oils, and a quality multi vitamin.
Studies show that regular moderate intensity exercise supports immune system health and can even prevent you from getting ill. Exercise helps regenerate the cells of your immune system and moves oxygen and blood around. It’s also a great stress buster, which also helps your immune health! (3)
Did you know that the amount of muscle tissue you have has a direct impact on how poorly you get (and how quickly you recover)? A 2021 study looked into muscle strength and muscle mass as predictors of hospital length of stay in COVID-19 patients. (4) Researchers found that muscle strength and muscle mass can be predictors of length of hospital stay – and they stressed the value of muscle health. A compelling reason to add weight training to your workout routine!
Speed up recovery when you get ill
It’s almost impossible to completely avoid getting ill at this time of year. If you or someone in your household has come down with a winter illness, remember these 5 principles:
- Extra hydration (through thin soups or herbal teas if water isn’t appealing
- Plenty of rest to let the body recover
- Focus on eating healthy, nourishing foods (protein, vegetables, fruits)
- Get outside in the fresh air for gentle walks
- Take extra Vitamin C and Vitamin D in supplement form
Having a healthy lifestyle is one of the best ways you can future-proof your health and wellness. Get in touch to see how my coaching helps busy people be fitter and healthier.
‘The number one rated Personal Trainer In Henley and Oxfordshire’
References used in todays blog: