Five Tips for Boosting Your Immunity - aka Down with the Sickness
With cold and flu season rapidly approaching, we can’t help but wonder how to stay well and avoid getting “Down With The Sickness” (see what I did there). Feeling a little (or a lot) under the weather can be mentally and physically challenging as it tends to throw curveballs when we least need them. Furthermore, returning from illness can be a taxing obstacle in your wellness routine. The good news? There are things you can start doing today to boost your immunity and help you stay on your A-Game.
When it comes to building and boosting your immune system, there are a few things you should know before we get started.
First, what is your immune system? The immune system is a bodily system composed of multiple organs working in collaboration to fight off germs and shield you from sickness. It is a collection of organs, cells, and proteins that keep your body in homeostasis. Homeostasis means your body can hold a relatively stable internal environment, which your body naturally wants to default to. Any disruption in homeostasis causes your body to respond in various ways to regain balance with all its systems.
The second thing you should know about your immune system before I jump into my top tips is that supporting your immune system is a proactive endeavor (as opposed to a reactive one). This is a flipped approach than what we typically think of when it comes to our immunity. We often wait until sick to incorporate immune-boosting habits into our routines. Once we feel back to ourselves, many tips you’ll soon read about tend to slip out of our daily lives (or at least become a lower priority). The challenge is to think about how to support our immune systems proactively.
How do we begin to support our immune system proactively? Great question. So glad you asked. 😊 Reducing stress, nailing your sleep routine, incorporating movement into your week, opting for the right supplements, and reaching for immune-boosting superfoods will help you stay ahead of the game and kickstart your bounce back!
Let’s get into the tips.
Stress reduction. Easier said than done, I know. But let’s unpack this. Stress releases cortisol in your body. Cortisol is one of the hormones that drive your body’s fight-or-flight response. When cortisol levels are high, particularly for prolonged periods, your immune system can’t function at its best. Your body uses all available resources to keep your head above water, making you more susceptible to getting sick during high-stress times.
What helps you mitigate stress? Maybe it’s meditation, daily walks, journaling it out, dressing up or cuddling with your dog, or even catching a ride at your favorite indoor cycling studio (I see you). Find what works for you and prioritize those activities in your schedule.
Nail down your sleep routine. While sleep seems like a passive activity, sleep is one of the most active things your body does - despite being at rest. While sleeping, your brain is firing up, making connections, taking the toxins out, repairing itself, and so much more. Your muscles and connective tissues are also actively recovering, repairing, and regenerating. All of this helps to keep your body at homeostasis and ready for what’s to come.
Without adequate sleep, your body stays in stress (i.e., survival) mode, lowering your immunity. Don’t let one stormy night’s sleep (or a few bad nights) get you down. Think of getting sufficient sleep like an average throughout the week - if the majority of the time you are resting and feeling recovered, that’s what matters.
Aim to create a bedtime ritual to which you can look forward and promote ease and rest. A good rule of thumb is cutting screen time an hour before bed and “turning down” the lights as bedtime approaches to signal your brain that the day is winding down and that your inner clock can take it from here.
Incorporate movement into your week. Physical exertion and movement can also boost your immunity because it disrupts homeostasis. Sounds counterproductive, right? However, because it disrupts homeostasis in a somewhat controlled environment, it allows your body to return to homeostasis with blood-pumping genius. Because the body is being challenged to “bounce back” and return to a resting state, you are training and strengthening your body for those times when it matters (like when you’re Down With The Sickness). Regular movement also helps reduce stress and promotes rest; shout out to FireCycle Abilene!
Movement does not need to be exhausting and intense every single time you set out to get a sweat on. Be sure to add a variety of intensity and duration in your workouts to keep them fresh and enjoyable. Also, avoid overtraining, as it could lead to an overstressed and depleted system - the opposite of what we aim for.
Supplementation & Hydration. A solid immune system isn’t built in a day and may require additional supplementation to function how we want it to. I encourage my clients to get a full panel of blood work done before reaching for supplementation. This way, you invest in supplements your body needs and will utilize them sufficiently.
However, a good starting point that I always promote is to start with a multivitamin. I like and use OLLY Women’s Multivitamins to help me obtain all the vital nutrients my body needs but may not get daily. The only trick with your multivitamin is that you have to take it ;) Set an alert, have them visible on your counter, or find a hack that works for you to remember to take them.
Staying hydrated also helps keep your body functioning at its peak. A guideline I encourage my clients to use with water intake is that half of their body weight (in pounds) is at least how many ounces of water they should aim to drink in a day. So, for example, if the body weight is 160lbs, half of that (80) is what your ounce water goal should be each day…at least 80 ounces of water daily will get you to a hydrated state. It’s worth noting that this is a good starting point with a water intake goal, and you may find that your body requires more, particularly in warmer months.
Nutritional support matters. Experts widely agree that the best way to get missing nutrients is through the diet. Another point worth mentioning is that I use the term “diet” to note what food is being consumed, not promoting a specific prescription or outlined regimen of foods. A balanced diet of fresh fruits and vegetables is your best bet to obtain vital immune-boosting nutrients and vitamins.
Citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruits and colorful vegetables like red bell peppers, leafy greens, and carrots are all high in vitamin C, which helps immune cells function correctly. Spices like ginger and turmeric are also well known for their immune-boosting benefits. Fish high in omega-3 fatty acids like mackerel, tuna, and salmon are known to promote white blood cell function and health (aka the cells that help you fight illness), plus they are great for your heart and brain. Lastly, fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, and kombucha are packed with probiotics to sustain gut health and Vitamin D, essential to stimulate the immune system.
Your immune system is a symphony of organs, cells, and tissues that help keep you well and ill-free. While we can’t build (or rebuild) immunity overnight, we can incorporate lifestyle habits and dietary options into our days that help promote our immunity and get us the boost we need. Whether bouncing back or proactively supporting your immunity, consider these tips a starting point. Feel free to tackle one direction at a time or take on a few to help build your ideal wellness routine.
In addition to being a FireCycle Abilene Instructor/Content Creator, Nina Rose-Pena is a Mindset and Wellness Coach. You can learn more about her at www.ninarosepena.com