Today’s post is written by Julie Hays. Writer, health-nut and mama of two little girls, Julie is on a mission to empower others to live natural, healthy lives free from the continual microbiome depletion that many of us face today. You can find more of her work at GutHealthNews.org.
Most of us know that a weakened immune system can leave us feeling run down and vulnerable to sickness, but the truth is, until we find ourselves coming down with a cold, most of us are guilty of neglecting or even just forgetting about our immune system health. While it’s true that our immune systems are powerful weapons against deadly disease and bacteria, they’re also very vulnerable, and can be easily weakened, overstimulated or damaged by elements of modern living.
So how can we hone immune health? And what steps can we take to ensure that our immune systems remain in tip-top shape year round? Consider these six essential steps for optimizing your immune system naturally.
Yep, you guessed it – diet plays a HUGE part in strengthening your immune function. Unfortunately, the Standard American Diet is known for its overconsumption of processed foods, saturated fats, refined grains and sugar – the very culprits shown to suppress immune function, cause bodily malfunction and leave the door open for pathogens to enter freely.
A healthy immune system depends on a balance of vitamins and minerals, which is why proper nutrition is SO important! For optimal immune health, focus on a balanced diet rich in immune-boosting nutrients such as…
- Vitamin C can be found in citrus fruits and leafy green vegetables such as spinach and kale, bell peppers and brussel sprouts.
- Vitamin E, found in almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts and sunflower seeds, is a powerful antioxidant that helps your body fight off infection.
- Vitamin B6 plays a critical role in immune system function. Bananas, lean chicken breast, cold-water fish and chickpeas are great sources of vitamin B6.
- Vitamin A, another powerful antioxidant, can be found in carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, cantaloupe and squash.
- Prebiotics trigger the growth of good bacteria in the digestive system, building a strong immune response against unwanted foreign bacteria. Garlic, onions, bananas, and unrefined whole grains (like steel-cut oats) are great sources of prebiotics.
- Folate/Folic Acid, found in beans and dark, leafy green vegetables, is key for maintaining immune health.
- Zinc increases killer cells that fight against disease and helps white cells release more antibodies. Oysters, red meat, lamb, pumpkin seeds and beans are all loaded with this essential, immune-strengthening mineral.
Did you know that one in four American women doesn’t exercise at all? And according to research, that’s an easy way to set yourself up for sickness. In fact, one study found that those who exercised for at least 20 minutes a day, five times a week experienced 43% fewer days sick than those who exercised once a week or less.
Exercise causes changes in antibodies and white blood cells (the disease-fighting cells), allowing them to circulate more rapidly, so they’re able to detect and fight illnesses earlier than they might have before.
One of the number one reasons given for not exercising is a lack of time. But the good news is, you don’t have to run a marathon to keep your immune system in pristine shape! Experts say that just 30 minutes of aerobic activity —a brisk walk counts— is enough to sweep white blood cells back into circulation, allowing your immune system to function at its best. And just think of all of the time you will save in sick days!
HIT THE HAY.
A lack of sleep can wreak havoc on your immune function. Researchers from The University of Chicago found that patients who only slept four hours a night for one week produced half the amount of flu-fighting antibodies in their blood compared with those who slept 7½ to 8½ hours a night for the same time period.
Sleep deprivation has been shown to cause a reduction in T-cells (a type of white blood cell essential for immunity) and an increased production of inflammatory cytokines, potentially leading to a greater risk of developing a cold or flu. And if you do get sick, poor sleep quality can also negatively affect the time it takes your body to recover. Simply put – your immune system needs sleep to do its job!
Most adults need between 7 and 9 hours of uninterrupted rest every night. Try bumping your nightly routine back an hour earlier and turning off TV and electronics a few hours before bedtime to let your body’s natural responses kick in. Your immune system will thank you!
We know that stress is bad for our mental health, and research shows that it’s capable of causing just as much mayhem to our physical health. Stress overload has been shown to increase the hormone, cortisol, which, if prolonged, can suppress immune function.
Researchers have long suspected a link between our immune function and mental health state. One study has even suggested an interesting link in seasonal affective disorder and immune health, citing a lack of sun exposure as one of the possible causes for our increasingly stressed and sickly modern society. A lack of sun exposure can actually keep the body from producing Vitamin D, which is essential to immune function. So aim to spend some time every day (15 to 20 minutes) outside in the sunshine.
In addition to getting plenty of fresh air and sunshine, try implementing some daily stress-reducing practices. Activities such as deep breathing and meditation, yoga or stretching, or even keeping a gratitude journal have been shown to reduce overall stress levels and improved well-being.
Did you know that 80 percent of your body’s immune system cells reside in the GI Tract? The human gut is actually home to trillions of microbes, and your immune system depends on a strong presence of good bacteria (also called probiotics) to help keep the bad bacteria from gaining a foothold on your body and your health.
Unfortunately, a range of factors like the widespread use of antibiotics, toxins in our food and environmental elements have disrupted the bacterial balance, putting major stress on our gut environment leading to an overgrowth of unhealthy bacteria and a weakened immune system.
Probiotics are a quick and easy way to get your immune system back on track and achieve overall wellness. Rather than simply stimulating or boosting the immune system, probiotics get to the root, and help fortify the immune system at its core by delivering a large dose of live, good bacteria directly to your GI tract, where the majority of your immune system lives. This good bacteria colonizes, making it harder for disease causing bacteria to settle in.
There are plenty of vitamins and minerals available for immune system support. In addition to probiotics, the most important ones to consider are Vitamin C, Zinc, and Echinacea. One other immune enhancer that you will likely be hearing more about in the near future is a fermented yeast superfood called EpiCor.
Unlike most immune ingredients, EpiCor balances rather than stimulates immune response. This means that it gives you exactly what you need, when you need it. In addition to strengthening your immune system on multiple levels, EpiCor has been shown in various clinical studies to activate NK (Natural Killer) cell activity within two hours of consumption. Recent studies even indicate that EpiCor may initiate an anti-inflammatory response.
If you are already counting the supplement bottles to add to your medicine cabinet, I have good news for you: there is one immune system and daily wellness formula that combines all of the above, and it’s called Hyperbiotics Immune. This unique formula is fortified with Vitamin C, Echinacea, chelated Zinc and EpiCor for maximum immune support. These key ingredients, along with five of the most proven probiotic strains, work together to address your immune health at its core. This formula is also made with a patented controlled delivery method that makes the probiotics 15x more effective than standard capsules, and the other ingredients more bio-available.
Prioritizing immune health goes far beyond protecting us from the common cold and is one of the most simple, yet important, things we can do. Having optimal immune function empowers us to live more healthy days and happier, more vibrant lives.