Stu: There’s no time like the present to focus on supporting our immune system but how do we know where to start with so many mixed messages floating around? Is there really a magic pill or potion that will give us that much needed boost or is it as simple as eating a healthy diet and and exercising regularly? In this article we examine 3 of the most common assumptions and look at the science supporting them…
1. Taking Vitamin C Helps Prevent Colds & Flu
It’s true that vitamin C is essential for the proper functioning of immune cells but according to a number of clinical studies it seems that supplementing with vitamin C won’t ‘reduce your risk‘ of catching a cold or flu. It’s not all bad though as vitamin C may assist in ‘speeding up your recovery‘ and reduce the severity of your symptoms. To meet your recommended daily intake of vitamin C, whole foods are generally a better idea than supplements as they also contain antioxidants, fibre, and additional vitamins and minerals, all of which may lower your susceptibility to illness.
Foods rich in vitamin C include broccoli, cauliflower, kale, kiwis, oranges, capsicums, sweet potatoes, strawberries, and tomatoes. If you’re not one to eat a lot of fruit or veggies you could always blend them together in a smoothie as it’s an easy way to consume LOTS of nutrients very quickly while being gentle on the digestive system (see point 3 below).
2. Exercise Makes No Difference To Your Immune System
We love exercise and it’s well know that living an active lifestyle can help keep our immune system healthy. Exercise gives our cardiovascular system a boost, which will help white blood cells circulate and promote the healthy turnover of immune cells – result! Regular, daily exercise may also reduce inflammation and help our immune cells regenerate more regularly.
Note: It is important not to go overboard though… a recent study found high-performance athletes have an increased risk of infection. Endurance athletes (like marathon runners, triathletes and ultra-endurance enthusiasts) have notably depressed immunity, especially when it comes to upper respiratory tract infections (like colds). You may not class yourself as an athlete but smashing goals at the gym everyday can have a similar effect and could depress your immune system. It’s important to give the body time to recover after exercise.
3. The Immune System Functions Independently
Contrary to popular belief, the immune system is heavily reliant on other systems throughout our body, especially the digestive system. Research has demonstrated that between 70% – 80% of the immune system is in the gut and our gut bacteria (or microbiome) plays a very important role in our overall health. Studies have shown that the gut microbiome – responsible for many other aspects of health – also controls how our immune system works. By communicating with immune cells, the gut microbiome can control how our body responds to infection.
Learn more about improving your gut health below:
- Michael Ruscio – Healthy Gut Healthy You
- 2 Things That Radically Improved My Gut Health
- 6 Ways to Improve Your Gut Health
The Bottom Line
You can make a host of lifestyle and dietary changes TODAY to support your immune system. Practices including reducing your sugar intake, staying hydrated, exercising regularly, getting adequate quality sleep, and managing your stress levels all help. You can learn more about these strategies in our article below: