We are constantly exposed to hundreds or even thousands of microorganisms, germs and viruses throughout our daily lives. Whether or not this will evolve into a disease depends most of all on how strong our immune system is. Furthermore, a good immune system will help us fight the illness better and recover quicker.
The idea of boosting our immune system has always been very enticing, however there’s not one concrete thing that can do so. The immune system is, in fact, a system and not a single entity. To function at its best, it requires harmony and balance from a holistic point of view.
Thankfully nature is smart and our bodies are made to fight external types of “bad” bacteria and viruses. There are, however, few things that can have positive impact and help strengthen our immune system overtime when done persistently and with discipline. In fact, it all comes down to two categories of long term changes - LIFESTYLE and DIET.
1) Vitamin C rich foods:
Vitamin C is actually one of the vitamins that our bodies do not produce, therefore is fundamental to import it through consuming plenty of vitamin C rich foods on a daily basis.
Vitamin C rich foods, like citrus fruits and red bell peppers, can improve the health of your immune system by providing anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
As an antioxidant, vitamin C fights free radicals in the body which may help prevent or delay certain cancers and heart disease, and promote healthy aging.
Studies suggest that getting enough Vitamin C can help to reduce the symptoms of respiratory infections and shorten the duration of illnesses such as common cold or flu.
Some of the richest foods in Vitamin C are:
- citrus fruits, including orange, lemon and grapefruit, kiwi
- yellow red bell pepper
2) Beta-Carotene Foods:
Beta-carotene has powerful antioxidant properties, allowing it to support the reduction of inflammation in the body and fight oxidative stress. According to researchers, the best way to supplement our body with beta-carotene is through our diet - by eating foods rich in the carotenoid.
The highest sources of beta-carotene are yellow, orange and red fruits and vegetables and leafy greens. Adding the following foods to your diet can help promote a strong immune system:
- carrot juice
- sweet potato
- red bell peppers
- collard greens
Garlic can be wholeheartedly called the king of home remedies for immune support. One of the first things my great grant parents used to do when the symptoms of the cold or flu would creep in was to take an immunity shot of 4-5 skillets of garlic on a big chunk of bread.
The best way to consume is raw, as with the head during cooking it may lose majority of its properties.
As for that garlic breath, the best way to get rid of it is to chew on some fresh herbs, such as mint or parsley, after a garlic-rich meal.
Echinacea is one of the most loved plants in homeopathy for its therapeutic and immune boosting properties.
A 2012 study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found that echinacea showed maximal effects on recurrent infections, and preventive effects increased when participants used echinacea to prevent the common cold.
Ginger has had a key part in Ayurvedic medicine, thanks to its ability to boost the immune system since ancient times. The powerful “warming effect” of ginger makes it an amazing help in the breaking down and elimination of toxins from our organs.
6) Cayenne pepper
Another traditional immune booster, predilated since ancient times, is the Cayenne pepper. High in capsaicin, it suppresses a neuropeptide involved in inflammatory processes called substance P. If you are suffering with seasonal colds, sinusitis and are all blocked up - you are going to love this! Cayenne pepper is a great help in breaking up and getting rid of the congested mucus. Think of eating a worm spicy soup and the following runny nose.
(Check our blog post on all the amazing benefits of cayenne pepper)
7) Green tea
Green tea contains high levels of antioxidants, including polyphenols such as epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), which can neutralise free radicals, metabolic by-products that are chemically reactive and can damage cells.
8) Apple Cider Vinegar
Multiple studies have found that the acetic acid in apple cider vinegar is highly effective at killing certain types of bacteria hence Apple cider vinegar has been part of traditional medicine since Hippocrates’s times.
ACV is knows to reduce the “bad” bacteria and increase the “good” ones, acting as a natural antibiotic to improve gut health without adverse effects on your body.
The gut is the power house of the body! Behind the scenes, our gut is responsible for putting our body into working order. While it breaks down the food we eat, our gut absorbs all the nutrients that support our body’s functions — from the productions of energy to hormone balance, skin health to mental health, and even the body's detoxification.
(Check our blog post on all the health benefits of apple cider vinegar)
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Incorporating physical activity in our daily routine is hugely important in order to have a robust immune system. A 2018 human study published in Aging Cell revealed that adopting high levels of physical activity and exercise improve the gradual deterioration of the immune system (immunosenescence) in older adults aged 55 through 79, compared to those in the same age group who were physically inactive.
10) Improve sleep
While we sleep our whole body (mind included) regenerates and recharge. When we don’t get enough sleep, our immune system weakens. A study on the negative impact of sleep-deprivation in adults has found that those who slept less than six hours a night were more than four times likely to get a cold than adults who slept more than seven hours.
To reduce the chances of catching a cold or flu – make sure to dedicate at least 7 hours to sleep each night and get the rest the body needs to affront the next day.
11) Reduce stress
Stress, to a certain degree, is part of our normal life and our body can deal with it. It’s when we experience long term stress or chronic stress that the relaxation responses doesn't occur often enough, and being in a near-constant state of fight-or-flight can cause damage to the body.
Several studies have proven that chronic stress has a negative impact on our overall health by increasing the immune responses.
In order to promote health and wellbeing, it’s important to minimise stress inducing factors and learn how to manage stress and de-stress.
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12) Reduce alcohol consumption
Consuming too much alcohol has a negative impact on the overall wellbeing decreasing the protective reaction of the immune system leaving us more prone to colds, flu and different infections.
Alcohol is known to have a negative effect on the gut health, which can lead to disbalance in the body and overgrowth of harmful bacteria and reduction of the “good” bacteria. This can cause inflammation of the gut or “leaky gut” which basically means that toxins can enter the blood stream and aggravate the effect.