Okay, let’s be absolutely honest here: it is a whole lot easier to blow up your immune system with a single glass of a soda pop after a fast food meal of deep fried mouth fun than to build it up, which could take you days afterwards.
“Boosting immunity” quickly is possible, and we have the tools. But nothing is going to take you from zero to hero with just one dose. The surest way to become vulnerable to flu or COVID-19 is to follow the fast food diet loaded with sugar, artificial sweeteners, fried oils, and lots of time spent indoors, sitting down, in a car, and working on a wi-fi connected smartphone or a computer.
A strong immune system is a result of dedicated care and work, and building (and maintaining it) is a process that can take months or even years. What you do every day, what you eat, how you live, how you treat your body and mind, and even what you think and who you surround yourself with impacts your immunity more than you think!
In the spring of 2020, people on Instagram were searching for #immunebooster with a 46% increase, which basically shows that people do care and look for solutions, they want to be healthier! At the same time, Google searching for “immune boost” went up as well! That is amazing news because it really means people care about their immunity and recognize the importance of it!
You can definitely find good tips on social media, but relying on random people on the internet with issues as complex as immunity is, can backfire easily. The immune system is pretty intricate, linked to and affected by other bodily systems, and there is not a universal dietary plan, exercise program, or prescription that boosts or fixes it.
IMMUNE SYSTEM, SIMPLIFIED
Our immune system consists of specialized groups of cells that are on duty 24/7, and they constantly look for and systematically attack and destroy harmful microorganisms. A healthy immune system is able to recognize the true danger and does not attack its own cells. However, if your internal balance is compromised in any way, your own body can attack itself, this is a problem you might know as autoimmunity.
Our defense cells include white blood cells (leukocytes), macrophages, neutrophils, basophils, and other cells. If there is an overload of harmful pathogens, our immune cells might not be able to defend themselves effectively, and if this happens, we get sick, and we need to rest, support the healing process with quality food, enough sleep, probiotics and prebiotics (especially when we are prescribed antibiotics), and let our body deal with the problem while supporting it by providing new building material for new defense cells that might have suffered some damage in the initial attack.
How long the healing process takes depends on many factors including your overall health, the severity of the illness, and of course the amount of work you put into it by eating the right food, resting enough, unloading the toxic burden, avoiding stress, and basically just being kind to your body.
Our bodies are powerful machines that are able to heal themselves, but only if you provide them with the tools they need to do so! If you are going through the flu for example, and you further abuse your body by not resting, exercising too hard, eating junk food, and drinking alcohol or smoking, you can’t expect a positive response from your body in return!
8 WAYS TO SUPPORT YOUR IMMUNITY
Hopefully, by now you understand why a strong immune system is critical. Or maybe you are one of those who googled “immune boost” earlier this year, which indicates you know what to do, you just need to learn how to do it.
Building (and maintaining, this is not a process with a deadline) your immunity is all about constant small everyday steps that in the long run lower your risk of getting sick or increase your chances to fight the disease more effectively and faster. Every journey, even the longest trip around the world, consists of small steps. You just have to keep walking.
1. EAT WELL
You are what you eat. Actually, you are what you absorb. You might be tired of this phrase already, but it never stopped being true. What you eat matters because what you eat literally provides building blocks for your cells, including the cells of your immune system. If you want to have strong and healthy cells, you need to give them healthy food full of nutrients, it is simple as that.
Processed foods, fast food items, food that is far away from its natural state, doesn’t include all the micronutrients we need! Instead, it contains a lot of refined sugar, unhealthy fats, gluten, and other compounds that are problematic and absolutely don’t support healthy immunity.
Micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) are very important, and you should preferably get them from natural sources like organic fruits and vegetables. Different colored veggies contain different nutrients, that is why you can often hear the saying eat the rainbow, it is not just about making your dish look nice!
Macronutrients are also important, and the source matters! We have published a series of blog posts about fats, as well as sugar, so check them out for more details! Adequate protein intake is very important for healthy immunity, so focus on good sources like organic meat, fish, seafood, and eggs from free-range birds.
