If you’ve been suffering from a runny nose, blocked sinuses or a lingering cough it seems that you’re not alone. According to the Department of Health, between April and May the amount of people presenting with flu – like symptoms was more than twice the five-year average.
With many people suffering from these symptoms earlier than expected, we could be in for an uncomfortable winter if we don’t make some simple changes to help our immune system function better.
Here are my top 10 tips to help naturally boost your immune system:
1. Vitamin C – Vitamin C helps to stimulate the production of natural killer cells, such as phagocytes and T-Cells, which seek out and destroy foreign bodies. It also helps in the production of collagen. Collagen helps heal cuts or abrasions to your skin, as these wounds can be a gateway for bacteria to enter the body. Good sources of Vitamin C include citrus fruits such as oranges and lemons, red capsicum and broccoli.
2. Garlic – Studies have shown that eating garlic helps to reduce the severity and duration of cold and flu symptoms. This is because garlic is packed with sulfur containing compounds such as allicin, which help to increase the rate at which our natural killer cells are made. This allows the body to have more cells readily available to fight against foreign bodies.
3. Water – The body needs water to produce lymph. Lymph helps to carry nutrients to the blood, transport immune system cells and remove toxins. Without lymph toxins would build up in our body and our immune cells could not easily travel around to detect and fight disease. It is recommended that adults drink 2-3L of water per day.
4. Probiotics – A large part of the immune system is located in the gut.
Bacteria act as our immune system’s first line of defense by lining the gut wall to prevent any dangerous particles from passing through from the foods we eat. To ensure the bacteria can do their job properly we need to have more good bacteria in the gut than bad. Taking a probiotic is a simple way to increase the levels of good bacteria to our body.
5. Sleep – Studies show that people who do not get the recommended 7-8
hours of sleep are more susceptible to illness. While your sleeping your immune system produces and releases cytokines, which are needed to help fight inflammation and infections. The less sleep you get, the less cytokines are released, weakening your immune system’s defense.
6. Stress Less – When you’re stressed your body is dominated by the sympathetic nervous system. In this state, hormones adrenalin and cortisol are released to increase our heart rate, increase energy levels and dilate our blood vessels in preparation for us to take “flight or fight”. When these hormones continue to be released during chronic stress, they decrease the levels of white blood cells in the body, weakening our immune system.
7. Exercise – Research has shown that individuals who exercise are 25% less likely to develop cold-like symptoms. It is believed physical activity helps white blood cells to circulate more rapidly around the body, allowing foreign bodies to be detected and eliminated quicker than in those who don’t exercise. Additionally, people who exercise regularly have lower levels of stress hormones in the body to impact negatively on the immune system.
8. Practice good hygiene –Infections such as gastro or the common cold are caught when germs from our hands are transferred onto the food we eat or when we touch other parts of our body such as the mouth. To prevent this make sure you use soap to wash your hands and use sanitiser regularly. Research shows proper hand washing can reduce the chance of catching the flu by up to 21%.
9. Avoid smoking and alcohol – Those that smoke and drink large amounts of alcohol are more likely to remain sicker for longer than those that don’t. This is because alcohol and tobacco are immune suppressants. Tobacco can damage antibodies in the bloodstream leaving the body with less fighting cells available to defend against infections. On the other hand, alcohol acts on macrophages, decreasing their ability to destroy foreign cells.
10. Chiropractic – The autonomic nervous system controls the function of your gut, spleen, thymus and lymph notes, which are some of the organs responsible for producing the body’s immune response system. Compression and irritation of nerve pathways (through spinal misalignments) can affect how well these organs function. By correcting spinal misalignments, Chiropractors help to reduce stress on the nervous system so these organs can function optimally.
Now that you know what to do, enjoy a sleep in, get yourself to a local market, lace up your runners and then drop in to see your favourite Chiropractor.