5 tips to keep your immune system as strong as an ox

Simple tips to follow to help improve your immunity and give your body a boost.

Exercise Physiologist, Wellness Coach and Lifestyle Medicine Practitioner, Bell Silverthorne shares a few things you can do to help strengthen and support your immune system.

While we are all focused on the importance of things like social distancing and good hygiene to help combat the spread of Coronavirus, it can be easy to overlook the everyday basics that will keep our immune systems in good stead. So what is the best bang for buck to keep ourselves fit and healthy to fight off any baddies trying to attack our systems?

 

1. Getting enough shut eye
While we all know the feeling of sluggishness, irritability, and how much harder life feels with less sleep, there are lots of immune benefits for a good sleep. Without enough sleep, your body does not make cytokines, which is a type of protein which targets infection and inflammation (read: cytokines = immune response). Cytokines are both produced and released during sleep, so you are in double trouble if you are scant on sleep. While sleep needs vary according to age, life stage, health conditions and lifestyle patterns, most of us will function well with 7-8 hours of sleep per night.

 

2. Cutting back on the booze
There are a lot of studies showing how chronic drinking can disrupt immunity pathways, making heavy drinkers more susceptible to diseases. This can include as pneumonia, tuberculosis, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), hepatitis B and C. However, the effect on your immune system for low-moderate drinking isn’t quite as cut and dried. As a general rule of thumb, alcohol dampens your immune system, making you more likely to get sick than if you weren’t drinking. Viruses aren’t caused by alcohol per se, but you are more vulnerable to them if you’re drinking. Hit me with your best mocktail ‘quarantini’ suggestions!

 

3. Moving on up
Leading a physically active lifestyle pays dividends for your immune system! Being physically active reduces the incidence of communicable infections– bacterial and importantly viral, as well as non-communicable disease such as cancer. So in other words, your immune system is enhanced by regular exercise for stuff you can catch, and stuff you can’t catch, but can develop over time. Of course, like anything in life, there is always a happy medium, and people who overtrain (note; this is a really high volume of training and intensity, so most of us would be safe from this) do have increased illness risk. In 2019, a study by The University of Birmingham and Kings College London looked at 125 non-smoking but physically fit cyclists aged 55-79. They found that the Thymus of participants, which is an organ which makes immune cells called T cells, were making just as many T cells compared to young people in their 20s! We might not be able to easily look like we’re still in our 20s on the outside any more, but you sure can when it comes to how great looking your insides are!

 

4. Nourish to flourish
At the risk of sounding like I work for a company which produces healthy food. Nutritious food is ESSENTIAL for a tip top immune system. There really is a very concerning trend in our society of people being “overfed and undernourished” which is basically code for eating too much garbage and not enough of the good stuff which helps our bodies thrive. This topic really deserves its own blog as it’s so big to unpack, but let’s just zoom in on one area.

Did you know that what you eat, plays a role in the lining of your gut? Our guts love us if we give it loads of fibre (plant foods such as fruit, veg, nuts and seeds, legumes, whole grains) and a good variety of all of these items. Having a diet rich in these items help keep the lining of the stomach in good working order. When we eat lots of rubbish, basically these foods create a lot of inflammation, and the stomach lining is compromised. What then happens is some bacteria can escape, and then cause more inflammation as it relocates to places in the body it shouldn’t be. This means our immune system has to work in overdrive to try and bring our systems back to where they need to be.

In an average week of Lite n’ Easy meals, you can expect a great variety of fibre, as well as great volume of fruit and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds to keep your guts healthy and immune system humming along.

 

5. Feel the love. Spread the love.
Feeling connected and having good strong, healthy relationships also boosts your immune system. While in a time like this, you may be less likely to physically see your loved ones as much as you might like. There are other ways of finding love rather than just phoning or texting. You can also experience a sense of love in other ways such as time doing your favourite hobbies, being out and appreciating nature or giving your dog or cat some extra affection. You don’t need to be in a romantic relationship to live a life filled with love J Checking in with vulnerable neighbours may also help us all feel more connected in our neighbourhoods. Spread the love and get the benefits from the warm and fuzzies.

 

In times of uncertainty and a change in routine, it’s important to fuel yourself with healthy food to keep your immune system strong. Lite n’ Easy meals give you everything you need to eat well with plenty of variety and choice.

 

Bell Silverthorne is an exercise physiologist, wellness coach and lifestyle medicine practitioner with a passion for every day Australians to be that little bit healthier. Whether it’s sleeping better, exercising more, eating more fruit and veggies each day or doing your best to maintain a good headspace. Bell is a massive advocate of lifestyle medicine – harnessing your everyday lifestyle habits to help prevent, manage or even reverse chronic disease.