Healthy fats from nuts and seeds, and sources like coconut oil, olive oil, grass-fed butter or lard, are important for not just immunity, but also for building our hormones. Include collagen in your diet, either as a supplement in a form of powder or in collagen-rich foods like bone broth.
It doesn’t really matter if you eat paleo, primal, keto, low-carb, vegan, vegetarian, as long as you are making sure to include every important nutrient in your diet to support your body. What matters the most is that you match your macronutrient intake to your genetics – and Metabolic Typing can help you know the details.
Regular physical activity is closely linked to more resistant immunity. At the same time, proper movement is beneficial as a stress-lowering tool. Make sure to move regularly and stay as active as possible, especially if you are working in a sedentary job.
You don’t have to necessarily lift heavy weights, run a marathon, or play professional baseball. A simple movement like walking, stretching, or even bouncing on a rebounder can give you all the movement you need. If you can do it outside while breathing some fresh air, great! If you have to stay inside, still great!
Moving your body is extremely important for your lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is closely related to the immune system, detoxification, digestion, and other important mechanisms in the body, but it often gets overlooked by medical professionals, and many of us don’t really know what the lymphatic system is and what it does in the body.
Scientists sometimes say that sitting is the new smoking, and they might not be very far from the truth. We have never sat this much before – it is a new epidemic. Check out this informative podcast episode about sitting by the Living Experiment team.
It is not a wasted time, it is the time when we repair and rebuild, we slow down aging. Focus on quality and adequate duration of sleep. Not enough sleep weakens the immune system. Watching Netflix until midnight, playing video games, or browsing on Facebook before going to bed, eating junk food for dinner – none of these are a recipe for a good night’s sleep.
People who don’t sleep enough are more prone to getting sick! When we sleep, all kinds of magic is happening in the body, muscles and bones are getting repaired, memories are being stored, many good things happen when we sleep!
Sleep is extremely underrated! If you still doubt you need 8 hours of sleep, check out our post about sleep called Sleep 101! Also, check out Why We Sleep, one of the best books about the importance of sleep you can get your hands on!
4. FEED YOUR MICROBIOME
We could have included this part in the Eat Well section, but feeding your microbiome is too important, so it deserves a mention of its own. 80% of our immune system is located in the gut, so taking care of our intestines, our microbiome especially, is crucial for our overall health!
Add more probiotic and prebiotic foods to your diet. Kefir, yogurt, kvass, kimchi, kombucha, sauerkraut, all have a positive impact on your gut flora and all 350 trillion microbial cells living in our gut. Humic acid is finally being studied for its importance in supporting and maintaining the communication pathways of the microbes.
If we feed these little friendly guys properly, they are going to protect us from the disease in return! That sounds like a fair exchange! Specific bacteria produce Vitamin B for us from the food we give them, while others bind available iron or look after decomposing toxins.
5. HEAT UP AND COOL DOWN
Going to the sauna and taking cold showers regularly may sound like something from a horror movie to you, but both of these activities are an excellent way to strengthen the immune system! The high temperature in the sauna causes an increase of white blood cells in the body. Once or twice a week is enough, but you can absolutely do more if you enjoy it!
Cold showers or baths help lower your cortisol levels (cortisol is a stress hormone), and also helps to raise your white blood cell numbers. You don’t necessarily have to jump right into the ice-cold bath or swim in ice-covered lakes to experience these benefits, you can take baby steps and work your way up to just a few minutes every day in the shower.
Check out our older post about the Healing Power of Cold, and also listen to this great podcast episode from Melissa Urban about how to start taking cold showers! It might sound like hell at first, but you will see that after just a couple of days, you will feel the difference!
There is a study that says: Most of the leading causes of debilitating illness and death are correlated with, if not caused by, stress. Research has provided direct links between stress and heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and suicide/self-harm. Further, stress can impact the immune system, leading to vulnerability to infectious and chronic diseases.
Meditation, positive thinking, and therefore disconnecting from the negative thoughts create different reactions in the brain and as a result, helps resolve inflammation in the body. It reduces the fight or flight stress response from our nervous system and increases the rest, repair, and digest response.
