With the dreadful virus spreading and new potential threats being reported, we can all do with helping our immune systems to function at its best.
Now that the world is slowly returning to normal, making sure that your family is protected with a combination of good hygiene, the right protective equipment and a strong immune system is super important.
What Does a Strong Immune System Mean?
Your immune system has one function, to protect you against persistent bacteria and viruses that are trying to attack the body. It will guard against infection and when working at it’s optimum will defeat potential illnesses more effectively. When it does not, you’ll be prone to infection.
Genetics can also play a role in your body’s ability to fight certain invaders, so different people will react differently to specific illnesses. That said, taking certain steps will support your immune system to function at its best.
Below is my personal experience with building a healthy immune system, based on extensive research, trial and error.
Background Info on My Strong Immune System Methodology
I moved to the UK about 11 years ago to pursue a career as a vocalist, and for the first 7 of those years, I managed to get colds and flu around four or five times a year. Wintertime meant that I’d have to cancel gigs, recording time etc. I was convinced I had no immune system!
So, you’d imagine that even more so than most people, I’m not a big fan of being sick, I mean, if you’ve ever had to squeak out notes that you can just about reach on a good voice day or have taken the liquid form of Day Nurse (it tastes vile!) more than once a year you’d be proactively trying to do something about the situation, right?
The big question is; how can you help your immune system enough to reduce the number of colds and flu you get a year? With good habits, I managed to reduce the number of colds and flu I get a year from an average of four or five to maybe once, max twice?
Besides maintaining basic hygiene and washing hands frequently, here are a few practical things you can do to help build a healthy immune system all year round:
1. Vitamin D and Eggs (Organic and Free-range)
Eggs contain Vitamin D (I tried Vit D supplements it never worked), and a whole range of other great immune-boosting vitamins such as A, B, E, and K. It can help to support immune function during winter months when you can’t get as much Vitamin D from the sun in the same way you can in the summer.
I started to eat an egg a day leading up to and throughout winter. Boiled, poached, fried, scrambled or in an omelette. I bought a multi-function egg boiler like this to help with cooking in a hurry. A boiler with an automatic off switch is a good idea.
Yes, eggs contain cholesterol, but I figured I’ll take my chances in this case, you have to pick your battles right? If you have issues with cholesterol, please proceed with caution.
2. Eat 7 or More Portions Fruit and Vegetables Not Just 5
Most people hardly eat 5 portions of fruits and vegetables a day, but increasing this beyond just 5 will definitely benefit you in the long run.
My diet these days consist of mainly fruit and veg, I don’t particularly wish to put a label on it and say I’m a vegetarian. I find this less stressful and a lot more practical for our family. Let’s say I’m a striving vegetarian, who eat high welfare and organic meat on the odd occasion.
Generally, I tend to skip the sandwich for lunch, which really is a nutritionally poor option, and pack an extra few portions of veg for a quick pick me up during a busy day. I often double cook dinners and then take the leftovers for lunch, it’s a great money-saving trick and good for fending off bad eating habits.
The type of fruits and vegetables here doesn’t matter too much, as long as you mix it up and eat a good variety of veggies in a range of colours. It really is about eating the rainbow in colour.
3. Leave the Sugar Out
Studies have shown that eating sugar can suppress the immune system, which can increase inflammation and susceptibility to a range of nasty bugs and diseases.
I’ve luckily never had a sweet tooth so this one is easy for me. I’m sure sugar in small doses is fine, but it does put stress on your body. The odd piece of cake will probably not be a sure-fire route to getting a cold, but eating a lot of sugar will do damage to your body in the long run.
Some studies have also shown that eating less sugar can help fight fine lines and wrinkles.
4. Exercise Regularly
Moderate and regular exercise is a great way to build a strong immune system. Just be careful as you can push yourself too hard, which will lead to general fatigue and in turn make you more prone to illness.
I’ve started to follow the 80/20 running programme, which is great for managing running volume and intensity. It puts the joy back into running as you can take it easy most days. You can get the book here if you’d like to learn more.
5. Get Enough Rest and Reduce Stress
Stress and fatique can impair immune function. It is so important to get enough rest and take steps to manage stress in your life, especially during the winter months. See it as your hybernation time, it’s cold outside and a warm bed will be good for your soul as well as your body.
Quality of sleep is also important not just quantitiy. Sleep meditation, a structured bed time routine, minimising alchohol intake and reducing screen time right before bed are all great tools to help you get a good night’s sleep.