By: Dr. Tammy Lang
What we have been experiencing these last few months, is a reminder to take care of ourselves: To eat well, get sleep, move/exercise and lower your stress. It sounds so simple, yet for most of us we fall short. The foundation of good health begins with what you eat. A poor immune system is evidence that there are cracks in the foundation. Here are some simple but important ways to boost your immune system.
- Eat Real Whole Foods
When you want your body to function in tip top shape you must consume the nutrients that help it run efficiently. Foods rich in nutrients that come from plants and lean proteins. If you are not eating veggies, it is time to start. Each day try to choose a different vegetable than the day before. I advise my patients to “eat from the rainbow.” This will help to get a variety of vitamins and minerals that help to support your immune system by providing you with vitamins like A, C and E, magnesium, zinc, and folic acid.
We often underestimate the power of sleep and its importance to our immune system. Not enough sleep can increase your stress hormones and lead to inflammation. Lack of sleep makes you vulnerable to viruses and bacteria by reducing your antibody production and lowering your production of cytokines. (A protein which is needed when you have an infection to fight it off.) Poor-quality sleep can adversely impact your gut which houses the cells that make up your immune system.
I recommend 7-8 hours. Small children need 10 or more hours and teenagers need approximately 10. Lastly, technology can inhibit your ability to fall asleep and decrease quality. It is a good idea to “power down” approximately 1 hour before bed.
- Take Care of Your Gut
If you want a healthy immune system, you will want to look at your gut. Greater than 70% of your immune system resides there. You are only as healthy as the flora/bacteria in your gut. You can improve the health of your gut first by ditching the sugar, getting off the junk food and lowering your stress. Chronic stress and junk food take a toll on your good bacteria, creating an environment where the bad bugs can thrive. The foundation of good gut health begins with what you eat. To increase the good bacteria in your gut, eat more fiber. Low fiber diets make it difficult for the good bacteria to survive. Eat foods like legumes, nuts, seeds, berries and vegetables. Consume fermented foods like sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi, kombucha and kefir to provide the gut with natural probiotics.
- Reduce Stress
When we are stressed, the immune system’s ability to fight off infections is reduced. Stress can also have an indirect effect on illness. All too often, when we are under stress, we turn to bad habits as coping strategies, like smoking, drinking alcohol and eating junk food. We stop exercising and stay up too late watching television. All of these are likely to have an adverse effect on our health. During stressful times, I encourage my patients to keep a schedule, find time to relax and do things that bring them happiness and joy. I encourage the practice of mindfulness and mediation. There are apps that can help you learn to meditate and breathe deeply. Give it a try. You might be amazed at how 10-15 minutes of meditation can lower your stress and boost your immune system.
Exercise slows down the release of stress hormones and is thought to help flush bacteria out of the lungs and respiratory tract. Since the release of stress hormones increases our chance of illness it is important to make time for exercise. However, do not overdo it. Too much exercise can become of source of stress itself.
- Fill in the nutritional gaps
Vitamin and mineral supplements can play a vital role when not eating properly or when your body is under attack. I recommend working with a practitioner to help you with the proper dose. However, when possible, the best way to get the key nutrients to boost your immune system is from food.
Dr. Tammy Lang takes a functional approach to achieving your health goals utilizing the power of food and nutrition coupled with and identifying lifestyle habits and root cause(s) to help you achieve optimum health. For more information, visit her website at https://drtammylang.com/#, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org, or check out the South Jersey Center For Nutrition and Wellness Facebook page.