by HEATHER DARROCHMARCH 15TH, 2021
The topic of health is still very much at the forefront of our daily lives. Whether on the news or a conversation over the office water cooler, how to keep our bodies fighting fit has never been more relevant. If you are looking to give your body the best defence against unwanted sick days, I recommend starting by naturally boosting your immune system.
What is the Immune System?
Imagine your body was a castle, your immune system would be the army of knights sworn to protect the castle from anyone who threatens the safety of its inhabitants. Made up of organs, cells and chemicals, if your body is under siege from illness or disease, it is your immune system that jumps to action, defending you until you recover.
Just like an army, without adequate care, rest and resources the immune system will lose its strength, grow tired and not function to the best of its ability. Rather than leave yourself vulnerable, a few simple diet and lifestyle changes could give your body the boost it needs to fight more of those ill-intentioned invaders.
Fuel Your Body Correctly
What you eat and drink each day has a direct impact on the function of your immune system. Much like a car, when you use premium high octane fuel, it will drive smoother and give you better mileage. The same goes for your body, if you fuel it with nutrient-rich whole foods, the overall performance of your essential bodily functions improves.
Whole plant foods, such as fruits and vegetables, as well as nuts, seeds and legumes, are rich in both nutrients and antioxidants. Essential for fighting off the free radicals in your body that can cause inflammation, antioxidants help to reduce the risk of developing conditions such as heart disease, cancer and even Alzheimers.
It is also important to stay hydrated as dehydration can seriously impact your digestion, kidney and heart function. This increases your susceptibility to illness, so it is important that you drink enough fluids throughout the day, aiming for 8 glasses of water where possible.
Get Enough Sleep
Hands up if you are guilty of burning the midnight oil? It can be tempting to stay up an extra few hours a night, whether to catch up on housework, respond to those last few emails or watch just one more episode of that series you love. But, studies have shown links between adults who sleep for 6 hours or less a night and increased susceptibility to sickness.
Adults are recommended to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night, and three consecutive nights of less than this can have the same effect on the body as missing one whole night’s sleep. Chronic lack of sleep can increase inflammation within the body, as well as blood pressure, and the risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
If you were looking for an excuse to get some extra shut-eye, then look no further. Studies have shown that the body’s “T Cells” activate a sticky protein called integrins, these allow the cells to attach to and kill infected cells that make us ill. Individuals who did not get a good night’s sleep showed lower levels of integrin activation in their T Cells, making them less effective at defending the body from attacking cells.
Walk In The Sunshine
Vitamin D is also imperative to T Cell activation, meaning a lack of vitamin D in the bloodstream can compromise the immune system. Nicknamed the “sunshine vitamin”, vitamin D is developed in the skin after exposure to sunlight. The vitamin then helps to mobilize the T Cells, enabling them to travel through the body to defend against bad cells.
As our lifestyles have changed over the years, we spend an increasing number of hours inside working away from direct sunlight, which has led to approximately 1 billion people worldwide becoming deficient in the vitamin. Deficiency can lead to a poorly functioning immune system and an increased risk of developing an autoimmune disease.
Also found in oily fish and eggs, you can boost your vitamin D intake with supplements or just by stepping outside for a walk in the sun (just ensure you use an effective UV protectant sun cream). A brisk walk or some moderate exercise outside is also beneficial to reduce inflammation, studies have also shown that exercising can increase the effectiveness of vaccines in those who have a lowered immune system!
Is Laughter The Best Medicine?
Long-term stress has a direct impact on the body’s immune system. When you are stressed your body produces a hormone called cortisol, it’s your body’s natural response to danger and puts your organs into “fight or flight” mode. This is great as and when necessary, but too much cortisol production can compromise your immune system, as well as lead to weight gain, low mood, high blood pressure and disrupted sleep.
One way to reduce your cortisol levels is with laughter. When you laugh your brain releases endorphins, these “feel good” hormones reduce the feelings of stress and pain. As well as this, laughter also increases the production of antibodies and those all important T Cells that are necessary for proper immune function.
Laughter also protects your heart and can reduce your risk of heart attacks. The oxygen you breathe in while laughing heavily oxygenates the blood, and the physical act of laughing increases your heart rate – helping to pump this blood all around your body. Regular increased circulation through laughter helps to improve your vascular function and protect you from cardiovascular diseases.
Can The Aronia Berry Help?
Aronia berries, also known as the Chokeberry, contain one of the highest levels of whole plant antioxidants in the world, making them a fantastic addition to an immune-boosting diet. With their high levels of vitamins A,B,C,E and K, these little berries are nutritionally dense and easy to incorporate into your diet.
Whether you throw them into your morning smoothie, bake them into a healthy muffin or create an immune system supporting jam, these delectable little berries pack a nourishing punch. Aronia Berries really are the champions of immune-supporting superfruits!