Cold and flu season is upon us. Getting sick really puts a damper on what should be an enjoyable time of year, as well as doesn’t get you any closer to your goals. So to help you stay healthy this fall, I wanted to dive into immune health and how to boost your immune system. All in an effort to keep you healthy this fall!
What is your immune system?
Immune, means to be protected. So a system in the body that helps fight off sickness is called the immune system (protective system).
Our immune system is essential for our survival. Our immune system is made up of a network of cells, tissues, and organs that work together to protect the body. Without an immune system, our bodies would be open to attack from bacteria, viruses, parasites, and more. It is our immune system that keeps us healthy as we interact with the world and germs/pathogens around us.
This vast network of cells, organs, and tissues is always on the lookout for invaders, and when an outside invader is spotted, a complex attack is mounted.
The immune system is spread throughout the body and involves many types of cells, organs, proteins, and tissues. When our immune system is working properly, we don’t even notice it. But when we have an under- or over-active immune system, we are at a greater risk of developing infections, getting sick, and other health conditions.
A little fun fact that many people don’t know is that the majority of your immune system lives in your gut. Your gut wall houses 70-80% of the cells that make up your immune system. This is one of the reasons you hear more and more about “gut health” and the importance of it.
Just think about the important jobs your gut performs regularly: breaking down your food, absorbing nutrients, keeping out toxins and producing nutrients. Your gut does a lot of work! Therefore, to increase your immune health, as well as detoxify and nourish your body… your gut must be healthy. Getting your gut bacteria healthy is one of the most important things you can do to boost your immune system and stay healthy.
What Weakens Your Immune System?
Before we can go over how to improve your immune system, you have to first understand what your immune system is, and what can cause a weak immune system. Otherwise, your efforts to improve your immune system can be counteracted by a bad habit or two.
The very first thing to consider is your nutrition plan. What you eat plays a huge role in your immune system health. If you have a poor diet or one lacking in essential nutrients, your body will not have the nutrients it needs to maintain a healthy immune system.
Being a couch potato decreases your immune system… but there must be a balance here as being too active can also take a toll. Too much strenuous exercise causes high-stress levels in your body and inhibits your immune system from working properly.
Drinking higher volumes of alcohol … smoking … I think it can go without saying but, drugs, all wreak havoc on your immune system as you are specifically introducing toxins into your system. Which then your immune system must fight off as well as fight off the normal germs you come in contact with every day.
Another reason your immune system could be weakened is due to aging. As you age your bodies ability to regenerate cells, absorb nutrients, produce hormones, and maintain a healthy immune system all godown.
How Can I Boost My Immune System?
After covering what decreases your immune system, you’re most likely wondering how to boost your immune system. Good news is, we’ve got you covered — these 7 tips can help you boost your immune system on a daily level and improve your health.
1) Maintain a healthy nutrition plan – consistently
If you’ve ever heard the sang, “you are what you eat,” it’s yet again true here as well. To maintain a healthy immune system it needs plenty of micronutrients and essential nutrients to operate effectively.
Therefore loading up on vitamin and mineral-rich foods such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds are beneficial! It also needs them every day. Eating healthy once in a while, will not suffice. Taking a well rounded essential nutrient pack every day is a great idea as that will ensure you are getting ALL the nutrients your body needs, not just some of them and leaving you vulnerable to get sick.
2) Improve the quality of your sleep
Yes, getting more sleep helps … but really matters is getting good, deep sleep. By getting into deep REM sleep you allow your body to shut down, destress, and produce the proper hormones it needs. If your stress levels, cortisol, are elevated for prolonged periods of time it will suppress your immune function.
3) Avoid Tobacco
Pretty straightforward. Smoking undermines basic immune defenses and raises the risk of bronchitis and pneumonia. Cut out the tobacco and you will instantly increase your immune health.
4) Drink less alcohol.
Excessive consumption of alcohol impairs the immune system and increases your chances of getting sick. Pair that with a fun night out at a social event or holiday party this year where germs are more prevalent due to the number of people… and you have a strong recipe for getting sick!
5) Use Probiotics
Having a healthy gut, with the right balance or healthy bacteria, and a healthy digestive tract is imperative to staying healthy this fall. Not only will the good bacteria help fight off illness but when your digestive tract is operating effectively you will be able to better utilize the vitamins and minerals from your food and supplements. Probiotics are good bacteria that help you digest nutrients that boost the detoxification of your colon and support your immune system. Simply put, if your bacteria is “sick,” you will be too!
6) Increase Your Vitamin C
Vitamin C deficiencies are a lot more common than you would think. One major reason is that much of theVitamin C you get from the foods you eat is not absorbed by the body. Another reason is becauseVitamin C is one of the first vitamins to be depleted in drinkers, smokers, athletes partaking in long strenuous events and overweight individuals.
The consequences of being low in Vitamin C are known and documented to bring about a host of unfavorable consequences, including a suppressed immune system and increased vulnerability to infection. By addressing this nutritional deficiency, you can boost your immune system.
7) Be Physically Active
Activity improves your immune system and your bodies ability to respond to attacks. At a baseline, you want to get at least 30 minutes of activity a day to reap the benefits for your immune health. This activity can be whatever you enjoy.
Just make sure that you have a moderate level of intensity. Slowly trudging along on the treadmill, putting for little to no effort does not count.
Final Advice For Increasing Immune Health
We have one immune system… On the one hand, it’s important to keep it strong and healthy and to avoid behaviors that might weaken our immune system. On the other hand, it’s important to take daily actions to improve and support a healthy immune system so our body can better fight off disease, infection, and getting sick.
… take care of your immune system and it will take care of you.
*This post was written by Will Grumke. He is a NASM Certified Personal Trainer, NASM Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist, NASM Certified Weight Loss Specialist, NASM Certified Behavioral Change Specialist, and CrossFit Level 1 Trainer.