How to Support a Healthy and Robust Immune System
Whether it be cold & flu season, allergies & hay fever season or an autoimmune condition, there is so much that we can do to naturally support a healthy immune system.
I always prefer to discuss diet and lifestyle first and that will be no different here. The thing is, the same dietary and lifestyle recommendations that I tend to give for immune health, really don’t differ from any other area of health. That would be because as a naturopath, I consider the person holistically, so really the immune system is not separate from any other system or consideration.
So here goes:
1. Eat a whole food, nutrient dense diet. Eat plenty of fruit & vegetables (5-8 serves per day), including leafy green vegetables, bright colours & cruciferous vegetables (think broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, bok choy, kale, brussel sprouts). This provides much needed nutrients and antioxidants for supporting the immune system. Our immune system relies on nutrient dense whole foods to function well and nutrient depletion will affect the bodies ability to fight infection.
2. Limit sugar. Consuming sugar suppresses your immune system by up to 50% for several hours, so if you are consuming sugar several times a day, then your immune system stays semi-permanently suppressed.
3. Include onions & garlic (which are antimicrobial – fighting a broad spectrum of bacteria & viruses) and cook with plenty of herbs & spices. Other immune supportive herbs & spices to include in your cooking are turmeric, ginger, oregano & thyme; and many culinary herbs are also very nutrient dense.
4. Eat mushrooms. Mushrooms are an amazing food for the immune system. Nutritionally they are a bit of a power house and are a food source of vitamin D, but they also contain beta-glucans which are amazing for the immune system. Including all sorts of mushrooms in the diet (such as shitake, maitake, reishi, oyster and even the common white mushrooms found at the supermarket) can be a great way to support and boost immunity.
5. Stay hydrated. Good hydration is critical for nearly all functions in the body. Our bodies are after all composed of 60-70% water. Our immune system is reliant on our blood stream and our lymphatic system which both require a lot of water. Dehydration will cause these to work less effectively and in this way affect our immune function.
6. Get good sleep (7-8 hours good quality sleep per day), and rest. Optimal immune function is not possible with inadequate sleep.
7. Reduce and manage stress. Chronic stress also suppresses the immune system.
8. Get good sunlight, fresh air and movement.
9. Check your breathing. Nose breathing (which is the way we were made to breath) is our first line of defense against many pathogens. If you are a mouth breather you are bypassing that important first line of defense.
10. Keep your gut healthy. 80% of your immune system lies inside your gut. Keeping your gut healthy is essential for good immune health. For many people this means avoiding gluten and dairy as these cause inflammation and a leaky gut. Sugar and refined foods will negatively affect your microbiome. Include fermented foods, bone broth & plenty of fiber for gut health.
Please note that this is just general information. If you have have a specific question, condition or health concern, or require further health advice please book an appointment for a full naturopathic consultation. See my next post for specific nutrients & herbs to support immune health.