Our immune system can often let us down, resulting in illness and loss of sleep. Here are five tips for staying alert and feeling great.
Whether it’s battling the rampant germs of cold and flu season or maintaining wellness throughout the year, your immune system is your main line of defence. To feel good as often as possible – and recover quickly when you don’t – it’s important to keep your immune system strong.
“The immune system is the part of the body that monitors both internal and external environments,” says Dr Chris Oswald, an American nutrition specialist and chiropractor based in Wisconsin. “It’s important to understand that both too much immune response and too little immune response, including inflammation, is not good, so maintaining that happy medium is the name of the game.” To achieve that “happy medium”, Dr Oswald recommends incorporating five simple steps into your daily routine:
Support natural sleep cycles
“Sleep is the time when our bodies repair and rejuvenate so it is something not to be taken lightly,” says Dr Oswald. “Generally speaking, the older we are the less sleep we need, but for adults seven to nine hours is usually the sweet spot.”
A good way to know if you are sleeping well is if you fall asleep within 30 minutes of lying down and you can wake at approximately the same time every day without an alarm clock.
“It is also very important to maintain regular hours as our body’s circadian rhythms do not like to be disrupted,” he adds.
Eat fermented and unprocessed foods
The body’s microbiome health has a huge impact on the immune system, says Dr Oswald. The microbiome is the collection of microorganisms that inhabit the intestinal tract, creating a mini-ecosystem.
“Every bite of food we eat impacts microbiome balance so it is important to eat foods that promote its health,” he says. “I like fermented foods, and foods that are minimally processed or are as close to their form in nature as possible. When the wrong foods are eaten, certain microbiota can “gain strength” and offset the health promoting benefits of other more beneficial organisms.”
He adds that dietary fibre is also very important to maintaining the health of the microbiome. Additionally, foods high in Omega-3 fatty acids such as DHA and EPA help boost the immune system.
Use supplements to support digestive health
“The digestive tract is a barrier to the outside world that selectively allows molecules to pass through,” says Dr Oswald. This is why a healthy gut is a big part of overall health. It filters out the bad while keeping in the good.
Eating plenty of probiotics in foods like yoghurt and kefir helps maintain digestive health but it can be difficult for the average person to get enough to make an impact. “Supporting digestive health with a comprehensive probiotic supplement such as Nordic Naturals Nordic Flora Probiotic Daily is a great foundational health strategy for everyone,” says Dr Oswald.
Move your body
“Higher levels of fitness are definitely associated with improved immune function,” says Dr Oswald. He recommends high intensity interval training (HIIT), where you alternate short periods of intense exercise with brief rest periods.
“I like people to choose any activity they like and have a nice, gentle five-minute warm-up followed by up to six 100 per cent work intervals for 30 seconds with 60 seconds of rest,” he says. “Once complete with the circuit, a five-minute cool-down completes your workout in 19 minutes or less.”
Embrace mindfulness and meditate
According to Dr Oswald, chronic stress has an effect on the immune system, which can potentially inhibit your resistance to illness. One easy way to combat stress is to try to meditate every day.
“Meditation is a very powerful option, and I firmly believe that everybody should find some way of increasing mindfulness,” he says. “It is important to remember that meditation is different for everyone.”
Meditation can consist of sitting quietly with eyes closed, staring at a flame, walking in the woods, etc. Try something that feels right for you that allows you to relax and be mindful of the present.