6 Ways to Boost Immunity and Stay Well
The truth is that we are constantly exposed to germs. But there are certain things that we engage in more often during the holidays that can impact our immune systems.
Immunity is a complex and robust system with many checks and balances. Think of your immune system less like a fire truck—simply responding to emergencies—and more like an ecosystem. Here’s how to nourish that ecosystem.
Remember the time you pulled an all-nighter (or two, or three) and then got sick as soon as the semester/project/deadline was over? Studies back up your experience: Not getting enough sleep makes you more susceptible to illness. Research also shows that a lack of adequate sleep (for adults, that’s at least seven to eight good hours) makes it more difficult to recover when you do get sick. Why? When you sleep, your body does important repair work, producing protective cytokines as well as infection-fighting antibodies and cells.
Sugary foods can depress immunity and cripple cells that protect you from bacteria for several hours after consuming them. Plus, starchy processed foods mean you’re eating less immune-supporting foods—whole grains, colorful fruits and vegetables, and clean/lean proteins.
Orange and yellow foods—winter squash, sweet potatoes, carrots—are rich in beta-carotene, the precursor to immunity-enhancing vitamin A. Vitamin A is fat soluble. Cooking these foods and pairing them with healthy fats will increase your absorption of beta-carotene.
Elderberries, long used in folk remedy for respiratory illness, have been shown to help prevent the flu. But other dark-hued berries may also offer some protection and are chock-full of antioxidants that help cells recover from oxidative stress.
Your gastrointestinal tract is a first line of defense against invaders. Healthy gut bacteria not only help keep “bad” bugs out, but they also appear to “modulate” the immune system by keeping inflammation in check. Bored with yogurt? Add kefir, raw cheese, kimchi, or sauerkraut to your diet. Make sure these are unpasteurized or contain live bacteria.
Remember Patch Adams? It’s no joke: Studies show that laughing has a positive effect on white blood cells. Stress-lowering yoga, meditation, and friendships also have positive impacts on immunity. So don’t let a busy schedule deprive you of these essential life vitamins this season.