Our bodies are wonderful machines and are fully equipped to deal with and dispose of most intruding bacteria, viruses, parasites, or other fungi. Sometimes, however, they are not quite capable of dispatching those and we end up getting sick.
So to beat those winter or mid-season sniffles, helping your body fight back seems like a good idea. But, now, just how to boost your immune system? Is there a single magic pill that will just do the trick? Do you need to change your diet? Your lifestyle?
Hello, I’m Isabel, and, through Simply Go Clean, I want to help you clean up your diet, one step at a time, and achieve better health through Clean Eating.
Have you ever heard that statement: 70% of your immune function comes from your gut?
Well, it does, which means that, when it comes to fighting colds and viruses, the state of your digestive system really matters. Notice, though, that it’s called a ‘system’. It’s not a single organ or molecule, it’s a whole balancing act inside your body that is taking place.
So how can you boost your immune system? Well, let’s try to understand a bit how it works, so we can figure out how to strengthen it better.
How does your Immune System work?
Let’s imagine that your body gets in contact with pathogens, which can cause disease. It will launch a number of steps to identify, isolate, and destroy those pathogens. This will involve various organs, cells in your skin, blood, bone marrow, and tissues.
For the whole system to work in synergy, every component needs to be in top shape. Which is not always the case. If your body isn’t getting the nutrients it needs to keep the system in optimum condition, or if it using too much of those nutrients for other functions in your body, the immune system will be depleted.
Let me give you an example
The winter slump. What happens in winter?
- We get fewer nutrients in – Our body is often getting less exercise and not getting fed optimally (Hellooo, Christmas chocolates…), as there are less nutrient-rich foods in season and we tend to cook those, rather than eat them raw. We also get far less sunshine and don’t make quite enough vitamin D.
- We use up more nutrients – At the same time, our body has to use more energy adjusting to colder temperatures, fight more pathogens that tend to thrive in colder temperatures, and somehow still provide the nutrients needed by every cell in the body.
So when that end-of-winter cold virus comes along (you know, the one that hits you just when you thought you were safe…), your immune system is unprepared and you get sick.
I’m grossly simplifying the whole process, of course, and to this day, we don’t even understand fully how the immune system works. But you get the gist of it.
So let’s see how you can boost your Immune System in 4 steps. These were suggested by a French naturopath, whose magazine I receive regularly. The whole process made a lot of sense to me and didn’t involve any fancy, exotic ingredients or expensive supplements, so it felt natural for me to share.
However, let me just clarify:
This post reflects my opinions and the results of things that I have tried that either worked for me or didn’t. These reflexions are for informational purposes only and are not intended as medical advice. You should always obtain medical advice from a qualified medical professional for any health conditions or symptoms associated with them.
With this blurb out of the way, let’s dive in.
How to boost your immune system in 4 steps:
- How to increase your ATP
- Know which nutrients you need
- Increase your intake of the right nutrients
- Remove unnecessary aggressions
– Molière“One must eat to live and not live to eat.”
In other words, make every mouthful you eat count.
Step 1. How to increase your ATP
You must start by strengthening and increasing the basic chemical reactions in your body.
There’s a molecule that sets your cells in motion, supports energy production and the body’s defenses… Science has identified it. It’s called ATP, or Adenosine Triphosphate. This molecule is found inside your cells, in the mitochondria. Its role is essential, vital. It provides the energy necessary for all the basic functions of your body:
- The chemical reactions of your metabolism
- Cell division
- The transport of vital chemicals and elements
- And so on
In short, it is essential for your body to work properly. If you produce more ATP, your body will work better and faster, especially when it comes to antibodies production and immune-boosting.
So let’s go through a few recommendations to give your ATP production a quick boost:
1. Consume more unsaturated fatty acids
They are an easy fuel for your cells, which accelerates the production of ATP.
2. Boost your intake of magnesium
Take magnesium. It is THE energy mineral. It is an essential substance for all the metabolic reactions that allow the production of ATP … And 75% of Americans just don’t meet the recommended intake!
3. Increase your intake of B vitamins (B1, B2, PP)
They are all essential for ATP synthesis.
4. Do cardiac coherence and respiratory exercises.
If your breathing is too fast and too shallow, most of your tissues are poorly oxygenated. Your body needs a lot of oxygen to produce ATP. If you do not breathe properly, you don’t release carbon dioxide properly, and your body becomes acidic – which lowers your ATP reserves, among other things.
With extra ATP, your body is better able to quickly react to attacks. All your systems benefit …
Now is the time to…
Step 2. Know which nutrients you need
Your cells need these nutrients – and fast.
Here we are even more in the concrete: here is a list of nutrients that play a capital role in the functioning of your immune system.
Zinc is involved in all stages of the production of antibodies and white blood cells. It is zinc which helps you make proteins (mediators and antibodies) capable of fighting against viruses and bacteria. It is zinc who operates the cell divisions that are used to “manufacture” the immune army.
And yet, the vast majority of people over the age of 60 are deficient in zinc.
Be careful though: zinc is poorly absorbed, and it will take several months to eliminate deficiencies. Also, avoid taking it DURING an infection, because zinc is not just a growth factor for us humans … but also for all living cells, including bacteria.
As you probably know, vitamin C is a major contributor to your immune defenses by supporting various cellular functions of the immune system.
