Protect your Health & Optimize your Immune System

Brigitte Nowicki

Date: 19 May 2020

By: Brigitte Nowicki

  • Reading time: 40 Mins

With the pandemic being just about the only topic covered on all news channels at this time, people are now more aware than ever of the importance of both general and immune health. This article provides important information on what puts you at risk for illness and things you can do right now to reduce that risk.

The following 5 key things play a role in building your resilience to getting sick. Remember that all these things are interconnected, with each one impacting the others.

  1. General status of your health
  2. Gut Health & Immune System
  3. Nutrition
  4. Exercise
  5. Sleep
  6. Stress

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  1. General Health Status

Body Composition – both too much and too little body fat can interfere with hormones that affect your immunity. It is important to try and maintain a healthy body weight and composition.

Existing Health conditions – Health issues such as an under active immune system, chronic inflammation (overactive immune system), high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, cancer and compromised kidney function all increase the risk of infections and complications.

Medications – if you are taking medication for immune system suppression, this obviously puts you at higher risk.

Tips to improve your overall health is literally to implement all the protocols in the sections below which can:

o Radically improve your health and help build & support a strong immune system.
o Apprehend, slow down and even start reversing issues such as metabolic syndrome, diabetes, hypertension etc.
o Prevent the onset of disease.
o Improve your energy levels, moods, weight and general wellbeing.

 

  1. Gut Health & Immune System

Gut health: over 70% of your immunity is in your gut, thus a healthy gut is imperative to a strong immune system and general good health. Your microbiome, or your gut bacteria is extremely important to your health in terms of nutritional absorption, immune system health and prevention of inflammation which leads to disease. Gut issues such as Leaky Gut, IBS, Sibo etc, also compromise your health and immunity.

Tips to improve your Gut health:

o Ensure that your diet includes sufficient Prebiotics and Probiotics:
   –> Prebiotics is what feeds your gut bacteria and they are found in dietary plant fibre eg whole grains, bananas, all green vegetables, onions, garlic etc.
   –> Probiotics are what builds and adds diversity to your good gut bacteria and these are found in fermented foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, kombucha etc. You can also purchase pro-biotic supplements at health stores.
o Avoid all foods to which you are intolerant ie that cause an inflammatory response in your body
Address any gut issues that you may have
o All protocols in the sections below impact and support your gut health ie nutrition, exercise, sleep and stress management

 

  1. Nutrition for Immunity

Nutrient deficiencies can lower your immune function by hindering the performance of white blood cells. Nutrient deficiency can be as a result of insufficient plant based foods in your diet, as a result of a gut health problem or other underlying issues.

Tips to ensure good nutrition:

o It is imperative to eat a balanced and diversified diet.

o Your diet needs to include both probiotic and prebiotic foods (See above section).

o Get enough Immunity building nutrients ie:

    • > Proteins: these are the building blocks of our antibodies. If you are protein deficient you are more susceptible to infectious disease. You should have a healthy protein with every meal and with every snack.
    • > Vitamin C is needed for the prevention and fighting of diseases. Whole foods are the best source of Vitamin C eg citrus fruits, peppers, kale, and spinach.
    • > Vitamin D not only facilitates normal immune system function but is also important in helping with absorption of calcium, supporting heart health and reducing depression. The best source of Vitamin D is sunshine.
    • > Zinc is important for an improved immune system and faster wound healing as well as shortening the recovery period of colds and flu. Zinc is found in nuts, spinach, seeds, dark chocolate, meat, avocados, berries, brussel sprouts, asparagus, green beans, leafy veg, soybeans and peas.
    • > Magnesium also builds and strengthens the immune system and is found in dark chocolate, bananas, leafy greens nuts, legumes, seeds and whole grains.
    • > Omega-3 fatty acids are extremely important for the reduction of inflammation in the body and also to help white blood cells to do their job. In addition, Omega-3s also help fight depression and anxiety. Good sources of Omega-e fatty acids are Chia seeds, Walnuts and Flaxseeds as well as oily fish such as sardines, trout, salmon and herring (polyunsaturated fats).
    • > Healthy Fats such as olive oil, nuts and avocado oil (all monounsaturated fat), coconut oil (saturated fat ie medium chain triglyceride) and butter all form part of a healthy diet. Fat is as essential as protein and carbohydrates for fueling your body with energy. There are also several bodily functions that rely on the presence of fat ie:
    • o Conversion: Your body utilizes fat for everything from activating hormones to building immune function.
    • o Digestion: Fat is not soluble in blood, so bile acids produced from cholesterol in the liver emulsify it along the way to make it bioavailable. It stores the fat soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K in the liver and fatty tissues. Because fat needs to be broken down through multiple processes, it stays around for a long time and keeps you satiated.
    • o Nutrient Transportation: Fat is part of every cell membrane in the body. It helps transport nutrients and metabolites across cell membranes.
    • o Energy extraction: Between meals or when glucose is not available, triglycerides are broken down and metabolized for energy, which can also be utilized by the brain’s neurons.
    • o Nervous system: The axon is the part of a nerve (neuron) that transmits electrical signals from the brain throughout the body to initiate all functions and the axon’s protective coating is the myelin sheath which is made of 80% lipids (fats) that needs to be provided by the diet.

