Strengthen Your Immune System With Simple Strategies
Strengthen Your Immune System With Simple Strategies: From boosting foods to lifestyle changes to a healthy attitude
Good news! While there's no magic "healthy pill," there are tried-and-true ways to take your immunity superpowers up a notch. Preventive medicine physician and wellness expert Sandra Darling shares her top tips for staying healthy.
Get ready to boost your immune system!
"Let's start with the basics: Wash your hands for 20 seconds, don't touch your face and take social distancing seriously," says Dr. Darling. "If you only do these three things, you'll be well on your way to staying healthy."
But there's more you can do. Dr. Darling prescribes four stay-healthy strategies.
Focus on food
"I believe in the power of immune-boosting foods," says Dr. Darling. "Choosing whole, unprocessed foods do wonders for overall health."
Dr. Darling recommends these immunity boosters:
Garlic: Allicin, a compound in garlic, is well-known for its ability to boost the immune system. The most benefit comes from eating one-half of a raw garlic clove daily. If you can't stomach raw garlic, the next best thing is to roast it.
Prebiotics: Robust gut bacteria protect us against infection. Keep those bacteria healthy with prebiotics that contain fibre, specifically inulin fibre. Excellent sources of prebiotics are Jerusalem artichokes, green bananas or plantains, Jicama root and asparagus.
Vitamin C-rich foods: Vitamin C is known to boost immunity. One study found that older adults who ate kiwi every day for a month had a significant decrease in the severity and duration of upper respiratory infection symptoms. "People often reach for orange juice to get vitamin C, but juice has a lot of sugar," says Dr. Darling. "It's better to get vitamin C from oranges, broccoli, kiwi or cantaloupe."
Antioxidants: Stress can lead to lowered immunity and make you more prone to illness. Colourful fruits and vegetables including berries, carrots and spinach have antioxidants that protect you against oxidative stress, which translates to a stronger immune system.
Living under constant stress, even low-grade, that continues day in and out, causes the body to produce too much cortisol, the stress hormone. Over time, elevated cortisol lowers your resistance to fighting off infection and contributes to poor sleep and higher blood pressure.
Protect yourself from stress and bolster your immune system with a few lifestyle tweaks:
Sleep: Yep, it's easier said than done (especially if you're an insomniac). But here's the deal – you need seven to eight hours of quality sleep each night to fight off infection. "Prioritize sleep. If you need help, choose a tried-and-true technique known as cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia, or CBT-I," says Dr. Darling. "Talk with your doctor to find a reputable therapist or download a CBT-I app."
Meditation: Even five minutes a day of guided meditation, or simply sitting quietly and focusing on your breath, can make a difference. Meditation lowers your heart rate and blood pressure and reduces anxiety. Plus, it's calming. So it's not surprising that it also helps you sleep.
Exercise: Exercise increases your resilience so you can fight off infection. Our bodies function better when we're physically active every day. Carving out at least 10 minutes a day, ideally 30 minutes, and doing a mixture of cardio and strength training
Attitude is everything!
A positive mindset is vital for health and well-being. Research shows that positive thoughts reduce stress and inflammation and increase resilience to infection – while negative emotions can make you more susceptible to the common cold and flu.
Sometimes, even with lots of sleep and vitamin C, superheroes get sick. It's OK! The key is to take time off to recharge (and avoid getting others sick). In no time, you'll be donning your cape again. But for your health and the health of those around you, make sure you're fully supercharged before you do.
Disclaimer: The content of this page is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.