It has been about a month since the kids got back to school and the sniffles and coughs are already starting up. Being in close quarters, the physical contact, and sharing lunches all contribute to increased sickness! With the cold and flu season approaching fast, you may want to find ways to keep yours and your family’s immune system healthy.
Healthy Living as Best Defence
Although research has not yet found a definitive formula for boosting your immune system, “there is now evidence that even though we may not be able to prove a direct link between a certain lifestyle and an improved immune response, we can at least show that some links are likely.” (1)
Generally, living a healthy lifestyle is one way to create overall health and therefore give your immune system a chance to work well.
Healthy living means getting regular exercise, eating well, sleeping sufficient hours, limiting consumption of alcohol and decreasing chronic stress. Washing your hands frequently also helps to keep germs at a minimum.
The nutrients we consume for a healthy lifestyle are major contributors to health. When we talk about eating well, we mean eating whole foods like vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and good fats (monounsaturated and omega-3 and omega-6). These foods contain the essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that we need to ward off disease.
Some of the more common vitamins and minerals, known for their antioxidant properties, that can help maintain your immune health are listed below with some of the foods high in such vitamins and minerals.
Aim to include foods high in these vitamins and minerals in your diet to maintain overall health. In times of compromised immune health, these foods may provide extra protection.
Vitamin A – sweet potatoes, carrots, dark leafy greens, dried apricots, squash, paprika, red peppers, cayenne.
Vitamin C – broccoli, kale, bell peppers, oranges, berries, lemons, kiwi, dark leafy greens.
Selenium – brazil nuts, eggs, fish, poultry, onions.
Zinc – quinoa, walnuts, flax seed, pumpkin seeds, cashews
“Experimental studies have shown that a regular exercise program of brisk walking can bolster many defenses of the immune system, including the antibody response and the natural killer (T cell) response.” (2)
Exercise has a way of getting things flowing! It can help cleanse bacteria out of our lungs and waste out of our bodies. It may also move antibodies and white blood cells more quickly through our system, which helps us fight intruding bacteria or viruses sooner. Exercise also decreases the release of stress hormones that may increase illness.
Keep in mind, “more” does not mean “better” in this case. A moderate level of exercise is good for maintaining your immune health. Too much “heavy, long term exercise (such as marathon running and intense gym training) could actually decrease the amount of white blood cells circulating through the body and increase the presence of stress-related hormones.” (3)