It’s a time of year when many of us are thinking about staying well: the dreaded “Cold & Flu” season. While getting sick will happen to the best of us, there are plenty of things we can do to bolster our immune systems and stay well now and all year long.
While your mind might go immediately to eating right and staying active, there’s a lot more you can do. Here are ten ways to supercharge your immunity, some of which you probably haven’t considered before.
1) Up Your Antioxidants
Every cell is your body is at risk of being damaged by free radicals. When this happens to immune cells, they lose their ability to communicate and thus become less effective. Thankfully, antioxidants like Vitamin C, Vitamin E and selenium are able to fight these free radicals and protect your immune cells.
Vitamin C, considered the “king of antioxidants”, is also an effective way to reduce the symptoms of stress. German researchers found that supplemental Vitamin C can help reduce cortisol, which is a stress hormone that has the power to suppress your immune system.
2) Don’t Forget Your Protein
The body uses protein to build immune cells that keep you safe from infection. It’s important to keep a constant supply in your diet to allow the rapid production of these cells when invaders are present.
3) Increase Your Probiotics
It is estimated that 70 to 80% of your immune system is found in your gut (intestines), which is lined with billions of live bacteria. Probiotics, the healthy bacteria, work as a barrier to keep invaders out and help to displace bad bacteria. However, most North Americans have a low count because of many factors like high sugar intake, use of antibiotics, stress and chlorinated water.
4) Add in Some Moderate Exercise
A lifestyle of moderate exercise has been shown to boost your body’s defenses. Thirty minutes a day of physical activity can reduce the occurrence of the common cold, as well as other upper respiratory tract infections. However, over-training can have the opposite effect, increasing your likelihood of getting sick.
5) Practice Love & Compassion
In a 1980s experiment, Harvard researchers played a video of Mother Teresa practicing love and compassion. After viewing the video, the participants’ blood samples showed significantly increased IgA (immune cells) levels. If simply witnessing love can have such a powerful effect on our immunity, imagine what must happen when we practice it.
6) Live a Life of Forgiveness
A study by Amy Owen of Duke University Medical Center was conducted with people living with HIV. She found that those who practiced forgiveness towards those who hurt them in the past showed positive changes in their immune function. This is because unforgiveness retains negative emotions like anger which causes chronic stress that affects a number of body systems, including immune function.
7) Get Lots of Sleep
Sleep is an essential part of your health for many reasons, including your immune function. Research shows that depriving ourselves of much needed rest can decrease the production and activity of white blood cells. If you haven’t been getting enough sleep lately, make sure you add more to your schedule.
8) Laugh Like You Mean It
Laughter really is great medicine. It has been found to reduce stress and anxiety, improve pain tolerance as well as elevate natural killer cell activity. Plus, its many benefits can last for hours.
9) Develop Deep Connections
Immunity can be as easy as looking at a loved one. Researchers found that having participants look at their “favourite person” could trigger a rise in both positive emotions and natural killer cell activity.
10) Create Positive Emotions
It is now known that “emotions are intimately involved in the initiation or progression of cancer, HIV, cardiovascular disease, and autoimmune disorders.” This same research has shown that positive emotions, on the other hand, are able to increase immune function and decrease the stress response.
Put it All Together
What does all this mean for you? When you cultivate a lifestyle of healthy choices and positive emotions, regardless of your circumstances, you can reduce stress, increase immunity and protect yourself from getting sick.