Published Aug 8, 2020
When we think of our health, we quite often break it down into ‘areas’ as well as our overall health. For example, we might think of our heart health, or our mental health, and what we can do to support them. But how often do we think of our immune health?
We might think that to keep coughs and colds at bay, we should eat plenty of vitamin C rich fruits, but as most of us aren’t really sure what the immune system is, least of all where it is, it can become easy to forget. (Our article on how the immune system works gives more detail on this amazing system that works 24-7 to seek and destroy pathogens.)
With 2020 set to become known in the history books as the Year of Covid-19, it’s never been more important to be aware of our immune system and how we can support it. So here’s how you can support a healthy, strong immune system.
- Eat well – eating a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables means eating a diet high in antioxidants. Antioxidants help to neutralise free radicals, which are unstable molecules caused by pollution and unhealthy habits that can damage cells, including those of the immune system. The more antioxidants we consume, the fewer free radicals!
- Take regular exercise – being active promotes the production of T cells and natural killer cells, which are both essential cells of the immune system. Exercise also helps to support good immunity by helping to rid the body of substances called pro-inflammatory cytokines, which are detrimental to the immune system.
- Get quality sleep – having a chronic lack of good quality sleep can lead us to make poor choices during the day, including reaching for the caffeine and sugary snacks, which does nothing for our immunity. The immune system goes through a system of repair when we’re asleep too, so if we suffer constant broken sleep, it can become weakened, leaving us more susceptible to disease and infections.
- Manage your stress levels – stress and anxiety promote the release of cortisol, a stress hormone which can lower the number of infection fighting white blood cells that are available to the immune system. Feeling stressed and anxious can also push us towards our coping mechanisms, which are often alcohol, cigarettes, drugs and junk food – which in excess are all bad news for our immunity.
- Stay hydrated – the more water and other clear fluids we drink, the more toxins the liver and kidneys flush out of the body in the urine. This means that the immune system needs to do less work to defend the body against these toxins, freeing it up to defend us from invading pathogens.
- Practice good hygiene – as we all know from living through a world affected so gravely by the coronavirus pandemic, something as simple as washing our hands is one of the best ways to support good immunity – by helping to prevent nasty bugs from entering the body in the first place.
Try to work all of these hints and tips for good immunity into your daily routine, and you’ll be supporting your immune system the best way you can.
Written by Hannah De Gruchy
Health, Wellness & Environmental Writer | Human Biology BSc (Hons)
I have an extensive knowledge of diet, health and wellbeing topics and consistently produce high quality, fully researched content for blogs, features and articles.
I’ve always loved to write, and after spending the first ten years of my career laboratory based, embarked on a career change in 2009 by joining an innovative and first to market online doctor. I also have experience in proofreading and editing content written by doctors, making sure it reads well as a non-doctor and am fully versed in being consistent with editorial guidelines.
I try to live a simple life, always conscious of my impact on the environment and have recently taken a keen interest in Buddhism. I choose natural beauty and household products and eat local, organic produce when I can. Staying true to both my way of life and my scientific background, I have a passion for writing on these subjects that is evident in my work.