There are lots of tips and quick fixes going around about how to boost your immune system and your health. But what does boosting your immune system really mean? Is it even possible?
When we talk about boosting our immune systems, what we really should be doing is balancing them. The immune system consists of several different parts which are all in constant movement, and to balance these different parts we need long-term solutions.
To balance our immune systems, reviewing our lifestyles is a good place to start. Some of the most important factors are sleep, nutrition and stress management. And also maintaining a healthy and balanced gut flora.
There are one hundred thousand billion bacteria of one thousand different kinds in your gut. Together, these microorganisms make up your gut flora – an important compound of bacteria that comprise about 70 percent of your immune system. There are good as well as bad bacteria, and the composition in your individual gut is very closely connected to your daily choices regarding food, stress management and exercise.
Vitamins C and D are important for keeping your immune system functioning normally. But instead of using these micronutrients as ‘quick fixes’ when you already have a sore throat, for example, it’s more effective to work on getting adequate nutrition and a balanced gut flora for the long term. Put simply, to keep your internal, protective ‘army’ as strong as possible for when you need them.
Scientists agree that our gut bacteria has a powerful influence on our body and that an imbalance among them can cause a lot of issues. Too few good bacteria can increase the risk of diabetes, obesity, or other lifestyle diseases, for example. So, what should we do to keep the bacteria happy in the long term? Go and explore the fruit and vegetable counters today to get your fibre, nutrition and a strong gut flora going forward. Fermented foods are great. Lactic bacteria literally work as a shield against the bacteria you don’t want. Too many simple carbohydrates and bad fats support the bad, sickness-causing bacteria, so avoid them as much as possible.
For your immune system to function optimally, you need to satisfy the body’s need for different nutrients. So, make sure you vary your diet and choose nutrient-dense foods. Dietary supplements can function as a complement, if you’re not getting enough of a certain nutrient.
As well as the gut flora, the brain is negatively affected by too much stress and too little recovery. When stress levels are high, the body senses danger and prepares you for ‘fight or flight’. Put simply, the body shifts focus away from important functions such as digestion and gut function. So, for a balanced gut flora, it can be important to see how you feel. Am I stressed? What makes my pulse go down? Be aware and don’t let stress get used to residing in your body. You can find out more about stress management here. No ginger shot in the world can magically produce a strong immune system overnight. But good sleep, exercise and a fibre-rich diet will do the trick in the long term. Make conscious choices about your health today!