How to Support Your Immune System
For the average individual, the immune system does an amazing job of protecting the body against various bacteria and viruses. Our immune system is impacted by many things, within and beyond our control, from age and environment, to stress and nutrition. An increasing amount of research is also showing that healthy habits are linked to stronger defence mechanisms in our body. Though the immune system is quite complex, by following healthy living strategies, we can rest assured that we are doing what we can to maintain a healthy immune system.
Good nutrition is essential to good health! No single food or supplement can prevent illness, but by eating sufficient amounts of varied nutrients, you can help support your immune system. Think of it “big picture” – all nutrients and minerals work together to help all systems in your body function. Some key nutrients to note in this context are:
- Protein: this macronutrient helps with healing and recovery. Choose healthier protein sources like chicken breast, fish, eggs, seafood, beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds.
- Vitamin C: this micronutrient acts as an antioxidant to help your body cells fight damage. It’s found in foods like citrus fruits, green leafy vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, and potatoes.
- Zinc: this helps the immune system function properly and plays a role in wound healing. It’s found in foods like seafood, whole grains, lean meats, beans, seeds and nuts!
There are many other nutrients that play a role in immune support. The key message here is that each nutrient plays a specific role in the body, so it’s important to get variety on a daily basis. Make sure that each meal contains a protein, a whole grain, and at least 2 handfuls of mixed vegetables and fruit.
Exercise is one of the pillars to healthy living – try to find ways to move every day! It improves your heart health, lowers blood pressure, improves circulation, and helps with weight management. Similar to proper nutrition, it can contribute to general good health and therefore, supports a strong immune system. Aim to have at least 150 minutes of exercise each week – this translates to about 30 minutes a day!
Excessive and prolonged stress takes a toll on your body. It can decrease your number of lymphocytes, which are the white blood cells that fight off infection. It can also send signals to your endocrine system to release hormones, like corticosteroid, that suppress your immune system. Finding ways to manage your stress can do wonders for your health. Whether that’s exercise, 10 minutes of meditation, or calling a friend – anything that helps you feel relieved or slightly more relaxed is beneficial. Remember, there is a difference between managing stress and living stress-free – the latter being more unrealistic to achieve. In fact, a little bit of manageable stress is shown to be beneficial. So find what works for you and keep at it!
The big picture message is that by following proper nutrition, exercising regularly, and managing your stress, you can keep a healthy body and healthy mind.