With cold and flu season looming, the idea of boosting your immune system is top of mind for many of us. Unfortunately, it's more complicated that taking a daily multivitamin.
There is still much that researchers don't know about the intricacies and interconnectedness of the immune response. But there is a wealth of evidence that shows the effects of diet, exercise, age, social connectedness and other factors significantly impact the immune response, both in animals and in humans.
One of the biggest culprits of illness is stress. In fact, between 75% and 90% of all doctor's office visits are for stress-related ailments, complaints, and concerns. This is because chronic stress depresses the immune system and increases the risk of several types of illnesses making you more susceptible to viral illnesses including respiratory conditions like colds and the flu.
Stress and anxiousness trigger your “flight or fight” response. Chemicals and hormones, like adrenaline, are released which increase your pulse rate resulting in more oxygen getting to the brain. With repeated stress and anxiousness, your body never gets the signal to return to normal functioning which can weaken your immune system, leaving you more vulnerable to viral infections and frequent illnesses.
Stress is a non-negotiable part of life. It’s easy to get caught in the whirlwind of daily demands that we become accustomed to operating in fight or flight response most of the time. Every day stressors can constantly push your immune system. Humans are wired for both short term stress and long term recovery, and we function best when we’re in a balanced state of both.
Make time eachday to do things to "refill your tank." It can include setting aside time to read, meditate, talk a walk, or get a massage. The key is to regain control in ways that – intellectually – we know will make us stronger not just give us an emotional hideout. Here are 6 simple immune system boosters:
Give your body the best fuel you can. Fill your diet with Immunity boosters like foods high in vitamin C and antioxidants. Citrus fruits and red peppers are at the top of the list, but broccoli, spinach, almonds, and mushrooms are loaded with all kinds of nutrients that will give you a fighting chance against the virus. Elderberry is an old folk remedy, but it’s loaded with beneficial nutrients. In some lab studies, an extract from the berries appears to block flu viruses. Click here for 16 foods that boost the immune system.
Find old ways to connect with others. Facetime, Zoom, and even text messaging is a great place to start, but going “old school” by dropping a few cards in the mail each week will give you a boost knowing that you’re surprising someone with a positive moment. Many people isolate themselves when they’re stressed or worried. Social support can be a simple as saying, "I'm thinking of you."
Create a new routines. The more unstructured blocks of time we have, the harder it is to focus. Schedule time for a physical activity even if it’s just a walk around the block. Add relaxation events to the calendar such as 30 minutes of reading time or gardening. Establish a consistent bed time to give your busy brain an opportunity for restful sleep. Creating and maintaining a daily routine can reduce stress by creating a sense of normalcy and certainty.
Build in brain breaks. Be intentional about giving your brain a few minutes each day to rest. Push the anxiety aside for 30 minutes to garden, read, listen to music, whatever works for you. Mindfulness is a great way to regain a sense of calm and control. Mindlessness – giving yourself permission to turn off your thought stream for a few minutes is also a great way to manage the worry.
Use Lemongrass. Lemongrass is a lovely little plant that smells like lemon and has a mild taste. It's also high in many immune-boosting vitamins like vitamin C, folic acid and zinc. Lemongrass aids in digestion, cleanses and detoxifies the body, and helps to fight cough, fever and flu symptoms, thanks to its antibacterial and antifungal properties. Lemongrass tea contains no stimulants and it has a calming effect that promotes deep restful sleep and combats insomnia.
Tap into Solar Power. Sunlight allows our bodies to produce vitamin D. Over 40% of Americans are deficient in the sunshine vitamin. Vitamin D deficiency makes us more susceptible to upper respiratory infections, osteoporosis, heart disease, depression. Also, Serotonin, the “happy” hormone, is triggered by sunlight. Serotonin levels in the brain are higher during the summer, when the days of the year are at their longest.