In the midst of this global pandemic, you may find yourself paying more attention to your immune system and how to avoid getting sick. So, what is your immune system, how do you know if it’s working efficiently and if not, how do you boost it?
Your immune system is a network of organs, cells, proteins and chemicals that fight off infections. Once you’ve thought off an infection your immune system should recognise that specific infection and destroy it a lot quicker than the first time. However, this isn’t always the case with infections such as the common cold that have different strains meaning the body will have to fight it differently than a previous strain of cold. You may find yourself fighting off 2-3 colds per year but any more than 3 and colds that seem to linger past 10 days is a clear sign your immune system is not as strong as it should be.
How do you tell if your immune system needs a boost? Signs include:
- You have more than 3 colds a year
- Frequent diarrhea, gas or constipation - 70% of your immune system is located in the digestive track so a low amount of good gut bacteria will leave your body at high risk
- Slow healing wounds
- Chronic fatigue
- Recurring skin rashes/dry skin
- Delayed growth in children
- Re-accruing infections such as more than
- 4 ear infections a year
- 3 cases of sinusitis a year
- 2 cases pneumonia a year
If you feel like your immune system is low and deserves some extra attention, here are some natural ways to give it a boost.
- Reduce long-term stress – stress decreases the body’s white blood cells that help fight off infections
- Up your fruit & veg intake – Citrus fruits are high in vitamin C which helps increase white blood cell production, our bodies cannot store vitamin C therefore daily consumption is necessary for a strong immune system
- Eat healthy fats such as olive oil that have anti-inflammatory properties as the inflammation can suppress your immune system
- Eat more fermented foods that are rich in probiotics. Probiotics promote antibody production and therefore boost your immune system
- Exercise regularly & maintain a healthy weight – regular exercise promotes regular regeneration of your immune cells and improves circulation so that the cells can move around better which makes these immune cells more efficient
- Get enough sleep – Studies have closely tied sleep and immunity and you’ve probably noticed you sleep more when your poorly as this strengthens your immune system to fight the illness. In general, you should aim to get 7 or more hours of sleep each night, however teens need 8–10 hours and younger children need up to 14 hours of sleep
- Quit smoking and only dink alcohol in moderation
You may also want to take preventive steps such as staying well hydrated as dehydration increases susceptibility to illness, practice good hygiene, keep a 2 meter distance from people who are sick to avoid catching infections and keeping up to date with flu vaccines.