What is your immune system? Special cells, proteins, tissues, and organs make up your immune system so you can defend yourself against microorganisms every day. These organs work together in order to protect the body—in most cases, this system does a great job. Antigens, or foreign objects/species that have invaded the body, are detected and our cells work together in order to recognize and respond appropriately. Antibodies are then produced and lock onto that foreign species—now these “bad guys” can either be neutralized, killed, controlled, etc. Even better, your body has the ability to produce specialized proteins called complement proteins that actually assists or aides in killing bacteria, viruses or infected cells. Complement proteins do a body good. This specialized level of protection is called IMMUNITY. The following seven tips are things you can do, from a holistic approach, to support the immune system above and help your body become more efficient—reaching your body’s full potential:
- Eat a fresh and varied plant-based diet. This is probably the 1,000th time you have read or heard this, but there is science to back it up. Your fresh and seasonal non-starchy vegetables and fruits are loaded with nutrients that help neutralize toxins that circulate through your blood. Your immune system produces antibodies while your foods produce antioxidants—not a coincidence these terms goes hand-in-hand.
- Maintain a healthy gastrointestinal system with a high fiber diet. This is also suggesting a diet low in added sugar. Here are some basic foods high in fiber: 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% whole grain products.
- 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.
- Get quality Vitamin D through sunshine, food or supplements (Vitamin D3). Those deficient in Vitamin D, according Harvard School of Public Health, may be at increased risk for infection, the common cold, bone weakening disease, heart disease, multiple sclerosis, and cancer. Research regarding Vitamin D continues to be funded. 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.
- Make sleep a priority. Each individual has different sleeping needs in regards to the amount of hours, but it is important to have a consistent sleep schedule according National Sleep Foundation. This is your body’s time to rest, heal and take a break from daily stressors.
- Maintain a consistent and active lifestyle. Exercising most days out of the week contributes to general good health—not necessarily a direct link to improving your immunity. However, improving your general health, maintaining a healthy weight, increasing your cardiovascular and muscular abilities are positive attributes that can potentially prevent illness and various diseases.
- Wash your hands. This is not your “ah-hah” trick, but it goes back to the first grade. Just do it.
To summarize, take the time to evaluate your daily routine. Change one thing every one to two weeks. If you are used to getting to bed at 11:00 pm, try for 10:30 for at least five nights out of the seven. Perhaps you skip breakfast every morning—start prepping your morning meal the night before so you have the time to eat it before you head out for the day. Take simple and realistic steps to improve your immunity—knocking out those foreign invaders one day at a time.