The weather feels a little warmer. The sun is setting later in the day. The birds are chirping. The signs are there - spring is on its way. But don’t let your guard down just yet. Cold and flu season isn’t quite over. In fact, spring still offers plenty of opportunities to catch the common cold.
To fight off infection and help your body naturally detoxify germs and infections, you may be wondering how to improve your immune system. It’s important to keep up with a good immune hygiene routine. In this article, we will explore the best ways to keep your immune system strong, especially during cold and flu season.
Get enough sleep
As if you didn’t have enough reasons to want more sleep, here’s another one: it is very important for immune system health.
Getting enough sleep each night is critical to helping our bodies reset and recharge. Studies have shown that sleep-deficient people are more prone to illness when exposed to a virus - and they are slower to recover!
Sleep deficiency is associated with lower levels of infection-fighting antibodies, cells, and proteins, leaving the body more at risk of illness. Lack of sleep or lack of quality sleep can also be contributing factors for diseases like obesity and diabetes, which also affect immunity. No shortage of reasons to get a good night’s sleep!
Water is important for immune health for a variety of reasons. One simple reason is that it may prevent dryness in mucous membranes (e.g. your throat or nostrils), which are important barriers to infection. Moisture protects these areas from infection, whereas dryness leaves them exposed, setting the stage for pathogens to move in.
Another is that our bloodstream and lymphatic system both are made mostly of water. They both need water to function properly and support our immune systems. For example, the bloodstream is needed to deliver nutrients to our organs and remove waste and toxins from the body. Lymphatic fluid also removes wastes and toxins in the body, and is also needed to distribute white blood cells to fight infections.
Move your body
The effect of exercise on immune health is pretty interesting. Exercise is known to trigger the production of white blood cells, which detect and wipe out viruses and harmful bacteria.
One study found that people who did aerobic exercise five days per week or more had a 40% lower incidence of upper respiratory tract infections over a period of time. Five-plus days of moderate to vigorous exercise might seem like a lot if you’re not in the habit, but the tradeoff seems worth it!
As an added benefit, exercise also may lower stress hormones, which can also affect immune strength.
Ditch the stress
According to studies, stress experienced over any period of time (from a few days to a few weeks or more) can weaken the immune system. Stress increases the hormone cortisol, which increases inflammation, and affects production of white blood cells, which are needed to fight off infection. These changes due to stress can increase the risk of illness.
For these reasons, it’s important to try to manage stress. This could mean taking time for enjoyable hobbies, exercise, volunteering, or just simply relaxing. Meditation and yoga are often recommended for mindfulness and relaxation.
Eat a balanced diet
Good nutrition is important to support all the working parts of your immune system. A variety of vitamins and minerals are essential for immune function, including iron, vitamin B, copper, selenium, zinc, and beta-glucan. Here’s how these nutrients support your immune health:
- Zinc is a well-known immunity-supporting mineral with antioxidant properties, which has been shown to help control inflammation. It stimulates enzymes that attack viruses and bacteria so they are unable to grow and spread. Zinc is present in red meat and poultry as well as whole grains, fortified cereals, milk, cheese, beans, and nuts.
- Selenium is a less famous mineral with antioxidant properties. It is believed to protect cells from damage and is associated with improved immune response. Food sources of selenium include grains, walnuts, tuna, beef, and poultry.
- Copper is an essential trace mineral that aids in the formation of collagen, absorption of iron, and production of red blood cells. Though little is known about copper’s role in immune health, studies have linked copper deficiency with low levels of white blood cells, which are needed to attack infections. It may contain antioxidant properties. Copper is present in shellfish, beans, dried fruits, nuts, beans, potatoes, and dark leafy greens, and many other sources.
- Quercetin became famous during the COVID-19 pandemic, often with the hope that it could help manage severe inflammation, one of the most serious conditions for COVID-19 patients. In fact, quercetin has been shown to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and antiviral properties in some people, and may help fight off infection. Quercetin cannot be made by the body, but can be consumed through fruits like berries, apples, grapes, and citrus fruits, as well as broccoli and kale, tomatoes, black tea, and red wine.
- Beta-glucan is a vital fiber that activates immune cells by stimulating activity of white blood cells, which are needed to fight off infections. It is found in mushrooms, barley, oats, seaweed, and yeast.
- Vitamin C is, of course, also famous for its role in immune health. It is known to stimulate production of collagen, which plays a role in wound healing, and is a powerful antioxidant, which helps fight inflammation from infection. The best sources of vitamin C are fruits and vegetables.
Supplement dietary deficiencies
If you’re worried that you aren’t getting enough of the foods needed to naturally enhance immunity, dietary supplements may help. PharmaNutrics offers two products for immune support:
- Immunomix: A unique blend of vitamins and minerals that are known for their antioxidant, antibacterial, and antiviral properties. When taken daily, this unique blend of micronutrients may lower the risk of health issues due to viral illnesses.*
- GlucanPlus: A blend of highly pure beta-glucan and zinc. Taken at the first sign of illness, GlucanPlus may help manage the duration and severity of illness and infection.*
We hope this article helps you to stay healthy and happy by strengthening your immune system using these tips and tricks. Be sure to start off slow and gradually adjust to recommendations.
Remember to balance lifestyle changes with the amazing benefits of supplements for ultimate results. To learn more about our supplements inspired by nature, contact PharmaNutrics today!