The immune system is our inbuilt defence, ready to protect us from the innumerable number of attacks it sustains each day, whether it is from viruses, bacteria, parasites, or toxic substances.
However, we need to take care of it to keep it functioning optimally. A vital part of this is ensuring we are eating good quality, nutrient dense foods which provide our immune system with everything it needs to perform its very important tasks.
However, nourishment is just one part of the puzzle. If your diet is healthy but your lifestyle is not, that will make a big difference if you are aiming for a strong immune defence.
That’s why Monica Durigon, Nutritional Therapist and Simplyhealth partner, has shared her expert advice on how to boost your immune system by leading a healthier lifestyle.
Get plenty of rest
Have you ever noticed that tiredness is the first symptom you feel when you start getting ill? It’s not a coincidence. Responding to an immune attack takes up a lot of energy. Our bodies use tiredness as ‘a message’, telling us that it’s time to allocate our energy and resources to fight the infection and get better.
Society and culture may programme us to ‘push through’. But this is counterproductive – if we do not get the rest we need, our recovery will be delayed. Make sure to take time to unwind and relax.
It is impossible to ignore the influence of exercise on any of our body systems. This is particularly true for immunity. Physical activity is key to keeping the lymphatic system healthy. The lymphatic system includes organs, such as the thymus and the spleen, vessels, lymph nodes, body tissues and the bone marrow and it’s a vital facet of your immune system.
Your lymphatic system helps get rid of impurities from your body fluids. It forms a filtration system via the lymph nodes and it’s the part of the system that produces and grows lymphocytes (types of white blood cells). The lymphatic system relies on muscle contractions for proper circulation. It doesn’t have its own pump (the heart) like the circulatory system does. That means exercise is really important for the lymphatic system function.
Chronically elevated levels of stress lead to chronically elevated levels of stress hormones, which are immune suppressants. Over time this means our bodies can’t respond properly to an attack because our immune system is depleted and doesn’t have the resources it needs.
Embrace a positive mindset
Have you noticed that your optimistic friends are ill less often than your pessimistic friends? People used to think this was because optimistic people would take better care of themselves. But some researchers have found that it is because of something completely different. It’s because their positive thoughts had a positive effect on their immune systems!
However, just as being positive may be conducive to great health and immunity, negative thoughts can also have an effect on your health outcomes. We have positive placebo effects. We also have the nocebo effect: negative outcomes to healing because of negative thoughts.
Our bodies are amazing and so are our minds. Like our immune systems, they are powerful tools to serve us and keep us well. However, we need to do our part by educating ourselves on how to support them through a healthy diet and healthy lifestyle.
This is particularly important in the current climate, with our physical and mental wellbeing at the forefront of all our minds. Leading health plan Simplyhealth has launched a Coronavirus support hub on its website, offering expert advice on how to look after your health and immune system, with practical guidance on topics such as nutrition, sleep and exercise. For more information, visit www.simplyhealth.co.uk.