One of the best ways to strengthen our immune system is to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
And, you might just ask yourself, what does that entail?
It is actually quite simple and doesn’t include elaborate plans, maybe only just a couple of lifestyle shifts, or simple choices throughout your day.
One of the best ways you can help your immune system is by getting adequate sleep. Studies show that an average adult needs at least 7 hours of sleep per night, and that adults who are getting less than 6 hours sleep, are significantly more likely to encounter illness. When we are sleeping our bodies are given the time to heal and regenerate — contrary to assumption, we are doing a lot whilst we are sleeping.
If you are having trouble getting to sleep, try and limit your consumption of sugars and caffeinated beverages later in the day. Limit your screen time before bed as this can stimulate the mind, making it harder to relax and find rest. Meditating, and stillness just prior to sleeping can also assist in slowing the nervous system down, which tends to make it easier to sleep.
Our diet has one of the single largest effects on our immunity, as this filters all the way through to our gut health, and our bacterias and enzymes that are living there and networking with our entire body. Eating whole foods that contain antioxidants, fibre, and vitamin C may help lower our susceptibility to illness, as well as reducing the duration of the common cold.
Eating healthy fats like omega-3s and olive oil are known to be anti-inflammatory. Since chronic inflammation can suppress our immune system, these fats can assist in naturally combating illness. These healthy fats can be found not only in fish - there are many vegan options at our disposal, such as chia seeds, Brussel sprouts, hemp seed oil, walnuts and flaxseed.
Research suggests gut health and immunity are very much interconnected, and that our gut bacteria can help our immune cells differentiate between normal, healthy cells and harmful invasive organisms.Fermented foods and probiotics may support your immune system by helping it identify, and target harmful pathogens. Integrating foods that are probiotic rich such as yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, and kefir, can help in stabilising gut bacteria, whilst promoting healthy gut flora.
Studies show that sunshine is imperative. Getting outside, and breathing in the fresh air, as well as absorbing vitamin D from the sun is shown to decrease your chances of getting sick. So in the winter months, if you know you’re not getting outside enough, or you're stuck in the office, taking a vitamin D supplement may help you stay on top of your health and immunity.
Coupling sunshine exposure with some moderate exercise is getting two birds, with one stone, so to speak. Moderate exercising like jogging, brisk walking, swimming, and biking are great for helping reduce inflammation — inflammation is known to hamper the immune system response which also promotes the healthy turnover of immune cells, and cell function.
Staying hydrated is important. Dehydration can cause headaches, and hinder our physical performance — affecting some key areas such as our digestion, heart and kidney functions, as well as impacting our overall focus and mood. These complications can increase our susceptibility and severity of illness.
Long-term stress is known to promote inflammation, as well as in-balancing our immune cell function. So, managing stress Levels, is an absolute key to prioritising immune health. There are a number of practices that assist in reducing stress, and therefore assist your immune system in functioning at an optional level, these practices include but are not limited to: meditation, yoga, exercise, art/self expression and connecting with nature.
Photographer: Jordan Malane