Our immune system a complex network of cells, organs and proteins designed to keep our body healthy and functioning properly.
It’s our own, personal security system. It has barriers and checkpoints to stop germs getting in, and an assault team if any make it past the guards.
Our immune system is working constantly to keep us healthy. The average person comes into contact with around 60,000 different pathogens daily. Of these thousands only about 2% are dangerous. Germs don’t just run up to you and dive in, they usually hitch a ride on our hands or food. This is regular hand washing is one important and easy way to stop pathogens getting into your body.
But what are some other things that we can do to help our immune system do its job and reduce our chances of getting sick?
Sugar promotes inflammation in the body. Studies have shown that the effectiveness of our white blood cells (the ones that fight off infection) decrease by up to 50% after we consume sweetened food and beverages and can stay that way for up to 5 hours!
Artificial sweeteners aren’t any better.
If you want an immune system that is in tip-top shape, avoid food and drinks with high or added sugar – even if its “natural’’.
Rather than having orange juice with your breakfast – just include an orange! You’ll stay full longer and save a bunch of calories along the way.
It can be a simple as going for a walk or a rigorous as a CrossFit session, but the goal here is to MOVE your body and it goes far beyond vanity.
Our lymphatic system is responsible for moving lymph (a fluid containing our infection-fighting white blood cells) around the body. It’s our transport and disposal system. It takes our immune cells to where they need to be and then removes the engulfed pathogens for disposal.
Our lymph doesn’t move on its own as our circulation does, it needs us to move it.
Move your body for 30 minutes 5 days a week to ensure that your lymphatic system can deliver help where it’s needed and remove excess fluid and debris.
You need to be well hydrated so that your body has enough lymph to work properly and to flush out all the bad stuff.
You’ll also have more energy, better clarity of thought and control your hunger more effectively if you’re getting adequate water. Aim for 2-4 litres a day.
(Easy Tip – too cold to drink much water in winter? Try drinking it tepid with a little hot water. Its easier to for your body to use at the right temperature and its better on digestion).
You need to sleep so your body can make all its immune cells, rest and repair. While we are awake and eating and stressing and engaging in daily life, our body is far too occupied to focus on producing all our different immune cells (this is why when your get sick you often lose your appetite – your body is redirecting focus to where it’s needed most).
This all happens when we sleep. Get a minimum of 7 hours and try to have a regular wake-sleep on most days if you can.
Expanding on a point made in the previous section – your body isn’t doing much else while it’s digesting, this is why we often get sleepy after a big meal. Your body has redirected its focus and blood flow to the gut to help digestion.
Making sure you give your body a nice break from having to constantly digest is very good for your immune health. There are many ways you can fast, but one of the easiest ways to get the benefits is by leaving a big break between dinner and your next meal. 12-15 hours is a good amount of time. This gives your body heaps of time to focus on making new immune cells and checking on the health of other cells around your body, so it can remove any that seem like they don’t belong.
If any of the above sounds like you, book an appointment to see our Clinical Naturopath Jess to get back on track now.
Jessica Bouwmeester is a Clinical Naturopath and Nutritionist with a particular focus on working with patients presenting with mood and anxiety related concerns, digestive health and hormonal balance. Jessica strongly believes in food as medicine and is very experienced in the use of natural medicines for a multitude of complaints.