The strength of our immune system plays a vital role in whether we’ll catch one of the many bugs that circulate each winter and how long it will take our bodies to recover when we do get sick. To keep your immune system in tip-top shape, consider these Do’s and Don’ts:
Eat foods rich in beneficial bacteria – our digestive tract is lined with bacteria and 70% of our immune system resides in our gut. The good bacteria work to suppress growth of bad bacteria and they also help increase resistance to other infections. Eating kefir, kombucha, miso and yogurt will boost beneficial bacteria.
Get plenty of Vitamin C – stimulates white blood cell production, which provides defence against vital invaders. Vitamin C levels may be deficient among smokers, those under stress and picky eaters. Certain medications can also deplete vitamin C. Eat bell peppers, citrus, strawberries and dark leafy greens as they’re rich in vitamin C. Consider vitamin C supplements to optimize immune function.
Take Vitamin D supplements – plays a critical role in helping the immune system identify viruses and bacteria. A deficiency can increase our risk of getting sick. Food can provide a small amount of vitamin D. Best sources are mushrooms, fatty fish and egg yolks. During the winter months supplementation is necessary because of lack of sun exposure.
Put Echinacea and Elderberry on your shopping list – certain types of Echinacea have antiviral and antibacterial properties making it helpful in cold/flu prevention. It can also help shorten duration and severity of symptoms by blocking pro-inflammatory compounds. Black elderberry is a potent antioxidant that has antiviral activity and can help relieve symptoms and speed healing. Both are safe for those 2 years and above.
Take try to juggle too many things – high levels of stress, as well as the things people do when they are stressed (smoke, drink, eat junk food) can reduce immune function and increase susceptibility to vital infections. Stress can also have a negative impact on digestive health and cause an upset in the balance of beneficial bacteria that are important to immune health.
Get too little sleep – getting less than 6 hours of sleep at night can reduce activity of immune cells and increase risk of getting colds/flu.
Eat a diet rich in sugar – sugar weakens the immune system, in particular it hampers the white blood cells ability to fight infection.
Drink too much alcohol – high alcohol consumption (more than 4 drinks) can impair immune function by reducing the function of the immune cells. Low-moderate intake of antioxidant-rich beverages such as a glass of wine a day has the opposite impact. So choose your beverages wisely and drink in moderation.