o Avoid these Foods:

o Processed foods such as take-outs, food fried in unhealthy fats such as sunflower, canola and soybean oils, store-bought baked goods, sugar-sweetened beverages etc

o Sugars and sugar laden foods and drinks must be avoided. Studies have shown that when you eat 100 grams of sugar, about as much sugar as you find in a 1 liter bottle of soda, your white blood cells are 40 percent less effective. You can cripple your immune system for up to 5 hours after eating sugar! Glucose, fructose and sucrose all significantly decreased the activity of your immune system!

o Artificial sweeteners and fructose syrup must also be avoided at all costs. They contribute to major digestive issues, brain inflammation ad accelerated ageing processes.

o Bad Fats ie Trans Fats and hydrogenated fats are highly inflammatory and can contribute to series of health problems. These are processed fats ie nature does not make bad fats that are found in processed or ready to eat store bought things like Fried foods, desserts, pastas, breads, pastries and salty snacks. These bad, processed fats include margarine, canola or rapeseed oil, sunflower oil, soybean oil, grapeseed, corn, cottonseed and peanut oil.

 

  1. Exercise

Regular exercise is one of the pillars of healthy living. It improves cardiovascular health, lowers blood pressure, helps control body weight, and protects against a variety of diseases. Just like a healthy diet, exercise can contribute to general good health and therefore to a healthy immune system. It also activates the lymphatic system and promotes good circulation, which allows the cells and substances of the immune system to move through the body freely and do their job efficiently.  If you do not exercise, you are a much higher risk of getting sick.

Exercise is also a great way to reduce stress and help with depression. Arm yourself with a good simple workout that you can do at home or anywhere. There are so many options to choose from ie walking, running, cycling, swimming, rebounding, aerobics, cross fit, Pilates, boxing, cross fit, Boxercise, even good old fashioned PE or PT exercises that include squats, pushups, sit ups etc.  Even 12 minutes of activity each morning will go a long way to improving your health and wellbeing.

 

  1. Sleep

Researchers say getting good sleep can strengthen your immune system and conversely, poor sleep patterns can lower your body’s immunity. In a recent study, scientists have discovered that quality sleep can bolster the T cells in your body that fight off infection.

Less than 7 hours per night on a regular basis has negative effects on your health and less than 5 hours sleep per night on a regular basis is associated with higher mortality. Less than seven hours sleep for three nights in a row has the same effect on the body as missing one full night of sleep. 

Poor sleep can increase inflammation, blood pressure, insulin resistance, cortisol, weight gain and cardiovascular disease as well as decrease blood sugar regulation.   It can result in long-term problems with mood, memory and blood sugar, among other things. It is imperative to put a priority on getting good quality sleep.

Tips to getting a good nights’ sleep:

o Get to bed before 12, preferably by 10h30

o Get 7 to 9 hours sleep every night, or most nights

o Turn off electronics at least 30 min before bed

o Don’t eat within 3 hours before bedtime

o Clear your mind by reading or meditating

o Burn relaxing Essential Oils in a diffuser or use them topically before bedtime

o Make your room as dark as possible

o Keep your sleep area cool and clean

 

  1. Stress

Getting sick after a stressful event isn’t just a coincidence, your brain and immune system are in constant communication, which means that psychological upsets can result in physical symptoms.  Your immune system is intrinsically linked to your stress levels and the chemical reactions triggered by stressful situations result in an onslaught of stress hormones being pumped around the body. While these hormones are useful in acute situations, their ability to interfere with the immune system can result in inflammation, reduced white blood cells, and a higher susceptibility to infection and tissue damage.

Tips for Stress Management: although you cannot totally eliminate stress in your life, it is necessary to manage your stress. The following are some protocols that can be helpful:

o Meditation

o Exercising

o Relaxation exercises and stretching exercises

o Being in nature

o Laughter

o Positive thinking

o Breaking habits that trigger stress

o Time with friends and family

o Thankfulness

o Mindful breathing

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