For obvious reasons, immune health is a top concern for almost everyone right now. Along with the regrettable events of the past 18 months, there is now the looming threat of the winter weather.
As the temperature plummets, we spend more time indoors and in close proximity to other people. Evidence also suggests that colder temperatures have the potential to weaken the immune system, leading to a higher likelihood of infection and illness.
Of course, you know that – we’re none of us strangers to the increased chances of catching the sniffles come winter.
Contrary to popular belief, there currently is no single product available that effectively and comprehensively boosts the immune system. Despite the claims of thousands of miracle products and supplements, maintaining strong natural defences isn’t that easy.
But it is possible with the right approach. And it all begins with building a better understanding of what the immune system is and how it works. That’s what we’re here to help you with today in this quick-fire FAQ post.
How Does the Immune System Work?
The immune system is your body’s natural defensive system that protects it from external threats. It is an exceptionally complicated biological system that automatically detects foreign antigens – everything from toxins to foreign tissues, bacteria, viruses, and fungi.
When the immune system detects any of these invaders, it acts swiftly to protect your body. With more exposure to various situations and stimuli, your immune system becomes stronger and more capable. This is why we get immunised, to improve our defences.
It is only when your immune system is strong and can recognise the widest possible range of foreign antigens that it can perform at the top of its game.
Which Foods Build Strong Natural Defences?
Dietary balance is essential for everything from healthy skin to an effective immune system. This means ensuring careful moderation with certain foods, while increasing your intake of others. It also means making sure your body is getting the right number of vitamins, minerals, fats, proteins, antioxidants and carbohydrates to do its job properly.
Some of the specific foods that are known to support immune health include the following:
- High fibre foods and whole grains
- Fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi and yoghurt
- Healthy fats such as those found in salmon, olives and avocados
- Colourful fruits and vegetables with a high antioxidant content
- Certain herbs and spices like black pepper and turmeric
- Nuts and seeds
There’s also growing evidence to support the potential benefits of a raw foods diet. Which basically means ingredients undergo minimal processing and cooking so you can consume them as close to their raw form as possible.
What Foods Should I Avoid for the Benefit of My Immune System?
Research has also highlighted several foods and dietary habits that can have a negative effect on the immune system.
Examples of which include the following:
- Fast food and most types of heavily processed foods
- Overeating fatty and sugary foods
- High quantities of refined carbohydrates
- Most types of processed and preserved meats
- Excessive consumption of alcohol
From a broader perspective, a diet that does not fulfil your recommended daily intake of key vitamins, minerals and nutrients could adversely impact immune health.
Should I Take Dietary Supplements?
This is a question only your doctor can answer, as nutritional requirements vary significantly from one person to the next. Where possible, experts always advise you to focus on fulfilling daily nutrient intake requirements through healthy dietary choices.
However, there will always be some people – older adults, especially – who may benefit significantly from select dietary supplements; those that contain vitamin D, vitamin C and zinc are particularly widely recommended by doctors and nutritionists.
If you are considering the use of supplements to fill potential nutritional gaps and support your immune system, consult with a qualified professional before doing so.
How Does Weight Loss Help Support the Immune System?
This one is especially close to our hearts, since helping you achieve your dream body is exactly what we’re all about.
Extensive research has drawn direct links between immune system impairments and obesity. The exact cause of this connection is not entirely understood, but research has shown that obesity tends to cause chronic inflammation.
Maintaining a healthy weight is therefore paramount for boosting the effectiveness of your immune system. Winter tends to be a time of year when most people put their weight-loss goals on hold, but we’re here to tell you that’s not the wisest route to take.
Now’s the time to double down on your diet and fitness routine, not give up on it.
How Much Exercise Should I Get to Benefit My Immune System?
Exercise requirements vary significantly from one person to the next, based on factors like age, physical health, BMI and more.
As a rule of thumb, experts recommend 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times a week for healthy adults. This should ideally include a variety of exercises, with a balance of strength and cardio activities to give your body a good workout.
What is the Connection Between Sleep and Immune System Health?
Getting enough sleep is essential for supporting the immune system. If you sleep less than 7 hours per night, you’re likely to have a weaker and less effective immune system than someone who sleeps between the commonly recommended 7 to 9 hours.
Sleep deprivation on any level can take a major toll on all aspects of human health.
Since sleep requirements differ from person to person, it is best to discuss with your doctor if you have concerns. If you already know you’re not getting enough sleep, however, do yourself a favour and fix that – it’ll do you the world of good.
Should I Get the Flu Vaccine?
Now more than ever, experts are advising anyone eligible for the flu vaccine to get it as urgently as possible.
Each year, the flu vaccine is modified to ensure it can protect the body against the latest strains and variants of the virus. The vaccine provides robust protection throughout the time of year when the likelihood of contracting flu is at its highest.
Scepticism towards vaccinations is understandable and not everyone will choose to get the flu vaccine. However, we strongly advise you to consult with your doctor before making your decision. Your doctor will help determine your eligibility for the flu vaccine and ensure you understand the benefits of vaccination.
What Else Can I Do to Stay Healthy During the Winter?
Along with supporting your immune system as outlined above, you can boost your likelihood of enjoying a healthy winter in the following ways:
- Stop smoking
- Work on reducing your stress levels
- Take more walks to get plenty of fresh air and exposure to the sun
- Wash your hands regularly for at least 30 seconds throughout the day
- Avoid large crowds and keep a distance from people indoors
- Try to avoid touching your face if you have not recently washed your hands
- Dress appropriately for the weather and stay warm
- Drink plenty of fluids and focus on good hydration
Remember, if you’re serious about staying healthy this winter, don’t give in to ‘the norm’ and adopt hibernation behaviours. Now isn’t the time for that, it’s the time for action! And if you need a little extra motivation to get you through, contact us today to discuss our game-changing body contouring treatments.