Our immune systems are our most important lines of defence against illness. We rely on them to tackle the bad stuff like viruses and bacteria, so it’s important to keep yours working the best it can.
To help you boost your immune system, we’ve come up with five handy ways to keep things running at their maximum capacity.
When it comes to maintaining a strong immune system, one of your first ports of call should be keeping to a good sleeping schedule. Sleep and good health have always been linked and with your immune system, getting some rest is vital. When we are well-rested the number of t-cells increases in our body; these cells play a big role in the production of antibodies in your immune system. Inflammatory chemicals like cytokines are reduced by sleep too which makes you less vulnerable to colds and flus.
The same t-cells that benefit from sleep form part of the body’s response to viruses and bacteria, and one of the key ingredients that ‘primes’ those t-cells for action is vitamin D. Vitamin D triggers the body’s immune response by preparing the t-cells for action, setting them up to help antibodies attack infections. We get vitamin D from a variety of sources, including certain foods that make up our modern diets, but a neat way to get the vitamin is by heading out and catching some sun. Sunbathing or simply being outside helps you soak in the UVB rays which are essential to the synthesising of vitamin D. Just make sure you don’t spend to long out there because that runs the risk of sunburn and skin damage.
Another vitamin that fuels the immune system is vitamin C. Vitamin C is an essential ingredient in the body’s production of white blood cells which chase down and eliminate pathogens which include bacteria and viruses. Clusters of these cells gather around the pathogens and break them down, so the more cells you have, the quicker your body will be able to find and kill them. More vitamin C means more white blood cells, so the more you have, the stronger your immune system is. You can get the vitamin in citrus fruits in particular, so if you want to give your system a boost, you can incorporate more oranges, lemons and limes into your diet for a start. Follow them up with broccoli, strawberries, potatoes and peppers to ensure you’re getting the right amounts of vitamin C to fight off illness.
On the subject of diets, garlic is surprisingly good at providing important nutrients for your immune system. The white blood cells we mentioned before get a boost from a chemical compound called allicin, which is found in garlic cloves when they are crushed or chewed. This allicin, which contains sulphur, transforms into other compounds which are beneficial to your army of white blood cells, helping them chase down and fight off pathogens. Studies have shown that those who have more garlic in their diets often shrug off colds and flus completely, with little to no symptoms, so a little garlic in your eating habits can pay off when it comes to flu season.
In any field of health, whether it’s your muscles or your internal organs, there’s a general consensus that exercise is always beneficial. This is no different when it comes to the immune system, which is strengthened by exercise and keeping fit. Good fitness is linked to better cardiovascular health which has a direct input into your immune system. It allows white blood cells to move more easily through the body and consequently, lets them deal with the problems more quickly. It’s thought that this is just one of the ways which exercise helps with your immune systems, so it’s well worth keeping yourself in good shape to help keep your internal parts strong and robust.
Those are just some of the ways you can set up your immune system to succeed in its fight against viruses, bacteria and other pathogens that can impact your health. For more tips on staying healthy, keep an eye on our blog.