Boosting your immune system naturally is essential to help you fight those nasty winter viruses. This is true for colds, flus, bronchitis, the stomach flu, and everything in between! Here are five tips that will help you knock them out this winter.
The role of the immune system
Your immune system is like an invisible shield that works to protect you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. With its complex mechanism of cells and molecules that can respond to abnormalities, your immune system protects you by fighting different types of infectious pathogens, such as:
- Viruses, germs, bacteria, microbes, and other harmful microorganisms
- Cancer cells
- Foreign bodies, such as splinters
The stronger your immune system is, the more effective your body’s response to an illness or infection will be. But how do you know if yours is in good shape? And, more importantly, how do you strengthen it naturally, in winter and year-round? Here are a few practical tips to help you.
Recognizing the signs of a weakened immune system
A dysfunctional immune system can open the door to potential complications or frequent infections. A weak immune system can be caused by two types of disorders:
1. Primary disorders: These include hereditary immunodeficiencies, which are generally present at birth. These types of disorders are quite rare.
2. Secondary disorders: These are more common, and are often caused by illnesses such as diabetes or HIV, or triggered by certain medication side effects.
There are also several other factors that can weaken your immune system, including aging, smoking, malnutrition, chronic stress, and severe sleep deprivation.
But no matter the cause, a weakened immune system should be taken seriously. That’s why it’s imperative to listen to your body and pay attention to any signals it may be sending you. Some of the most common symptoms include:
- Frequent infections or illnesses
- Depression or a significant drop in mood
- Long recovery or healing times
- Frequent intestinal infections
- Hypersensitivity to allergies
- Chronic fatigue
- Muscle pain
Are you unsure about the strength of your immune system? Talk to a healthcare professional for more information. That being said, you should always be wary of “miracle” solutions that promise to boost your immune system.
Beware of false promises to boost your immune system!
Keep in mind that there are no officially recognized drugs or products that will boost your immune system. However, certain natural products and foods have properties that can help, although their effectiveness is not clearly demonstrated.
Now that we’ve made that distinction, here are five health tips to help you give your immune system a boost.
Practise sports and exercise
It should come as no surprise that physical activity boosts your immune system in many ways. Just be sure to go at your own pace and know your limits! Moderate- to high-intensity exercise or sports improve blood circulation, which helps make the immune system more efficient.
Be careful not to overdo it, though. Overexertion can affect your immune defences because of the significant stress it puts on your body, namely due to the secretion of cortisol. As a result, your body will be momentarily more vulnerable to upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs), such sinus infections and common colds.
You don’t need to run a marathon! Overtraining can be just as harmful as a sedentary lifestyle. Engaging in moderate physical activity or exercise on a daily basis is sufficient. Focus on regular, consistent activity rather than intensity.
Load up on vitamins and minerals
As mentioned earlier, there’s no miracle cure for a weak immune system—if there was, we’d know about it! That being said, there are a number of products available at pharmacies that can definitely have a positive impact on your health.
Here are the main vitamins and minerals you might consider supplementing your diet with:
- Vitamin B, including B6, B9 and B12, which are found in fish, eggs, and dairy products.
- Vitamin C, especially before or after engaging in physical activity. It naturally occurs in fruits and vegetables like oranges, berries, broccoli, and bell peppers.
- Vitamin D is known to play an important role in bone and muscle health. An excellent source of calcium and phosphorus, vitamin D also affects your mood and energy levels. It naturally occurs in avocados, certain fatty fish, and mushrooms.
- Omega-3 fatty acids provide a number of proven health benefits. They naturally occur in fatty fish, but are also available in the form of supplements. Omega-3s have positive effects on cardiovascular health, blood pressure, and the brain, and also play a role in mental health and physical well-being.
- Probiotics are proof that not all bacteria are bad! Indeed, probiotics are microorganisms that are useful for producing vitamins, aiding digestion, fighting germs, and stimulating the immune system. Among other foods, they’re present in yogurt.
- Iron, a mineral that is essential for the production of hemoglobin and red blood cells. This important trace element helps reduce fatigue and regulate the body’s metabolism.
- Zinc, an antioxidant mineral with anti-inflammatory and healing properties. This trace element plays an important role in combating common skin problems and muscle degeneration.
Need more info?
There are a thousand and one good reasons to quit smoking for good. Among them, quitting will help strengthen your immune system!
Smoking or vaping can impair your body’s ability to fight viral or microbial respiratory infections, such as pneumonia, influenza, or tuberculosis. This weakening of the immune system is primarily due to the pro-inflammatory effects of the chemicals found in tobacco smoke, which affect the tissues and make the body more vulnerable to several chronic illnesses.
It should be noted that such adverse effects can also occur in non-smokers who are frequently exposed to second-hand smoke in their environment. More good reasons to butt out once and for all!
Don’t bother googling this term; it’s an acronym we just made up. The letters H.D.H.V. stand for four essential elements that will boost your immune system. Let’s go over them together!
- Hydration: This includes making sure you always drink plenty of water, but you need to keep your nasal passages well hydrated as well. That’s right, it’s important to take good care of your nose to reduce the risk of respiratory infection, especially in winter! To do so, make sure the humidity levels in your home are adequate or use saline solutions to clear your clogged airways. Doesn’t it feel good to breathe more easily?
- Diet: No surprise here: what you eat every day affects your immunity. Adopting healthy eating habits is good for the intestinal flora, which plays a role in immune function. You’ll get an even bigger boost if you eat antioxidant-rich foods that are filled with vitamins and minerals.
- Handwashing: There’s a reason you were often told to wash your hands as a child. It’s the quickest, easiest, most effective way to eliminate most of the germs on your hands, thereby reducing your risk of infection on a daily basis.
- Vaccination: Getting vaccinated against the flu or other infectious diseases is highly beneficial to the immune system as it allows you to develop antibodies and thus considerably reduce your risk of infection and the complications that might arise from getting sick. In short, getting vaccinated is the best way to strengthen your immune system.
Get 8 hours of sleep a night
If there’s one thing that will benefit your immune system and enhance your sense of well-being, it’s getting a good night’s sleep. To safeguard your health, you should always make sleep a top priority. The quality and duration of sleep are equally important!
When you sleep soundly, your entire body regenerates, which regulates your metabolism and helps with recovery. During this process, your brain secretes hormones that fight disease and infection. In other words, getting a good night’s sleep gives your immune system the ammunition it needs to fight infection.
Do you struggle with sleep issues?
Follow these 10 rules to sleep better.
Allies to help boost your immune system
Need more targeted advice to help you stay healthy? Your Brunet-affiliated owner-pharmacist is always here for you.