A strong immune system is your body’s best defence against infection and illness. We explore immune-boosting tips to help you steer clear of sickness this upcoming “sniffle season”
Get enough Shut-eye
“The poorer you sleep, the more compromised your immunity”, says Dr Nothando Moyo, a health and wellness specialist. This is primarily because infection-fighting antibodies and cells are reduced with insufficient sleep. Sleep deprivation can lower the immune system’s production of cytokines, protective proteins, which help mediate and regulate immunity. Aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep nightly.
“Psychological stress, sustained over a long period, increases inflammation and reduces immune cell activity” asserts Dr Moyo. Chronic stress has also been linked to depression and anxiety, both of which can also worsen inflammation and compromise immunity over time. “Try meditation, exercise or speak to a therapist to help reduce your stress and to boost immunity” she advises.
Other effective stress-busting strategies include:
- Eating a nutritious diet.
- Participating in relaxing activities.
- Regularly connecting with others.
- Practicing deep breathing techniques.
Feast on Health foods
“The zinc in red meat, poultry, beans, seafood, wholegrains and nuts, is essential to the development and functioning of various immune cells”, says Lila Bruk, a registered dietitian in Johannesburg. “A vitamin D deficiency can lead to an increased susceptibility to infection”, she ads. “Eat oily fish, red meat, liver and egg yolks for vitamin D”.
“It is also important to include vitamin-C rich foods, such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, onions, guavas, bell peppers, broccoli and berries. in your diet” advises Bruk. “Vitamin C assists with the production and proper functioning of white blood cells, which are involved in the body’s immune response.” Dr Moyo warns that too much sugar can impair white blood cell activity and weaken the immune response.
“Vitamin and mineral supplementation can help boost immunity, when a deficiency exists” says Dominique Kotze, a Clicks Pharmacist at Johannesburg’s Cresta Branch. Vitamins C and D, zinc and selenium are all important for maintaining a robust immune system and she recommends an immune-boosting supplement containing all of these compounds. “Always follow the recommended daily supplement doses to avoid adverse effects.”
A review in the Journal of Sport and Health Science found that exercise can improve your immune response, lower illness risk and reduce inflammation. “Exercising increases blood flow and lymph flow, which then circulates immunity cells, ” says Dr Moyo. Partake in 30 to 60 minutes of moderate activity, like walking most days of the week. But avoid overdoing it as excessive exercise can suppress the immunity.
(Original article appeared in the Clicks club card Issue 3/2022 written by Julia Lamberti-Morreira. Click here to read the issue)