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How to improve our immune system

Updated: Jul 27, 2020

We are currently exposed to negative and depressing news all around us. It is quite normal to feel anxious about our current situation.

When we feel anxious, one of the physiological responses is for our adrenal gland to release the stress hormone cortisol as part of ‘fight or flight’ mechanism. This is a welcome response when we are being chased by a saber tooth tiger but not in our day to day life.

Neuroscientists explain why this ‘fight or flight’ can take over the brain and lead people to do out of character thing such as hoarding toilet paper.

Let’s take a deep breath. . . we cannot control what is happening around us, but we can be proactive and make sure our body can defend itself from viruses. So how can we make sure our immune system is working as it should?

Here are 4 tips

1. Sleep – Get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep

Research over the past decade* has documented the powerful influence on the risk of infectious disease, progression and occurrence of diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and depression with sleep disturbances.

Sleep plays an important role in regulating our adaptive and innate immune responses meaning – putting the body in an optimal state so that immune system can fight off or detect any infection.

2. Eat a diet rich in Fruits & Vegetables

A no brainer and everyone knows it. So why is this so hard to achieve? According to Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) only 5% of adults had sufficient intake of both fruits and vegetables in 2018. That is 2 serves of fruits and 5 serves of vegetables a day. Women were more likely to eat sufficient amount of fruit and veg (8%) compare to men (3%). By the way, the recommended daily intake (RDI) is developed to meet the minimum amount of nutrient the body needs to function, so it means that you are covering the minimum to not get sick.

My thoughts on this is that this is extremely hard because of number of factors:

  • Let’s face it we have to make ‘eating well’ a priority in our life. If we currently don’t suffer from any chronic conditions going from doctor to doctor’s appointment, then it seems like we are doing okay healthy wise, right? But chronic conditions develop over time, diseases tend to surface in our 40s, 50s and 60s when we don’t’ pay attention to good diet.

  • Planning and preparing fresh meals take time.

  • We may not have the cooking skills to prepare delicious meals full of veggies.

  • We may not have the inspiration or know what to make with vegetables.

I can certainly help with meal plans that have adequate amount of fruits and vegetables to meet your daily intake. Actually, having a piece or two of fruits are super easy for morning or afternoon snacks. I will get the vegetables covered. Check out my meal plan service to make hitting the 5 veg a day target a breeze for you.

3. Exercise moderately

Moderate exercise has an immunostimulatory effect ** meaning white blood cells such as neutrophil and monocytes can destroy infectious agents. The key here is moderate and not excessive, 30 minutes of walking daily is a great start. If the sun is out even better, by feeling the sun on your skin we get some much-needed vitamin D (another topic) which plays a crucial role in our immunity. Note: 15 minutes of sun exposure is adequate not hours and hours!

4. Social connection

Scientist have investigated**** the health benefits of connecting with others and found that connecting with others helps with stress reduction which can adversely affect immune system, insulin regulation and gut function to name a few. This means we should connect with those who we have positive interaction with rather than those who causes us extra stress!

By following the tips above, we can ensure that our immune system is working as it should and feel better about what is going on around us.

*PMID: 25061767

**PMID: 30711864

***PMID 21268793

****PMID 21268793

Image by Engin Akyurt from Pixabay

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