It is this time of year when coughs, colds and sinus problems see thousands of Irish in pharmacies looking for a pill to make it all go away. Closing our windows and turning on the central heating doesn't help, of course, as this is the perfect environment for insects and viruses to multiply. But we need to be concerned with prevention, not just treatment, when it comes to our health.
The immune system, which consists of special cells, proteins, tissues and organs, protects people from germs and microorganisms on a daily basis. In most cases, the immune system does an excellent job of keeping people healthy and preventing infections. But sometimes problems with the immune system can lead to disease and infection. We know that poor diet, poor quality or sleep, stress, smoking, and a sedentary lifestyle all contribute to poor immune system function and a higher chance of catching a cold or virus. But don't worry, we can do something about it!
Tick This List – 10 Healthy Lifestyle Habits
If our first line of defense is a healthy lifestyle, where do we start? We know that every part of our body, including your immune system, functions better when it's protected from the elements and supported by strategies for healthy living. For example, one of them is regular exercise. We know that exercise stimulates the immune cells that fight disease (antibodies and white blood cells) so that they can act faster.
Here are 9 more strategies to consider:
- Don't smoke (download our free smoking cessation guide)
- A diet high in vegetables (and fruits)
- Reduce sugar
- Avoid alcohol or drink in moderation.
- Getting enough sleep (7-9 hours)
- wash your hands
- Minimize stress (read our blog "5 ways to overcome stress" here.)
- Connect with people (see more below)
- Meditate (see more below)
Research to prevent mistakes
Viruses can therefore live on objects such as handrails and coffee cups for up to three days Wash your hands regularly to keep insects at bay, especially after using the bathroom or before cooking (and reminding your kids to do the same). Even if you are prone to infection, get rid of sinuses with it wash or spray a saline solution It's been shown to reduce the incidence of sinus infections, and it's a natural, chemical-free prevention step that's worth it. Myself and my son both have asthma and we have seen significant reductions in sinus and respiratory infections every morning and evening since we started.
Interestingly enough, people who meditate regularly Some studies show that the immune system may respond more healthily. In one experiment, people who meditated for 8 weeks made more antibodies to a flu vaccine than people who didn't meditate at all. And four months later, they were still showing an increased immune system response.
Strong relationships and a good social network are also important for a good immune system. Studies show that people who feel connected with friends – whether it's a few close friends or a large group – have stronger immunity than those who feel alone. In one study, lonely students showed a weaker immune response to a flu vaccine than those who felt connected to others.
10 immune boosting foods
Make sure you include these foods in your diet regularly.
- Red pepper
- Greek yogurt
- Green tea
- Seeds (e.g. sunflower or chia)
Are you eating enough?
There are four very important vitamins for our immune system to function optimally. So check regularly whether you are consuming them.
- Vitamin C: This vitamin is one of the greatest immune system boosters and is vital because the body doesn't produce or store it. Most people don't need supplements, however, as they are found in so many foods like oranges, tangerines, strawberries, spinach, kale, and broccoli.
- Vitamin B6: This vitamin is vital in supporting biochemical reactions in the immune system and is found in green vegetables, chickpeas, chicken, salmon, and tuna.
- Vitamin E: A powerful antioxidant that can help the body fight infections found in nuts, seeds, and spinach.
- Vitamin D: This vitamin is made by our body when the sun comes into contact with our skin. It's also found in salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines. Small amounts are also found in beef, liver, cheese, and egg yolks. However, many people need to supplement this vitamin because most of us don't eat enough fatty fish (needs to be three times a week) to affect our vitamin D status. Alternatively (or additionally) fortified products have their place (Vit D fortified super milk and cereals). Read our blog to find out why the time has come to stop overlooking this important vitamin, especially those of us who live in Ireland and have limited sun exposure.
You can find recipes with many of these foods in our recipe section.