Heinen’s Wellness Consultant, Jaclyn shares some of her favorite tips & tricks to keep your immune system healthy.
Whether you’re feeling under the weather or simply wishing to give yourself enhanced protection from the germs that surround us, a great place to start is with your immune system!
Your immune system is basically a defense mechanism built into your body that protects against germs, toxins and disease. There are several parts of the human body that make up your immune system, but together they are known as the lymphoid organs and tissues. As a team, these internal structures create white blood cells that target and attack antigens and foreign substances such as toxins and bad bacteria within the body and bloodstream.
Seeing as your immune system is designed to heal the body on its own, it doesn’t require expensive supplements or a large time investment to keep it functioning at full capacity. All it needs is YOU! By eating clean and smart, drinking lots of water and listening to your body, you can keep your immune system functioning at its best with very little effort.
How can you get started? Here are my seven simple tips for boosting your immune system!
1.Eat Plenty of Fruits, Vegetables, Whole Grains, Herbs and Spices
Fruits and vegetables are a great source of antioxidants such as lycopene, beta-carotene and vitamins A, C and E. These help eliminate dangerous free radicals floating in the body. When planning a meal, try to fill at least half of your plate with fruits and vegetables and season with spices. I recommend reaching for berries, citrus, bell peppers and dark green vegetables. In terms of spices, I like garlic, ginger or turmeric.
Try to avoid processed foods and limit sugar and alcohol. Consuming too much of these will suppress the immune system.
2. Drink Plenty of Water
For as simple as water is, it sure is amazing and important for keeping the immune system strong. Not only does water help carry blood to your cells to keep them functioning, but it also helps flush toxins out of the body. Staying hydrated is one of the best things you can do for your health. Not a fan of plain water? Add some freshly-squeezed lemon for added flavor, detoxification and extra vitamin C.
3. Get Some Good Bacteria
About 80% of our immune system is located in our digestive system, so maintaining a healthy gut is important for keeping it strong. Probiotics are good bacteria that feed your gut and keep it clean and healthy. They can be found in supplement form, but can also be added to your diet by eating fermented foods such as raw sauerkraut, miso, yogurt, kefir, kimchi and kombucha.
4. Up Your Vitamin D
With shorter days and less sunlight in the winter, our levels of the “sunshine vitamin” tend to drop. Unfortunately, low levels of Vitamin D are linked not only to decreased immune function, but also seasonal affective disorder (a more intense version of the “winter blues”).
If only for a few minutes, try to soak up some sun outside, even when it’s cold. If you’re unable to make it outside or want an added boost of Vitamin D, you can get small amounts in foods like mushrooms, fatty fish and egg yolks. You can even consider taking a Vitamin D supplement. I recommend consulting with your physician prior to starting a new supplement to assess your current levels and needs.
5. Get Moving
Exercising is not only a great way to stay in shape, but it also increases our immune function. When you’re active, it improves the circulation of blood throughout your body, which allows the blood cells to move easily and complete their protective functions efficiently and effectively. An added bonus is that exercise also improves sleep quality, which is important for immune health, too (see my next tip). Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, even if it’s a long walk.
6. Relax & Rest
Chronic stress can weaken the immune system and makes us more vulnerable to illness. It’s important to take the time to do something you enjoy, but to also slow down and make time for relaxing activities like deep breathing exercises, meditation or reading a book. Chronic fatigue is also known to increase the risks of illness. The body rejuvenates and strengthens when it’s at rest. If you can, try to sleep for 7 to 8 hours a night, and if needed, take an afternoon nap. Your body will thank you!
7. Wash Your Hands
Good handwashing is the first line of defense against the spread of many illnesses ranging from the common cold to more serious infections. Make sure you get soap between your fingers, on the backs of your hands and under the nails where germs like to hang out. Don’t forget the wrists, too! It is recommended to scrub your hands with soap for 20 seconds and rinse with warm water for the most effective clean.