Maintaining a strong immune system is vital for remaining healthy at this time of year. So how can you strengthen your immune system?
Here at Jan de Vries we believe in a holistic approach to improving health. This means taking into account various factors that contribute to good or bad health, from diet and lifestyle to emotional factors such as stress. Unfortunately, this means there isn’t one big secret to improving immune function – no miracle pill or super-food we’re afraid!
However, it is not really that difficult to achieve with a few simple changes. With this in mind, let’s take a look at the various ways to support your immune system.
Herbal remedies and natural supplements
The two products we recommend for a healthy immune system are Echinacea and Beta glucans.
Numerous studies have been conducted into the effects of Echinacea, and they show that this simple herb can help strengthen the immune system to reduce the chances of getting ill and speed up your recovery if you do. A.Vogel’s Echinaforce range is a great choice and, while officially licensed for the relief of cold and flu symptoms, it is widely used preventatively as well.
Remember – supplements should not be used in place of a healthy diet and lifestyle!
Now for the ‘big guns’ – beta glucans. These are a type of carbohydrate extracted from the cell walls of various plants, bacteria and fungi, and they are well known in the health and science world for their amazing effect in strengthening the immune system. They have been extensively researched since the 1940s, and new research is still being revealed today. A high-quality product we’d recommend is Transfer Point Beta-1 3-D Glucan Capsules.
A vitamin C supplement can also be really useful, as vitamin C is vital for a healthy immune response.
Diet plays a major role in the immune system for two reasons. The first is that we get most of our vitamins, minerals and nutrients through our diet, and these are vital for feeding the immune system and keeping it strong. The second is that a poor diet can really upset our digestive system – and did you know that around 70% of your immune cells are located in the gut? An upset digestive system is also less able to absorb the nutrients you’re consuming.
Look at increasing your intake of a wide range of brightly coloured fruits and vegetables, such as citrus fruits, red peppers, carrots, sweet potato, broccoli and kale. Variety is key here, as the wider the range of fruits and vegetables you eat, the winder the range of vitamins and nutrients you’ll get.
Decrease your intake of sugars, processed foods and refined carbohydrates (such as white bread and white pasta). These play havoc with your digestion and your friendly bacteria, meaning that you are less able to absorb the nutrients you need even if you do eat plenty of fruit and vegetables. Instead, eat more whole grains and complex carbohydrates – this includes brown bread, brown pasta, whole grain cereal and quinoa.
Smoking is a big no-no for the immune system. It damages the tiny hairs in your respiratory tract, whose job it is to move dirt and bacteria out of the airways. If these hairs can’t do their job, bacteria and viruses can easily begin to multiply.
Smoking also speeds up the breakdown of vitamin C. It is thought that one cigarette can deplete the body of as much as 25mg of vitamin C!
Regular exercise is also vital for the immune system. It gets the blood moving, making it easier for immune cells to travel around the body looking for invaders. It also activates your respiratory system, helping to clear it of dirt and pathogens. Just don’t go overboard, as this can leave you fatigued and more vulnerable to infection!
Stress is the enemy of the immune system. When we are stressed our primitive ‘fight or flight’ response kicks in, diverting all attention towards short term survival mechanisms – the muscles, heart and brain. This means long term survival such as the immune system and digestive system get abandoned – after all, what’s the point in digesting food or fighting bacteria when you might be eaten by a tiger at any second?
These days it isn’t predators that are our main source of stress, but everyday situations such as work, delayed trains, traffic jams and demanding children. This means that our fight or flight response can be triggered several times throughout the day, each time weakening the immune system and digestive system; which, as we discussed before, are closely linked. Work on dealing with stress: yoga is a great way to do this, but you can try simple things like quietly reading a book in the evening, or going for a run to burn off extra energy and boost your feel-good hormones. If you need a helping hand then try a stress remedy.
So it’s really quite simple: try immune supplements like Echinacea and beta glucans; eat more fruit and veg, more complex carbohydrate and less sugar; quit smoking and do some extra exercise; and find ways to reduce stress.