In this crazy world we should be doing everything we can to support our immunity, reduce our stress and get quality sleep.
Many of you know that when you get stressed you get sick, especially around cold and flu season. Below are the TOP 10 things you can do to naturally support your immune system.
While most gyms are vigilantly employing healthy practices to reduce the spread of viruses and bacteria than can cause illness, so unless the government advises differently you can keep going to the gym. Weather you go to the gym or exercise outdoors, maintaining some level of moderate to high intensity movement or resistance training is advised.
Studies of immunology have shown moderate exercise performed regularly may reduce the risk of upper respiratory infection by 33%. However, intense exercise performed too frequently or for a long duration (marathon’s etc) saw a 200 -300% increased risk of infection (lowered immune function).
Tip: Exercise 3-4 times a week for 30 – 60 minutes at moderate to high (not extreme) intensity. Preferably outside in the sun away from crowds.
Easier said than done when there is so much hysteria and misinformation around spreading across the planet. However, there is no doubt that high levels of physical, emotional and psychological stress may reduce lymphocyte (B-Cell & T-Cell) number and activity as cortisol climbs.
In fact, in one study immunosuppression of 32% was seen immediately after stressful events. It could take up to 5 hours for our body to recover from this drop in immunity. In another 60 day study Ashwagandha supplementation was shown to reduce anxiety by 69%.
Here are some tips to reduce stress…
- Have fun – find things you like to do that may not involve too much public interaction
- Yoga – clinically proven to improve all health parameters and profoundly reduce stress
- Meditation/breathing – found to lower cortisol, lower blood pressure and support immunity
- Exercise – while it is acute stress, exercise helps improve overall markers of stress due to endorphin and dopamine release
- Supplement – Magnesium, L-Theanine, Glycine and Ashwagandha have been shown to reduce markers of stress. In fact, one study on Ashwagandha found 15mg of withanolides (active ingredient) reduced cortisol by 32%. This may lead to reduced oxidation and improved immunity.
REDUCE DRUGS, ALCOHOL AND CIGARETTES
It is commonly known that smokers with upper respiratory tract infections have more severe symptoms and are more likely to develop pneumonia. In addition, smoking, alcohol and drugs contain or are themselves toxins that have immunosuppressing effects.
Alcohol may damage the lining of the gut and kill the good bacteria of our microbiome allowing for more pathogens like bacteria and viruses to get into our body. Not to mention alcohol although a sedative can disrupt quality sleep if consumed within 4 hours of going to bed. Finally, alcohol depletes our body of critical vitamins and minerals needed for healthy, vitality and immunity.
Tip: Keep alcohol, drugs and cigarettes to a minimum while viruses are in circulation. If you feel like a drink stick to 1 – 2 glasses of red wine since resveratrol (found in red wine) possess antioxidant and immune boosting benefits. These benefits are lost once you consume in excess of 2 small glasses. Consume at least 4 hours before going to bed.
Excess sugar consumption has been shown to reduce immune function by essentially putting neutrophils into a coma. Immune suppression post sugar intake can last for 2-3 hours. This could be all the time it takes for you to be exposed to a spreading virus or bacteria. Also, like alcohol sugar depletes our body of vital nutrients needed for a healthy immune system.
However, if you do contract a virus, avoiding carbohydrates altogether might be counterproductive. In fact, one recent study showed faster symptom relief from a flu virus on a balanced diet vs a ketogenic diet.
Tip: Minimise processed packaged foods that are over 40% carbohydrates or over 10% sugar. Try to eat more whole foods and remove added sugar where possible. However, if you contract a virus DO NOT deprive your body of carbohydrates.
INCREASE SUN EXPOSURE (VITAMIN D)
There are several reasons colds and flu viruses are less prevalent in summer. One of the major reasons is more sun exposure leading to higher vitamin D levels. Vitamin D3 has been shown to boost immune function by increasing T-cell number and activity.
A 2010 double blind placebo-controlled study showed a 42% reduction in the contraction of influenza when a therapeutic dose of Vitamin D was administered. In another study participants consuming 1200iu of Vitamin D daily reduced their risk of developing the flu by 58%.
What is concerning is over 40% of adults in Australia have low to deficient levels of Vitamin D due to working indoors and covering up when we are outdoors. Also, not having adequate levels of high-quality fats in our diets or being on statin drugs can significantly reduce vitamin D by blocking synthesis from cholesterol.
Tip: Get 20 -30 minutes of midday sun exposure on as much skin as possible. Alternatively supplement with Vitamin D3 under the guidance of your primary care provider.
EAT MORE VEGES
Over 83 published peer reviewed studies have linked increased vegetable intake with higher levels of immunity. It’s nothing new to most of us that the micronutrients that should be found in fruits and vegetables will support our health and wellbeing. The problem we encounter is that our food isn’t supplying enough vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. This is due to adulterated farming practices that leave the soil depleted, early picking with gas ripening and cold storage which causes the plants to lose their nutrients.
This lack of nourishment means the vegetables can no longer defend themselves from invaders and must be sprayed to protect them from bugs. These toxic sprays may also kill the bugs that populate the ecosystem of our digestive tract (microbiome) which reduces our innate immune defence system.
