Rebecca Traylen (ANutr), Head of Nutrition at Probio7 shares her seven top tips to help bolster your immune system.
1. It’s all about balance
A varied and balanced diet is crucial for health and wellbeing, and while you won’t find them in all meals, it should include the following:
Wholegrain, starchy and high-fibre carbohydrates.
Lean forms of protein, such as meat, oily fish, eggs, beans, pulses and nuts – try to vary your protein sources.
Lots of fruit and vegetables. Fresh, frozen, dried, canned and juiced, all count, though try to keep your fruit smoothies and juices to a combined total of 150ml per day.
Dairy or fortified plant-based dairy alternatives, in moderation
Fat, also in moderation. Try to replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats such as vegetable, rapeseed or olive oil.
2. Immune boosting foods
The importance of gut health is a relatively new concept however, recent evidence has suggested a link to not only digestion but immunity, skin and mood.
To help stimulate the natural growth of good bacteria in the gut it is important to eat a wide diversity of foods but look out for natural fibres, b-glucans and micronutrients such as Vitamin C and D.
Natural fibres act as a food source for good gut bacteria, helping them grow and thrive in our microbiome. They can be found in fruit, root vegetables, beans and pulses, barley, oats and rye.
B-glucans are found in foods such as fungi, barley and oats. B-glucans act as both a food source for our gut microbiome and are absorbed into the blood and distributed around the body and interact with your immune cells.
Eating a varied and balanced diet can also help us consume our daily recommendation of several vitamins and minerals, some of which play a role in immunity.
Vitamin C plays a significant role in an effective immune system. Found in a wide variety of fruit and veg, foods rich in vitamin C include broccoli, cauliflower, pepper, kiwi, tomatoes and sweet potatoes.
Our immune cells contain vitamin D receptors, so it’s crucial to get your daily allowance for a stronger immune system. As well as sunlight, dietary sources include oily fish, red meat, liver and egg yolks as well as some fortified fat spreads and breakfast cereals.
3. Keep on moving
Regular exercise can boost your immune system and help fight off infections, where increased blood flow reduces stress and inflammation, and helps strengthen antibodies.
Though strenuous exercise isn’t possible for everyone, aim to achieve at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week, to help increase heart rate.
Try to vary this with daily exercise goals such as target steps or free online exercise classes, alongside two or more weekly strength sessions that could be as simple as carrying shopping or yoga. To keep it up, why not try setting yourself some challenges and goals such as aiming for five press ups in a row or touching your toes.
4. Sleep matters
Without sufficient sleep, your body makes fewer cytokines, a type of protein that targets infection and inflammation, creating an immune response. They are both produced and released during sleep so it’s important to ensure you are getting enough for your immune system.
For optimum results, aim for 6-9 hours every night, working out what time you need to be up every morning and working back from there. While not always feasible, waking up at the same time each day will help encourage a routine.
For those struggling to get to sleep, a hot bath, meditation, reading or listening to a book can distract your mind and help you unwind. Steer clear of drinking caffeine too late in the day that can remain in your system for over 5 hours.
Avoiding digital screens at least 30 minutes before bed will also prevent disruption of melatonin which prepares your body for sleep.
5. De-stress yourself
Stress not only affects us mentally, it can also impact our physical health and sometimes lead to more vulnerable infections. Though most of us are affected by some form of stress on a daily basis, it is important to find a way to manage and control it.
Meditation, yoga and deep breathing can be a very effective way of relaxing the body, where there are a number of free apps and online classes for beginners. Try and get outside on a daily basis, even if it’s just for 20 minutes, this will help you unwind and also add some movement to your day.
To help plan for a manageable day ahead, write out a list of what you’ve got to do and split up your tasks to help set realistic goals. If you don’t achieve as much as you’d hoped, don’t panic or blame yourself but reevaluate for the following day.
6. Cut it out or cut it down
We all have our vices, whether a glass of wine after a hard day or smoking when you’re stressed. However, excessive drinking or smoking gives your body unnecessary extra work, keeping it from its other functions, including supporting your immune system.
Alcohol can be enjoyed as part of a healthy balanced diet, it is just important to ensure it is in moderation. Try and limit your alcohol intake to no more than 14 units per week, spread out across the week, rather than bingeing.
Set yourself goals, aiming for a few alcohol free days during the week. If you do smoke, it’s important to try and quit or at the very least cut down. There are many free online resources to help you try such as Smokefree from the NHS.
Try and create new habits, such as drinking at least 6 to 8 glasses of water per day, that will clean out your system, keep you hydrated and healthy.
7. Extra help is at hand
Your body could always do with that extra boost just to make sure you’re getting all the nutrients you need to keep you fighting fit.
As 70% of our immune cells are located in the gut, it’s safe to say a well-functioning gut microbiome is crucial to keeping you well and in the best health to evade illness as much as possible.
As a result, Probio7 has released Immune+ a supplement that consists of two capsules to be taken daily together. The first capsule provides eight live strains of friendly bacteria plus a friendly yeast to help feed and encourage the growth of more friendly bacteria.
The second capsule contains natural beta 1,3/1,6 glucan, Wellmune® and an optimum dose of vitamin D to contribute to the normal function of your immune system.
Follow these seven simple steps and your body should be ready to put up a good fight against any infections that come your way and whilst you may get ill, even superheroes get sick, a healthy body will help you bounce back quicker too.