The immune system has two primary jobs: to protect and to repair. There are a variety of ways to improve immune system function, and Zuma Nutrition has created a brief guide on effective ways to enhance your immunity using natural methods. Here are five lifestyle changes as well as five foods that can help boost your immunity naturally.
5 Lifestyle techniques to improve immunity
1. Exercise and Sweat
Exercising regularly is one of the greatest things you can do to boost your immune system and help fight off infections. Exercise allows immune cells to perform effectively—it increases blood flow, reduces stress and inflammation, and strengthens antibodies.
Exercise also causes the body to sweat, and when you sweat, your body reacts much like it does when you have a fever: It raises your temperature, and as it does, your body naturally kills off pathogens. Sweating also helps with lymphatic system health, an important detoxification system of the body.
2. Lowering the Body’s Toxic Load
We all have what is known as a “toxic load”—which, simply put, is the total amount of toxins accumulated in the body. Each one of us is exposed to various toxins on a daily basis. These come from a variety of sources such as the food we consume, the water we drink and bathe in, the air that we breathe, the products that we use, and many others.
When the toxic load in the body is high, it can be very damaging to our overall health, and as a result, our immune system becomes compromised. One of the greatest ways to keep the immune system strong is by reducing the toxic load in the body. You can achieve this by avoiding toxic exposure in the first place and by regularly detoxing the body through diet and lifestyle changes.
3. Lower Stress Levels
High levels of stress can be very damaging to the body. When we are stressed, the body releases a hormone called cortisol. The release of this hormone signals a chain reaction of processes in the body that are meant to help the body adjust to stressful circumstances and prepare for action. For example, your heart pounds faster, muscles tighten, blood pressure rises, breath quickens, and senses become sharper.
While these reactions are helpful for overcoming stressful situations, if they are active for long periods of time due to high levels of stress, they begin to impair our health. High cortisol levels can significantly reduce immunity, so to keep our immune system strong, we must learn to keep our stress levels low.
4. Make Sleep and Rest a Priority
Studies show that people who don't get enough sleep are more likely to get sick. Lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover if you do get sick. During sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines. Certain cytokines need to increase when you have an infection or inflammation or when you're under stress. Sleep deprivation may decrease the production of these protective cytokines. In addition, infection-fighting antibodies and cells are reduced during periods when you don't get enough sleep.
So, the body needs sleep to fight off infections and diseases. Lack of sleep, especially long-term, can increase your risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) disease. To stay healthy and improve your immunity, be sure to get plenty of sleep each night. Using natural sleep remedies or trying a sleep app can help.
5. Spend Time in the Sun
The sun is the primary source of life on this planet, and it plays a key role in our health and immunity. When your skin is exposed to sunlight, it makes vitamin D from cholesterol. The sun's ultraviolet B (UVB) rays hit cholesterol in the skin cells, providing the energy for vitamin D synthesis to occur.
Vitamin D has many roles in the body and is essential for our health as well as for our immunity. Vitamin D can actually modulate the innate and adaptive immune responses of the body. A vitamin D deficiency is associated with increased autoimmunity as well as increased susceptibility to infection. So, to keep your immune response functioning optimally, be sure to spend time in the sun frequently.
5 Foods and herbs to improve immunity
Blueberries are among the healthiest foods on the planet. They contain many nutrients and compounds that are beneficial to our health. Two of these compounds really stand out when it comes to immunity—anthocyanins and ellagic acid.
Anthocyanins are the pigments that are responsible for the rich color in blue and purple foods. They are powerful antioxidants, meaning they help the body eliminate harmful free radicals that we are exposed to daily. Ellagic acid is a polyphenol, a powerful anti-aging compound found in fruits and vegetables; it has the power to repair DNA through a unique mechanism that binds to endogenous DNA, thereby preventing cell mutagen by various carcinogens. Polyphenol is truly an incredible compound for boosting immunity, and it is one of the compounds that makes blueberries so good for our health.
2. Olive Leaf
Olive leaf extract is a natural health supplement with many therapeutic benefits. In particular, it has a very positive effect on the immune system. Olive leaf is antimicrobial, so it protects the body from harmful bacteria. It is also a powerful anti-inflammatory and full of antioxidants that eliminate free radicals and protect our health.
3. Burdock Root
Burdock root has long been used in traditional herbalism as an immune-boosting herb. We now know that many of its immune benefits come from its unique ability to remove toxins from the blood as well as its ability to improve liver health. This root is also a powerhouse of antioxidants.
4. Citrus Fruits
Citrus fruits have a long history of use for improving immune system health. This is largely due to their high vitamin C content. Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant and a co-factor for a family of biosynthetic and gene regulatory enzymes. Vitamin C contributes to immune defense by supporting various cellular functions of both the innate and adaptive immune systems.
Turmeric is a common culinary spice that has many incredible benefits for health. Turmeric is well-known for its ability to reduce inflammation in the body. This is primarily due to a compound in turmeric call curcumin. There have been many studies on the health benefits of curcumin, and some studies show that it actually has the ability to modulate the immune system.
The immune-modulating and anti-inflammatory benefits of this herb make it a great way to support our immune system health—it is also easy to incorporate into a variety of healthy dishes. Be sure to combine turmeric with black pepper and a healthy fat (such as olive oil, avocado, or tahini) to maximize the absorption of the curcumin compound.
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