Ways to Support Your Immune System
Although we all know how important our immune system, it’s probably not something we think about much until we feel below par. Instead of waiting for it kick in and fight back, why not take a more sensible, measured approach and support it with a more long-term sustainability plan. Read on to find weird ways to support your immune system that you might not know about…
Chew your food properly
Chewing your food well is the crucial first stage of digestion because it triggers the whole digestive process to allow nutrients to be used properly by the body. But it’s not just this system that it helps, chewing properly also supports the immune system because it releases Th17 cells in your mouth. These cells are one of the body’s first line of defences against pathogens which cause infection, so it’s important to chew food thoroughly enough to secrete them – which is roughly as long as it takes for your food to lose texture. Th17 cells ultimately support T-cells, a part of the immune system which focus on fighting foreign substances.
Take a cold shower
Cold showers are not just great for waking you up in the morning and boosting your circulation, they can be a useful way of supporting your immune system and fighting off common illnesses like colds and the flu. It works because the shock of cold water in the bloodstream triggers leukocytes, or white blood cells. White blood cells circulate in your blood and respond to injury or illness and so are critical for fighting infection. If you needed proof, a study in Amsterdam even found that participants who took cold showers for 30 days straight, reported a 29% decrease in how often they got sick. If you’re new to cold showers, then go slow to ensure it becomes a habit you can stick to. Start by switching to cold just for the last couple of seconds of your morning shower and build up gradually from there.
Pay attention to the morning
Staying well is important all day long but it might matter that you stay especially fit and healthy in the morning. That’s because researchers found that we are more susceptible to illness and infection in the morning, and even more so if our body clock is disrupted to boot, perhaps because of shift work or erratic bedtimes. That’s because viruses work by overwhelming the inner workings of our cells, which are more active in the morning. If infection takes over then, research found it more likely to take a strong hold, with a study from Cambridge University finding that viruses can multiply 10x faster in the morning versus the night. On the flipside, it also means that vaccines are likely to be more effective if administered in the morning – provided you’re fit and well when you have it, according to another study. That’s because our bodies are working harder so it’s thought we’re able to produce a greater antibody response.
Take a zinc supplement
We know by now that supplementing our diets with vitamin C can be a good idea if we want to maintain good ongoing daily health, but studies have shown that it might be just as beneficial to include zinc in your supplement line-up too. Similarly, to vitamin C, zinc helps aid cellular repair and growth but it also plays an important role in supporting the immune system, by activating enzymes that break down the proteins found in viruses and bacteria, making them less virulent. Zinc also increases the activation of white blood cells, making them more able to fight off infection. The RDA for adult women is around 8mg and around 11mg for adult men.
Take your probiotics
With 70% of the immune system located in the gastrointestinal tract, it’s never been more important to keep your gut environment healthy. One way to do that is ensure you keep on top of your probiotic intake, which take a leading role in good gut health thanks to the way they restore the natural balance of bacteria and maintain a healthy long-term gut environment. Fermented foods like yogurt, kimchi and sauerkraut are all great sources, as is Workshop’s Probiotic + Prebiotic. A symbiotic, this supplement contains a good balance of multiple strains of bacteria as well as a high number of colony-forming units. With 20 billion live and active bacteria in each serving, including lactobacilli, which helps to break down food more effectively and aids of elimination of bad bacteria in the gut, and bifidobacteria which aids digestion and helps eliminate harmful food-born pathogens. It also contains prebiotics, which feed the probiotics and make them more effective.
Factor exercise into your day, everyday
We all know exercise is a great healer in so many ways, but it’s really important for keeping our immune system in check too. That’s because exercise mobilises white blood cells, the body’s infection fighting soldiers, and sends then round the body looking for signs of infection. We should all aim to move every day, whatever form that takes, but ideally you should be doing 150 minutes of moderate activity a week, such as walking and cycling, or 75 minutes of more intensive exercise like running or a fast-paced class.