10 Ways To Boost Your Immune System
Natural ways to help reduce your risk of illness
When your immune system is in top shape, it truly is a lifesaver. The main job of the immune system is to protect you against various diseases and potentially damaging foreign bodies, like bacteria and viruses.
But as good as it may be, it is not perfect.
Sometimes it starts getting in action too often and too quick, and therefore increasing the risk of allergies, asthma or eczema. Other times, the immune system attacks the body’s cells instead of protecting them, as it happens in autoimmune conditions. Other times, it is too weak to fight microbes or cancerous cells, and as a result, a person may develop multiple infections or cancer.
Some important warning signs of an unbalanced immune system:
1. Digestive Issues
Stomach upset, diarrhea and/or constipation, multiple food intolerances. Your gut is the cornerstone of your immune system, as up to 80% of your immune tissue is situated in the digestive tract. Therefore, digestive troubles are linked with immune system imbalances. Diarrhea that lasts a few weeks can be a sign that the immune system is attacking the lining of the intestines, as it happens in Crohn's disease and many other autoimmune conditions. Constipation is an issue too, as an impaired immune system or infections may cause the intestines to slow down.
2. Skin Rashes
Eczema is linked with allergies, food intolerances and asthma, and therefore with an overactive immune system. Psoriasis, on the other hand is an autoimmune condition.
3. Fatigue and brain fog.
These two symptoms are associated with many health conditions, but can also be warning signs of a weak immune system. Fatigue is seen in allergies, infections, autoimmune conditions and cancer. Brain fog develops because the gut and the brain are connected via gut-brain axis. If the gut is inflamed, and suffers, so will the brain. In addition, most brain is mostly made up by immune cells called glial cells. Glial cells are more abundant than neurons.
Whether is a headache, a joint ache or a pain located somewhere else, do pay attention to it. Pain is a sign of inflammation, which can be triggered by an impaired immune system. Autoimmune conditions typically cause multiple joint aches, and the pain is worst in the morning.
5. Tingling, numbness, cold feet and hands.
These symptoms can be innocent in many cases. However, in other cases may be a sign of immune system imbalance. Tingling and numbness may be due to the fact that the body is attacking the nerves and muscles. Cold feet and hand may be due to inflammation of the blood vessels.
The 10 Best Ways To Bulletproof Your Immune System:
1. Adopt a healthy diet.
Food is medicine, and therefore a healthy diet is the first step towards a healthier immune system. The rights foods support a strong immune system, a better digestion and a healthier you. Make sure your diet is nutrient rich and includes: plenty of fresh vegetables, some fruits, nuts and seeds, mushrooms, fatty fish, and lean meats. Enjoy plenty of herbs, spices and herbal teas.
2. Stay active.
People who exercise 3-4 times a week are healthier than the ones who do not exercise. Exercise helps flush the microbes from lungs and airways, and thus reducing the risk of infections. Physical activity also has a direct impact on the immune cells, particularly white blood cells and antibodies. The raise in body temperature during exercise can help prevent the growth of microbes (in a similar fashion your body fights infections when you develop fever). Finally, exercise decreases the levels of stress hormones, and these hormones influence the immune system health.
3. Vitamin D.
Vitamin D modulates both the innate and adaptive immune response. It works like a light switch in your body; it can turn on and off certain genes and various reactions in your body. Vitamin D is used by the immune cells, and other tissues and organs, such as bones, gut, heart, brain, as all these tissues have vitamin D receptors.
Zinc is involved in many chemical reactions in the body, and is also essential for a healthy immune system. Your body needs zinc to activate T cells of the immune system. T cells control and regulate the immune response and also help fight microbes and cancer cells.
5. Fish oil.
DHA and EPA are the key active ingredients of fish oil. Both DHA and EPA help reduce inflammation and fight free radicals. Fatty acids from fish oil also modulate the immune system by improving the levels of white blood cells, while lowering pro inflammatory cytokines. To no surprise, fish oil was found to help manage allergies, asthma, autoimmune conditions and even some forms of cancer.
Turmeric is now considered one of the most potent immune modulating herbs, thanks to its main active ingredients, curuminoids. Curcumin has strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant qualities. It can effectively fight various microbes, thus preventing infections. Although more research is needed, curcumin shows a lot of potential for preventing and managing cancer. Curumin may help the immune system to recognize cancerous cells, inhibit their growth and preventing metastasis (the spread of the cancer to distant organs).
While the common “table mushrooms” such as crimini and portobello have health benefits, there is a special group of mushrooms that has very powerful healing qualities: medicinal mushrooms. For immune system support, consider the following ones: Chaga, Turkey Tail, Reishi, Lions Mane, and Cordyceps. They are loaded with beta glucans, which help fight inflammation and boost the immune system. These mushrooms have also strong antioxidant qualities, may help protect against certain cancers and inhibit tumor growth. Medicinal mushrooms work better in combination, than alone.
8. Sleep well.
Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep every night. Simply put, sleep deprivation depresses the immune system. Lack of sleep has a negative impact on the T cells of the immune system, while promoting the activity of certain inflammatory compounds called cytokines. As a result, poor sleep had been linked with increased risk of infections as well as other immune system imbalances.
9. Mindfulness meditation.
Practiced for thousands of years in some cultures, meditation is gaining now popularity in Western countries for a very good reason: it is very beneficial for your health, including your immune system health. Try to meditate at least once a day for 10-20 minutes. Research shows that meditation can improve the function of certain immune cells and reduce stress (stress depresses the immune system).
10. Practice gratitude.
Keep a gratitude journal and write every day 2-3 things you are grateful for. Most studies on the health benefits come from psychologists, who found a link between being grateful and an increased sense of well being, more positive emotions, less stress. How do these positive emotions promote a healthy immune system? They all support a robust immune system, as noted by improved levels of white blood cells, according to research studies. In addition, people who practice gratitude were found to exercise regularly.