There’s nothing worse than a nagging case of the sniffles, the incessant coughs, the pesky headaches, (or even worse!)—whether they stem from after-holiday rundown, the cold weather, or anything in between. Keeping your immune system healthy is key; defend and support it holistically with these 10 tricks a few spa and wellness experts were happy to share.
Get 8 hours of sleep a night. “Research shows if you sleep for less than eight hours a night you are more at risk of a weakened immune system, and the less you sleep, the more likely you are to weaken your immune function,” says Karina Stewart, co-founder of Kamalaya Koh Samui.
Exercise is essential! “Research shows that people who exercise are half as likely to catch a cold as those who do not, and even if they do catch a cold, their symptoms tend to be less severe,” Stewart goes on. “Finding the right form of exercise that you enjoy will reduce your stress levels, and as stress impacts your body’s ability to fight infections, you cannot underestimate the importance of regular exercise.”
Be optimistic and enjoy life! “It is important to enjoy life and have a fun, optimistic outlook,” Stewart advises. “Cell-mediated immunity actually increases with a person’s level of optimism, so try to do enjoyable activities when you are feeling anxious or overwhelmed, whether it is treating yourself to a weekly massage, going to a regular yoga class or making time to read a good book—just make sure you give yourself permission to do these things, as this will be beneficial in reducing your stress levels and increasing your immunity in the long-term.”
Eat an abundance of antioxidant-rich foods. “Glutathione, found in asparagus, avocado, and parsley, has been described as the ‘most important antioxidant’ because it empowers your immune system to exert its full potential by quenching free radicals, recycling vitamins C and E into their biologically active forms, and regulating DNA synthesis and repair, while carotenoids in sweet potatoes, pumpkin, and other orange, red, yellow, and dark green fruits and veggies are said to enhance many aspects of immune function. Selenium, found in foods such as Brazil nuts, tuna, brown rice, and sunflower seeds help prevent cellular damage from free radicals and play a role in your immune system health as well,” Stewart offers.
Lindsay Martin, MS, RD, at Hilton Head Health agrees that diet plays a significant role in boosting immunity and states these tips:
Eat a fresh and varied plant-based diet. “Your fresh and seasonal non-starchy vegetables and fruits are loaded with nutrients that help neutralize toxins that circulate through your blood,” she says. “Your immune system produces antibodies while your foods produce antioxidants—not a coincidence these terms [go] hand-in-hand.”
Maintain a healthy gastrointestinal system with a high-fiber diet (and a diet low in added sugar). Basic foods high in fiber include: oats, bran, quinoa, farro, wheat berries, ground flaxseed, nuts, apples, pears, raspberries, blueberries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, dark leafy greens, beans, legumes, lentils and 100-percent whole-grain products, Martin tells us.
Maintain a healthy gastrointestinal system with a diet rich in probiotics. “Consuming foods such as yogurt, kefir, unpasteurized sauerkraut, miso, low fat buttermilk, tempeh, and foods with ‘live and active cultures’ help keep your healthy bacteria flourishing—potentially preventing infections and reducing the growth of unhealthy bacteria in your small intestines,” Martin says.
As well, get quality Vitamin D through sunshine, food, or supplements (Vitamin D3). “Those deficient in Vitamin D, according [to the] Harvard School of Public Health, may be at increased risk for infection, the common cold, bone-weakening disease, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, and cancer,” Martin reveals. Research regarding Vitamin D continues to be funded, she continues, and “the first suggestion is to get your Vitamin D levels checked by your primary doctor, then make any necessary changes in your diet or sun exposure.”
Wash your hands. “This is not your ‘ah-hah’ trick, but it goes back to the first grade,” Martin says. “Just do it.”
Incorporate virgin coconut oil into your diet. The Farm at San Benito advises us to take up to 3 ½ tablespoons of virgin coconut oil daily to enjoy its full benefits, which include: helping prevent bacterial, viral, and fungal infections; aiding body in fighting viruses that cause flu; improving digestion; providing quick energy; and more.