It’s here, folks - cold and flu season. Just because we’re all wearing masks, washing our hands, and social distancing from one another, doesn’t mean we won’t get sick over the fall and winter months.
So how can we best support our immune system to do its thing, fight off bugs, and keep us feeling healthy? Contrary to some (mis)information out there, there’s no specific ingredient, supplement, or trick to ‘boost your immunity’.
In fact, you don’t actually want to ‘boost’ your immune response, because all of the miserable symptoms of colds, allergies, inflammation, and pathogens are caused by your immune system in action. Instead you want to support your immune system.
Here are 8 proven ways (backed by science!) you can do just that.
1) Eat a balanced, nutrient-rich diet
This one’s a no-brainer. All cells in our body require adequate nutrition to function appropriately, and the cells that make up our immune system are no different. Your immune system requires a variety of nutrients to work, so no single supplement ‘boosts’ your immunity as well as a healthy, balanced diet. Immune system performance has also been linked to diet through our gut health. For example, plant fibre (like the fibre in Rumble!) is shown to contribute to the diversity and absorption of nutrients in the gut ‘microbiome’, improving overall gut health and immune response.
Did you know that competitive athletes report fewer sick days than the rest of us? There’s strong evidence to suggest that regular exercise improves our body’s immune response. At the very least, exercise helps relieve stress.
3) Reduce stress
Aside from being unpleasant, stress produces inflammation, which can interfere with your immune system. Extreme stress or anxiety triggers our body’s fight-or-flight response, producing adrenaline at the expense of our immune response. This is our body’s way of deciding which threat requires immediate attention - and germs aren’t high on the priority list.
So how to reduce stress? Exercise. Try mindful meditation. Simplify your life. Try not to worry about things that are out of your control.
4) Get enough sleep
Sleep is essential for good health, and science can prove it. A recent study found that short sleepers (those who regularly sleep less than six hours a night) were 4.2 times as likely to catch a cold as those who got more than seven hours of sleep a night.
5) Spend time in nature
Nature isn’t just a destresser - there’s evidence that the airborne chemicals released by plants and trees (called phytoncides) potentially increase white blood cell counts in people. Numerous studies have shown increased immune function and other health benefits from spending time in parks and forests. There’s never been a better reason for a nice fall or winter walk!
6) Ensure you’re getting enough Vitamin D
If you live in a cloudy, northern latitude (like us!), and don’t spend much time outdoors, it can be difficult to get enough vitamin D. This is especially true in the cooler months of the year, since the days are shorter and we tend to spend more time inside.
Vitamin D - and sunlight in general - is shown to help modulate the immune system. One study found that Vitamin D “boosts the expression of hundreds of genes that are thought to regulate immune function.” So spend more time outside in the sunshine, and consider a Vitamin D supplement!
7) Don’t drink too much alcohol
The science is clear on this one - too much alcohol alters the gut microbiome (remember how we said it’s important for the health of the immune system?). Studies have found people who drink excessively are “more susceptible to respiratory illness and pneumonia and recover from infection and wounds more slowly.” Yikes.
8) Get the flu shot
Want to boost your immunity to influenza? Get the flu vaccine! The more people who stay out of hospitals for the flu this winter, the better.
The good news? So many of these things that support your immune system also make you feel good. Get outside, feel your heart race, soak up the sunshine, eat well - these aren’t just ways to boost your immunity, they’re how we love to #feedthegood.