WHAT BOOSTS YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM?

WHAT BOOSTS YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM?

The idea of ‘boosting’ your immune system is perhaps not the best way to think of it, as it suggests a short-term fast fix. Rather we should focus on keeping our immune systems in good order by having a healthy balanced diet consisting of whole foods, by ensuring good sleep hygiene and by taking regular exercise.

 

Vitamin Supplements

We do of course need minerals and vitamins to keep our immune system healthy, but does that mean we should be taking supplements?  If we are particularly deficient in a certain area, say vitamin D or C, then it is a good idea to take supplements.  However, according the BBC’s ‘Trust me I’m a Doctor’, “Vitamins and minerals can be found in good amounts in food, so if we’re eating a healthy diet, chances are we’re getting the amount we need, and there’s no evidence to suggest that boosting your vitamin levels any further will give you advanced disease fighting powers. In fact, when it comes to some vitamins and minerals, it’s actually possible to have too much of a good thing – excess vitamin A for example, is toxic and can be lethal.”

And all those fancy yoghurts that claim to provide good bacteria to improve our gut health may not be as useful as they claim. According to the European Food Safety Authority there is currently a lack of scientific evidence to make any claims over these products improving immunity.  That is not to say they don’t, but we just don’t know yet.

 

5 Vitamin Rich Foods

Poultry
Chicken and Turkey is high in vitamin B-6 which helps with the formation of red blood cells.

Broccoli
Broccoli is considered to be a super food and is full of vitamins A, C and E and well as also containing fiber and antioxidants. The key is to cook it lightly to get the most out of it – it also tastes much better when it is not boiled to mush!

Citris fruits
Almost all citrus fruits are high in vitamin C and because your body doesn’t store it, you need more vitamin C on a daily basis.

Spinach
Similar to broccoli this food contains vitamin C, A and numerous antioxidents. It is best to be cooked lightly in order to keep as many nutrients as possible.

Kiwi
Potassium, vitamin K and vitamin C as well as many other essential nutrients are found within Kiwis.

 

Sleep

For most of us we need 8 hours of sleep per night in order to stay healthy. According to the NHS, ‘Prolonged lack of sleep can disrupt your immune system, so you are less able to fend of bugs’.

Numerous studies show the benefits of sleep. Researchers in Germany found that sleep actually helps to improve T cells which are immune cells. “T cells are a type of immune cells that fight against intracellular pathogens, for example virus-infected cells such as flu, HIV, herpes, and cancer cells,” Stoyan Dimitrov, PhD, a researcher at the University of Tübingen and an author of the study, told Healthline.

 

Exercise

Regular exercise is one of the pillars of healthy living. The Harvard Medical School says, ‘Just like a healthy diet, exercise can contribute to general good health and therefore to a healthy immune system. It may contribute even more directly by promoting good circulation, which allows the cells and substances of the immune system to move through the body freely and do their job efficiently.’

As well as this, modern science has come to appreciate the close relationship between stress and immune function. Stomach upset, hives, and even heart disease are linked to the effects of emotional stress. Exercise produces endorphins in the brain which reduces stress and also improves the ability to sleep.

Links to further reading

BBC – Can I really boost my immune system?

NHS – Why lack of sleep is bad for your health

HealthLine – How sleep bolsters your immune system

HealthLine – Foods that boost the immune system

Harvard Medical School – How to boost your immune system

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