Tip: Eat fresh fruits and veges every day that are spray free or organic if possible. If you can’t find spray free, be sure to wash them in water and apple cider vinegar. If you can’t access good quality greens then you can now supplement with super greens formulas.
GET MORE QUALITY SLEEP
Sleeping 8 hours is a good start. However, getting 8 quality hours is even better. During sleep our body releases less immunosuppressing stress hormones and we go into repair mode. This includes clearing out inflammation, bacteria and viruses. In fact, our natural killer (NK) cells are more active during deep (delta) sleep than any other time of the day. However, a 1994 study showed a 72% reduction in NK cells when subjects were sleep deprived. This is especially alarming for shift workers or people with poor sleep quality.
Top tips for better quality sleep:
- Most deep sleep is achieved before midnight so be sure to get to bed around 9pm
- Shut off all blue light emitting devices 1 hour before bed or use blue light blocking glasses
- Don’t eat a big meal within 2-3 hours of bed
- Don’t exercise too late in the day
- Don’t consume caffeine or other stimulants too close to bed
- Avoid sugar and alcohol within 4 hours of bed
- Consume an ADRENAL Support Formula to lower cortisol and improve deep quality sleep.
There are many herbs that have powerful antiviral benefits. Here are just a few you will find in Vitality Switch…
- Oregano– this herb contains carvacrol which has been shown to kill murine norovirus within 15 minutes of exposure in vitro. It has antiviral activity against herpes simplex virus, rotavirus and more.
- Rosemary – contains several healthy plant compounds including oleanolic acid which has been shown to kill influenza virus and more.
- Astragalus– contains powerful polysaccharides that have been shown to combat herpes virus and influenza H9 virus
- Ginger– contains gingerols and zingerone that exhibits powerful anti-viral defence against avian influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and human norovirus. Also, ginger has been shown to prevent viral replication.
- Dandelion– this herb has test tube research showing powerful virus killing potential against hepatitis B and influenza. Also, dandelion inhibits the replication of mosquito born viruses like dengue.
MUNCH ON MEDICINAL MUSHROOMS
Several mushrooms have been shown to prevent and treat respiratory viruses like the common cold and influenza virus. This is incredible considering viruses are notoriously difficult to prevent and treat due to their highly infectious nature and ability to mutate. Here are 4 mushrooms that may be helpful.
- Shitake- when specifically studied with regards to influenza, shiitake was found to inhibit the growth of the virus by preventing the entry and uncoating process of viral infection. Researchers also tested an intranasal vaccine of shiitake extract, which increased the survival of flu-infected mice.
- Reishi – contains substances called triterpenes and beta-glucans which are the main beneficial anti-viral compounds. Reishi can combat many viruses such as herpes, Epstein-Barr and hepatitis. It has also been found to be effective in killing influenza A virus, which causes many outbreaks of flu throughout the season.
- Cordyceps- the anti-influenza effect of cordyceps is thought to be driven by increased natural killer cell activity along with other virus-killing cytokines. In addition, cordyceps have been shown to improve lung health by decreasing inflammation.
- Chaga– considered the king of mushrooms and one of the most antioxidant rich foods on the planet, Chaga is a powerful immune booster. Animal and in vitro studies suggest that chaga extract can positively impact immunity by reducing long-term inflammation and fighting harmful bacteria and viruses. Chaga also promotes the formation of beneficial cytokines that regulate the immune system and stimulate white blood cells, which are essential for fighting disease.
ZINC & VITAMIN C
This duo has been recommended for decades by practitioners, doctors and naturopaths to help support immune health and recover from colds and flus.
Many of the symptoms we experience during a cold or flu are as a result of our innate inflammatory immune response getting out of control. Recent studies showed Zinc supplementation may put the brakes on this response, reducing the severity of symptoms while simultaneously supporting our immune system.
Vitamin C supports the production of interferon's and the function of phagocytes leading to a robust immune system and an effective viral defence network. 80 times more Vitamin C is found in immune cells than in plasma, indicating its importance during cold and flu season.
Tip: You should supplement with Zinc & Vitamin C throughout the cold and flu season under the guidance of your primary care provider.
BONUS – Look after your gut!! Consuming fermented foods or a quality probiotic (bacillus coagulans), marine collagen or collagen boosting ingredients plus L-Glutamine will help to support your gut lining and prevent pathogens (bacteria & viruses) getting into your system. Good gut health is central to overall health. In fact, your gut wall houses 70% of the cells that make up your immune system.
It’s clear there are many things you can do to minimise infection of colds, flu’s and other virus’s which include healthy hygiene practices and avoiding large gatherings.
However, focusing on quality nutrition, fresh air and clean drinking water will always be a great place to start along with the tips above.
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Disclaimer: The above article is merely a guide and is in no way a recommendation or a treatment protocol for any health conditions or diseases. You should always consult with a qualified health care provider before changing your supplement, training or nutritional strategy. Supplementation should not be attempted by pregnant or breastfeeding women, anyone on prescription medication or children under the age of 15 unless advised by your qualified health care provider.