Lifestyle tips for your immune health

It is that time of year again, people coughing in the supermarket, children getting cold after cold, and no doubt at some point you’ll come down with something.

Prevention is always better than cure though, and rather than waiting to find a fix once you’re run down, there are plenty of dietary and lifestyle tips you can do to make sure your immune system is ready to fight off those germs. 

1. Manage stress levels

Our daily life exposes us to many stressors, such as high-pressure work environments, financial stress, relationship problems, use of technology and exposure to media. These situations, and other emotional, environmental, relationship & work stressors can leave us in a state of chronic stress.

When we are in a stressed or ‘fight or flight’ state, cortisol suppresses our immune system which reduces our ability to fight off viruses. 

Implementing some down time to relax, ideally daily can help with stress. Take a walk, have a bath, do some mindful colouring or read a book, what ever it is that you find relaxing. 

2. Reduce sugar intake

A diet high in refined sugars and carbs, can suppress the immune system and increase inflammation. Foods high in these include white bread, sweets, cookies, cakes, sugary drinks and breakfast cereals. 

To best support your immune system, try and keep your dietary intake of the above foods to a minimum.

3. Exercise appropriately 

Exercising has been found to benefit your immune system health, however the type, duration and intensity is key.

Research has shown that high intensity training for prolonged periods can decrease immune function, especially without sufficient rest. 

In contrast, moderate-intensity exercise for 60 minutes or less, most days of the week has been found to be the most beneficial for it’s immune health support. Reasons for these benefits include, exercise improving sleep quality and quantity, reducing stress, increasing the circulation of immune cells, and having an anti-inflammatory effect. 

As important daily exercise is for overall health and immune health, it is important to REST when you are feeling under the weather, and to remember to listen to your body and not push yourself. 

4. Ensure optimal sleep

Sleep quality and duration are important for so many health reasons, and immune function is one of them. Sleep strengthens the immune system, allowing for appropriate responses to immune threats. Research has shown reduced sleep quantity and quality is associated with lower resistance to infection from the common cold. 

Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep, and ideally more if you are fighting something.

5. A word on suppression

Lastly, it is good to remember that there is nothing wrong with catching colds and viruses. We are designed to fight them off, and while it is always a good thing to support our immune system, viruses shouldn’t be feared.

Mild fevers should also not be feared, and are part of our bodies healing process. A fever works by reducing the replication of a virus, and increasing the activity of immune cells, decreasing the duration of the illness.

Read my blog on Foods to support your immune system here.

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