Boost Your Immunity with Diet and Lifestyle Changes
Your immune system has a powerful army of soldiers that can fight over vicious pathogens. There are physical and chemical barriers, specialized immune cells, as well as antibodies that can recognize and tackle familiar pathogens. However, when it comes to brand new enemies like the novel coronavirus that the world is panicking about right now, even this elaborate system can struggle.
Ways to Boost Your Immunity
Fortunately, there are ways to boost your immunity through healthy diet and lifestyle habits!
Maintain a healthy weight
A healthy weight is not just a goal for the sake of your looks, but an important factor that can determine health or sickness. Overweight and obesity are well-known risk factors for life-threatening disorders and higher mortality rate, whilst underweight also damages immunity due to nutritional deficiencies.
Both ends of the spectrum are not ideal for having a strong immune system because your body is constantly coping with metabolic imbalances and trying to regain homeostasis. Naturally, less energy and fewer resources can be used for fighting pathogens. This is why people who struggle with weight problems often feel exhausted and get sick easily.
There is no quick fix to weight problems, keeping yourself disciplined to a “70% nutrition + 30% exercise” rule is the only long term solution. Nutrition takes the lead, meaning that you can’t outperform on a bad diet even if you go to the gym every day.
There are a bunch of diets out there—paleo, keto, vegan, ayurvedic diets have all helped some people lose weight. But what’s the common ground? There is no simple answer to which diet is the best, but you are bound to see results if you follow these healthy diet patterns:
- Eat a variety of foods of all colors, aim to eat a “rainbow plate” each meal
- Eat predominantly plant foods as they are filling but low in calories
- Avoid empty calories that offer no nutritional value, such as alcohol and sugary drinks
- Eat whole food (eg. fruits from the farmers market) instead of processed food (e.g., packaged cereal) to avoid artificial additives and loss of nutrients
It is not hard to see why there are more overweight and sick people nowadays. Our body is designed to move, not sit in front of computers all day. Apart from nutrition, you also need exercise to get rid of your muffin top and boost your immunity.
Through years of studies, researchers have shown compelling links between physical exercise and increased numbers of immune cells in the blood. This means that exercise feeds more fighting soldiers that can combat infectious pathogens, cancer, and systemic inflammation.
Eat organic superfoods
You might think that both “organic” and “superfoods” sound like marketing words, but is there any science behind it? How come even Harvard Medical School is talking about it?
It is true that some products branded as “organic superfoods” are not trustworthy, but you can find ones that are beneficial once you understand what foods qualify as organic superfoods.
Organic foods are strictly grown without synthetic chemicals, pesticides or antibiotics. The corps also have to be non-genetically modified (NGO). Therefore, true organic foods contain much lower amounts of toxins that can wreck your health, while preserving the most nutrients.
To be considered superfoods that boost your immune system, they also should have these health-promoting benefits:
- Rich in vitamins, minerals, and fiber
- High levels of antioxidants for detoxing oxidative stress
- Anti-inflammatory properties
- Lower risks of disease and mortality
Research has shown that our immune system depends on adequate vitamins and minerals at every stage of the immune response. Fiber is also critical for feeding the 200 trillion bacteria inside our gut. In turn, a healthy gut improves gut barriers, decreases inflammation and boosts immunity.
Where do you find foods that have all these amazing properties? Your best bet is to find natural whole foods from farmers’ markets.
- Leafy greens such as kale
- Nuts and seeds
- All kinds of berries
- Whole grains like Quinoa and Buckwheat
Eastern immune boosters
Apart from organic superfoods that should make up the majority of your meals, some natural immune boosters are very potent even in small amounts. These powerful foods have been used since ancient Eastern cultures, but they are also backed up by modern science.
Ginseng is an ancient root of life. The benefits of ginseng are widely recognized for centuries and recently revisited by food scientists. The ginsenosides and polysaccharides are important constituents in ginseng that have a tremendous role in boosting immunity against cancer, infections and autoimmune diseases. Other superfoods with similar properties include turmeric, garlic, and barley grass.
Adaptogenic mushrooms were used as therapeutics in the history of Eastern medicine, but they have been modernized into drinks such as mushroom coffee, protein powder mix, focus shot and tea.
Adaptogens help the body in a non-specific way that the body needs at any time. They adapt their properties to boost functionality in the body. For example, chaga is a potent immune booster. Chaga’s properties include:
- Protective against stress with high antioxidant potential
- Potent anti-cancer activity
- Induces healthy changes in the gut and reduces inflammation
In addition to Chaga, there are a variety of potent adaptogenic mushrooms that you can mix in your drinks, such as lion’s mane, Cordyceps, and reishi.
Vitamins and minerals supplements
Since our immune system is reliant on micronutrient supplies, people who are at high risk of reduced immune ability should consider supplementing essential vitamins and trace minerals. Elderly people, children, and pregnant women are more prone to micronutrient malnutrition, which dampens immunity.
The latest reviews of immune-boosting micronutrients published in the journals Nutrients and Frontiers in Immunology note that our current dietary guidelines may not reflect accurate levels of bodily requirements. Modern food processing can reduce the available nutrients in foods and therefore, even people from developed countries are at risk of micronutrient malnutrition.
Regular blood checks will inform you whether your micronutrients are on the low side. Consider making dietary changes and supplementing before they hit the “deficiency thresholds”.
What are essential vitamins and minerals?
- Essential Vitamins: vitamin A, B6, B9, B12, C, D, E
- Minerals: Zinc, Iron, Copper, Selenium, Magnesium
Keep a healthy mind
Lastly, keep in mind that physical health cannot be separated from mental health. Stress and mental illnesses have profound impacts on your immune functions. Extensive research has shown that mental stress can cause:
- Sustained cortisol activity and gastrointestinal symptoms
- Exacerbated disease progression such as irritable bowel syndrome
- High levels of proinflammatory cytokines
- Higher risk for autoimmune diseases and infections
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to keep a healthy mind. All you need to do is give yourself some love. Don’t put all your time into work and hustle, slow down and try:
- Guided meditation
- Yoga, pilates, jogging
- Breathing techniques, such as Box breathing
Now, accept where you are today and start making lifestyle changes. It’s okay to take things slowly, but it’s important that you start now to boost your immunity!
About the Author
I am a holistic health expert from Siberia. Ayurveda, yoga, and shilajit are the main areas of my knowledge. Deeply intuitive I find that true healing surpasses the boundaries of the physical body and embraces the emotional, energetic and subtlest layers of our being. I help people to know how to be healthy and beautiful using only natural remedies. I believe that nature is the best source of human health.