How to boost immune system quickly, simple diet and exercise tips for total health
Here’s how you can boost your immune system quickly. Health experts warn that sniffling, cold and fever, among other symptoms, are signs that your immune system needs to be strengthened. A healthy diet, regular exercises and other precautions can help you boost your immune system.Updated: Jun 11, 2018 12:02 IST
Your immune system is your first line of defence against pathogens and bacteria. Your skin provides protection against harmful toxins in the environment, while the cells in your body fight and eliminate foreign bacterial and viral infections.
“No matter what medication we take, we need to remember that the human body is built with an intelligent immune system designed solely to protect us and to prevent as well as heal diseases,” says Luke Coutinho, nutritionist and founder, PureNutrition.me.
Nutritionist and physiologist Ritesh Bawri says the immune system uses fascinating techniques to conquer the invaders, including cloning them and then destroying them. “Having a strong immune system helps protect your body from invaders -- known and unknown,” he says.
What affects the immune system
Your immune system can be affected by a variety of factors, be it by drinking excess alcohol, smoking, getting too little sleep or a lack of exercise. “Sleep is one of the most important factors in regulating the immune system. The quality of sleep decides the amount of detox that takes place, which removes toxins from the body. During sleep, the body releases cytokines that fight infectious disease. So, interrupted/bad quality sleep can weaken the immune system,” says Coutinho.
Similarly, a lack of exercise can reduce the circulation of infection fighting white blood cells in the body, while a sedentary lifestyle can release more stress hormones. Foods that are high in sugar also inhibit the immune system. “Bad eating habits can lead to nutritional deficiencies like deficiency of vitamins E and C, beta-glucans, catechins and soluble fibre, which are all immune boosters. Their deficiency can weaken the immune response against diseases and infections,” says Coutinho.
Stress also plays a major role in weakening your immune system. “When you are stressed, your body produces cortisol. Cortisol needs sugar as an energy source. Therefore, stress creates cravings for food with high sugar, triggering a cycle of binge-eating. The outcome may manifest in the form of a cold which is nothing but the breaking down of your immune system,” says Bawri.
What to do to boost your immune system
Make sure you eat foods that contain antioxidants such as curcumin (haldi) and green vegetables. “Curcumin, when combined with good fat (ghee, for example) and pepper, can heal your body at the cellular level. Vegetables can provide an electron to free radicals, thus preventing these free radicals from turning cancerous,” says Bawri.
Make sure to include foods like yogurt, oats, garlic, and mushrooms in your diet. “When it comes to the immune system, gut health is very important. Yogurt is an excellent probiotic with healthy bacteria that protects the gut against disease-causing bacteria. Oats and barley are rich in beta-glucans that help make the immune system stronger, while garlic contains Allicin which fights harmful bacteria and infections. Similarly, studies have recently shown that shiitake, maitake and reishi mushrooms increase the production and activity of white blood cells, making them more aggressive,” says Coutinho.
Get your daily dose of exercise
Strength training, running, swimming or even walking are all useful in boosting immunity levels. “Exercise improves your calorie balance and also produces good hormones,” says Bawri.
Exercise releases hormones like cortisol, which is important for moderating the immune response. “Cortisol is regulated with adequate exercise as well as sleep and abnormal levels (high and low) are detrimental to immunity. Other hormones important for regulating the immune system are estrogen, progesterone and testosterone, as their imbalance is known to suppress the immune response,” says Coutinho, who advises 10-15 minutes of daily jogging as a good start to strengthening immunity.
Avoid a high-carb, low-protein diet
Taking excess carbs can inhibit the optimal functioning of white blood cells. “Consuming less protein can weaken the immunity because the immune system comprises proteins and relies on protein replenishing from time to time,” says Coutinho.
Catching a cold is good
Getting a cold 1-2 times a year is good for your immunity as it allows the body to cleanse itself and prepares the immune system to fight other harmful bacteria and viruses, explains Coutinho.
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