Fall is well underway, and winter is not so far behind it. But these seasons aren’t the only ones you need to look out for. This year’s flu season is starting and spreading fast. Isolation and social distancing during the pandemic made the flu disappear for a few years in the US. However, the return of the flu season also meant lower immunity against the flu viruses after years of zero exposure.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) noted high to very high activity of respiratory diseases in outpatients across the country. Moreover, the center’s latest update showed that over 4.4% of US citizens are positive for influenza. Flu viruses are not only spreading quickly this year, but there are also reports of the flu season coming earlier than expected. With more people coming down with the flu, boosting and keeping your immunity is a must. Here are some tips to enhance immunity this rough flu season.
Gut Strength is Key
Studies show that strengthening your gut will help in regulating your overall health. Aside from regulating your metabolism, weight, and hunger, it also affects your immunity. People need a strong and healthy gut to have an equally strong immune system. More than half of your immunity is in your gut, and the microbes residing in your gastrointestinal tract are essential for regulating them.
(Project Bold Life has written extensively about gut health–read more about it here!)
Some cells in your GI tract even spend an entire lifetime discharging vast amounts of antibodies. Probiotics are one of the ‘good’ bacteria present in your gut. They help prevent infection within the body and act as anti-inflammatory agents. When you get infected with influenza, they can also lower its severity. By strengthening your gut, you can boost your immunity and stabilize it to build your self-tolerance. Make changes in your diet by adding fermented dishes and drinks like yogurt, pickles, kimchi, and kombucha.
“Keeping a delicate balance in the immune system by eliminating invading pathogens, while still maintaining self-tolerance to avoid autoimmunity, is critical for the body’s health.” -Hsin-Jung Joyce Wu, Ph.D., Associate Professor for Immunology at the University of Kentucky.
A Healthy Diet is Everything
A healthy, well-rounded diet is one of the best and most recommended ways to boost your immune system naturally. For years, studies concluded poor nutrition leads to higher risks of infection and complications from diseases. It also affects the healing process of your body from injury. Aside from that, recent research also shows how immunity decreases with age.
This only makes the importance of a healthy diet more apparent. The immune system is constantly alert to monitor any sign of invasion to ensure your body’s survival and requires large amounts of energy and nutrients to function well. Moreover, the immune system needs certain micronutrients and dietary components to ensure overall efficacy or to fight off pathogen invasion.
Any micronutrient deficiency, especially zinc and vitamins A, B6, C, and E, can compromise your immunity. Adding immune-boosting foods into your daily meal plan can create wonders for your immunity and overall health. Whole plant foods are rich in the nutrients your immune system needs and often contain antioxidants that help your body from inflammation buildup. Peppers and citrus are notable sources of vitamin C. Adding dishes with tomatoes, spinach, and broccoli can also add to your daily vitamin C intake. Nuts are also highly recommended by many nutritionists to boost immunity and are a rich source of the system’s much-needed micronutrients like Vitamin E and Zinc.
“An “activated” immune system further increases the demand for energy during periods of infection, with greater basal energy expenditure during a fever for example. Thus, optimal nutrition for the best immunological outcomes would be nutrition, which supports the functions of immune cells allowing them to initiate effective responses against pathogens…” -Dr. Caroline E. Childs, Associate Professor in Nutritional Sciences at the University of Southampton.
Engage in An Active Lifestyle
Working out isn’t only for losing weight. Contrary to popular belief, having an active lifestyle can also reduce inflammation buildup and help your immune cells have regular regeneration. Although, it’s best to remember that prolonged and intensive workouts can suppress your immunity. Instead, engaging in moderate exercise daily is the best option. Being active is better seen as a way to de-stress and support a healthy immune system.
Brisk walking, cycling, jogging, and swimming are some of the ideal exercises you can do to enhance your immunity and help boost the efficacy of vaccines. Moreover, working out every day moves your immune cells out of your bone and bloodstream into the tissues. By doing this, the system can better react to any invasion of bacteria or viruses.
“The immune system is very responsive to exercise, with the extent and duration reflecting the degree of physiological stress imposed by the workload.” – David C. Nieman, Professor, Director, Human Performance Laboratory, Exercise, and Nutrition Immunology.
Get Some Stress Relief
The close relationship between the mind and the body has always been a part of health studies. Recent studies on various maladies prove that emotional stress can cause and affect the severity of these illnesses. In a way, stress buildup can compromise your immune functions by having more sleep disturbances, less workout, and an unhealthy diet.
The increase of cortisol or stress hormones creates an imbalance in immune cell functions. The cause of stress is different for every person and relieving it will also differ. One way to boost your immune system is by identifying your stressors and finding the best method of relieving them.
Keeping Your Immunity in Tip-Top Shape
Flu season is now widespread across the country and is becoming a major concern for health officials. The increasing number of flu patients is an indication that we need to be more health conscious. Boosting our immunity is one of the most recommended ways of doing it.
There are several ways we can fortify our immunity armor naturally. However, ensuring a strong immune function means changing lifestyles, eating habits, and perception. Moreover, these tips require regularity.
While practicing these recommendations feel like a chore, in the beginning, doing them on a daily basis will make things easier.
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