As the first line against viral attacks, vitamin D is involved in the differentiation of white blood cells. You should aim to spend at least 20 minutes in full sun every day to get optimal vitamin D levels.
Glutamine is the favorite amino acid in white blood cells – it’s their fuel, which makes them able to devour foreign bodies that attack your body.
The microbiota in your intestines is the seat of your immunity. This is why you must feed it with the right strains of probiotics, preferably a good variety. A strong bioflora also means that nutrients will be better absorbed.
As they say, ‘You are not what you eat, you are what you absorb’
Prebiotics are needed to feed the probiotics, strengthen your gut flora and therefore your immune system.
Step 3. Increase your intake of the right nutrients
…by adding more of the following to your diet.
Through Clean Eating
- Unsaturated fat (olive, avocado or canola oil, fatty fish, nuts and seeds)
- Leafy greens, figs, avos, bananas, nuts, legumes, and green veggies, for magnesium.
- Beef/chicken, seafood, legumes, seeds and nuts for zinc
- Nutritional yeast on your food, for extra B vitamins
- Raw peppers, citrus fruits, kiwi, and broccoli, all good natural sources of vitamin C. [Note – Vitamin C is easily destroyed though, so aim for high freshness and as little to no processing, chopping, cooking, etc.]
- Kombucha, kefir, sauerkraut, amasi, kimchi, all preferably home-made, to boost your gut flora and better absorb the other nutrients
- Ground flaxseed or chia seeds, to increase your prebiotics.
With the right supplements
Sometimes, we just don’t have the right nutrients-rich foods at hand. It’s not the right, or we can’t find them, or we just don’t like them.
And sometimes too, the food we eat does not contain enough nutrients to make a difference. You would have to eat 4 fresh oranges to get 200mg of vitamin C. Every day.
So supplementation might come in handy. And the supplements below are easy to find.
Ideally, choose vitamin C from plants, like acerola – because it comes with the right phytonutrients.
Avoid effervescent or chewable forms, which might be more processed and less effective…
the body can only absorb 200mg at a time, so it’s better to take 200mg several times a day rather than a single 1000mg dose.
Zinc citrate is a cheap and easily available supplement. Better taken over the long term, rather than in high doses for a few days only.
Stop taking it when you’re coming down with something, as it will equally boost the virus you’re trying to fight.
This vitamin is best taken with other food containing oil or fat. Taking it at the same as your Omega 3 is a good idea, the omega 3 oil increasing the vitamin D absorption.
Glutamine is a preferred source of energy for white blood cells. Although we can get a fair amount through our food, the body’s needs in times of stress can be higher, making supplementation a good idea.
As a supplement, aim for 1 to 2g / day.
Probiotics and prebiotics
Aim for quality, certified products to guarantee their effectiveness. We use those at home as gut health is a bit of a priority for the whole family. And because they work.
Both for prevention and when getting sick, echinacea has been proven to help.
Step 4: Remove unnecessary aggression
Limit your stress levels, this weakens your immune system.
Stress is always accompanied by a decrease in our immune defenses – science has proven it time and time again.
Let’s go through 5 steps you can take to reduce your stress levels.
1. Cut down on caffeine, alcohol and nicotine
Caffeine and nicotine are stimulants, and alcohol, in small doses, also acts as a stimulant.
Bonus tip – While you’re there, cut down on sugar and refined starches, to avoid the glucose spike… soon followed by the crash.
2. Get more active
Being physically active has a powerful effect on those happy hormones, so get moving. It doesn’t have to be strenuous, but just 30-minutes of walking outdoors is enough to relieve anxiety and stress.
Bonus tip – And if you *smile* and focus on happy, positive thoughts while exercising, you get a double-whammy of happy hormones!
3. Get more sleep
We are all different. Inside and out. Everybody’s sleep pattern is different. And can change, depending on your current circumstances. So make sure you sleep enough.
Bonus tip – Taking naps is a very effective way to top-up on rest. Between 10 and 25 minutes seem to work best for most people, so experiment to find out your sweet spot.
4. Experiment with relaxation techniques
Whether it’s breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, mindfulness, cardiac coherence, EFT, or any other technique, there’s got to be one that works for you. One which is both effective and easy for you to fit in regularly.
Bonus tip – Just 10 minutes a day can make a big difference. So try and find a relaxation technique that you can easily do any time of the day, so you’ve got no excuse to not do it.
5. Push the ‘Off’ button
Turn off the television, your smartphone, laptop or whatever screen you use at home, at least 1 hour before bedtime. 2 hours is best. This is to avoid blue light from the screens disrupting your sleeping pattern.
Bonus tip – If you ‘must’ spend the evening in front your screen, you can try activating the Blue light filter on your device, or investing in a pair of tinted glasses designed at that effect.
Now you know how to boost your immune system
…easily and naturally. So don’t forget to go back to this post whenever a change of season is near, you’re experiencing more stress in your life, or you just feel like your immunity is not up to speed.
You might want to find out How to Detox with Clean Eating too, so you can keep your body in top form all year round.
And if you have other tips on how to boost your immune system that you’d like to share, please do so! Feel free to comment below and share the goodness.
Keep well, and don’t forget to follow me on Pinterest for more Clean Eatings hacks & tips!
Eat right, go well,