Try breathing exercises, sign up for a meditation course, get a meditation app (we love Calm) for your phone, limit your consumption of social media and news (if you know that is a stressor for you), get moving (do yoga, dance, walk, any movement you enjoy will do the trick), get in touch with people you love and like to talk to, online if you can’t see them in person. Seek professional help if you feel like your negative emotions have taken over and you lost control over them.
If you want to decrease the risk of any infectious disease, you need to follow basic hygienic guidelines. Simple everyday things like washing your hands, covering your mouth when you cough and sneeze, not touching frequently touched things like elevator buttons, holding poles in public transport, door handles, shopping carts (unless you can wash your hands after).
Especially in times when infectious diseases are on the rise, in places with a high concentration of people (shopping malls, hospitals, public transport), at the gym, or in a restaurant, stay cautious.
Don’t share your water bottle or cup with anyone, don’t touch your face with unwashed hands, and if necessary (or mandatory), wear a face mask!
Soap will break the surface tension that infectious organisms cannot survive. ROS – reactive oxygen species from bio-hydrox, hydrogen peroxide, ozone, etc. – will oxidize the microbes and wipe them out so you can spray the right concentration on surfaces, or inhale them to block the infections.
Sometimes, no matter how clean your diet, how deeply you sleep, how regularly you move, nothing seems like enough. Sometimes the stress load is just too much. The vegetables and fruits we eat today are nowhere near as nutrient-dense as they used to be a few decades ago.
The reason? Our soils are depleted from these nutrients after years of unsustainable farming practices and the use of chemical fertilizers like glyphosate (RoundUp). Yes, it can help us grow foods faster, but it comes with a price – our food is nutritionally deficient, so supplementing became a necessity.
And what are some of the best and most important supplements to look for?
- Vitamin C: an extremely important antioxidant that is crucial for our immunity. Good sources of Vitamin C include bell peppers, oranges or kiwi. For supplementing, we recommend the liposomal form of Vitamin C! (read this to learn more about liposomes)
- Vitamin D: supplementing Vitamin D especially during winter is an effective way to lower the risk of flu and other diseases. Vitamin D is deficient in our diet, our body manufactures it from UVB rays from sunlight, but there is not enough sun exposure during fall and winter. Adding a Vitamin D supplement into our daily regimen is never a bad idea!
- Zinc is another necessary micronutrient, it is found mostly in beef, oysters, cashews, beans, or offal meat. Zinc is involved in insulin production, elimination of excess cholesterol, and healing. It works in synergy with copper, and that is why we recommend using a supplement that contains both these trace minerals.
- Omega-3 fatty acids help us fight inflammation and support white blood cells in doing their job (killing off pathogens). We can find them in fatty fish, chia seeds, flax seeds, or walnuts. If you don’t eat quality fatty fish twice a week, you should seriously consider taking an Omega-3 supplement daily.
- A good multivitamin supplement will help you reach the recommended daily intake of these nutrients, and it is a simple solution involving just one bottle. Just in case you want to take it all.
- Probiotics are a wonderful source of friendly bacteria that will help your microbiome and support immunity. If you are not eating enough fermented foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, natto, kombucha, or kefir, you should definitely consider probiotics. They will support your digestion as well as the immune system. We strongly recommend using a supplement that includes not just probiotics (friendly bacteria), but also prebiotics (food for the friendly bacteria).
It is actually pretty simple – we can support our natural immunity by living a healthy lifestyle, eating healthy food, being as active as possible, managing stress, and sleeping enough. Simple, right? But we absolutely acknowledge it is not always easy.
We don’t have to make a complete 180° turn with our lives and change everything we do. Small steps are still steps forward. Move at your own pace, start making changes in your diet and lifestyle, and remember that not eating fast food is the biggest immune boost.
You can’t expect to change decades of poor eating and lifestyle into peak health in a matter of days. But you can expect long-lasting changes in your vitality and longevity if you start today and keep working on your immune system. We are here to help you every step of the way!