Our bodies are pretty amazing things. Just how they function really does fascinate me, especially our immune system, which is one of the most essential parts of our bodies. Our immune system keeps us healthy, protecting us from bacteria, viruses and parasites, through a complex network of cells, organs, proteins and antibodies. It’s so complex that even scientists don’t fully understand all its intricacies! We often only really think about our immune system when we fall ill, but it’s working daily to keep us healthy & safe. There are some really effective and scientifically proven ways to support our immune system. So here are some of my favourite tips, from raw garlic to lymphatic massage to get a better night’s sleep.
Body brushing is an excellent way to encourage lymphatic drainage to help support removing any excess toxins. It’s a great habit to get into, especially right before you step into the shower each morning or evening. All you need is a body brush which you can pick up from your local drug store, or online.
Brush in the direction of the lymph flow, so:
You definitely feel a glowing sensation after a few minutes of brushing. I come up super pink, which is a good thing. It means your circulation is being stimulated and any toxins are being swept up the lymph stream. Plus, it’s a great way to get rid of any dry skin on the body and leaves your skin silky smooth.
Vitamin D is a vital nutrient for all of us, responsible for a host of bodily functions. Studies have found that vitamin D affects a mechanism in the body’s immune system. Dendritic cells’ ability to activate T cells – which play a crucial role in helping to fight infections. Vitamin D is produced in the body when we are out in sunlight. Much like photosynthesis in plants when the sun is low in the winter months, it’s important to supplement with vitamin D. Many of us living in the UK are deficient half of the year.
Low levels of vitamin D have been linked to many health issues. These include fatigue, hair loss, immune responses, muscle pain and a weakened immune system. I love the Better You sprays, which are easily absorbed by the body and can be popped in your handbag for use on the go. I get my children to use these.
Vitamin C plays an essential role in the body. It’s not just an amazing anti-ageing ingredient or just to take when you feel like your coming down with a cold. It does support normal immune functions and acts as an antioxidant (meaning it neutralises free radicals by exposure to environmental and lifestyle stressors, including pollution and UV radiation). Free radicals are charged particles that can damage cells and tissues if left unchecked and trigger harmful inflammation in the body. The body relies on vitamin C to launch an effective immune response when faced with free radicals or germs and diseases.
Interestingly we can’t make our own vitamin C or store it efficiently! So we need to make sure we’re eating lots of vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables. Plus supplementing with vitamin C (roughly 100mg a day, or up to 1,000mg if you’re in the midst of an illness). My top foods that pack a vitamin C punch are; kiwis, mushroom adaptogens such as Chaga, apples, spinach, açai berry, blueberries and lemons, it’s not just orange fruit, it’s also veggies.
When you’re feeling unwell, the best thing you can do is to eat as much nutritionally dense foods as possible. I love a homemade chicken broth stew, garlic and ginger root and really powerhouse ingredients. My grandfather would eat garlic daily as well as take supplements. Both these foods are packed full of many bioactive compounds that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. This means they help fight free radicals in the body.
When you cook your dinners, chop up a few cloves of garlic and throw them in, or even roast whole garlic cloves in the oven and eat them as they are. I always throw some cloves in with my roast potatoes, it gives them a really lovely sweet taste. Ginger works really well in a stir fry. However you can also make hot soothing ginger and lemon with chunks of ginger root, juice of a whole lemon, hot water and a big squish of honey. My father would add a tiny bit of butter to make it go down with a silky feeling if you have a sore throat.
Fresh air and the great outdoors can work wonders for boosting everything. To be honest as well as your immune system. Just being outside in the fresh oxygen – especially in a park or open fields or by the sea – can really help your breathing. Just 30 minutes to an hour of brisk walking works to increase your circulation and heart rate. It also helps to clear your sinuses, boost oxygen flow to the heart and lungs, increase your cardiovascular health, improve your mood and decrease anxiety. Don’t forget to look after your mental health even more if you’re feeling unwell. Heightened stress levels can really affect our physical wellbeing.
One of the best ways to increase your circulation and energise your body if you’re under the weather is to jump. I know it might sound crazy unless you are age 6 and under, but trust me its great for all ages. You can either jump on foot or use a skipping rope or a mini-trampoline. The reason that jumping gives your immune system such a boost is that it effectively raises your metabolism. It enhances cardiovascular and lymphatic circulation.
This increased flow moves lymphocytes and antibodies faster through your body. This helps you to get rid of impurities and anything nasty that has invaded. Plus, it’s a great mood booster! Try jumping for 5 minutes (that is pretty tough!) and notice how invigorated you feel afterwards.
Magnesium is involved in hundreds of biochemical reactions in the body. Some of its most powerful benefits for the immune system are to do with its ability to relax your muscles and promote a restful night’s sleep. Insomnia is a common symptom of magnesium deficiency. People with low magnesium levels often wake frequently during the night or experience a restless night’s sleep. The way it helps with sleep is that it maintains healthy levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter that promotes sleep.
Magnesium also stabilises your mood and fights inflammation in the body. You can supplement with magnesium in tablet form. Plus soak in an Epsom salts bath, and get more of it into your body through your diet. Think dark leafy greens, cashews and almonds, butternut squash, broccoli and spinach, dairy products, dark chocolate and whole grain rice.
You might have heard of CBD oil before, but did you know that it has anti-inflammatory properties, which can even reduce the immune system’s inflammatory response? Not only that, but CBD has been found to support a healthy inflammatory response in the gut which is a key part of supporting overall immunity. I’d recommend experimenting with your dosage and taking your CBD oil in the morning, as it can increase energy in some people and give you a slight buzz.
Our body is doing all its regeneration while we sleep, it’s so important, I am a seasoned insomniac so I know its easier said than done. If we went back in time, as soon as the sun went down you went to bed and got up again when the sun came up.
Nowadays, people extend their days with artificial lighting. Most of the lighting that we use in our homes is artificial blue light, which can have a stimulating effect on the nervous system, the brain and the circadian system, keeping us feeling more awake at night. If you have trouble sleeping or switching off, try switching all technology (TV, mobile phone, laptop) off at least 2 hours before you go to bed. (I know this is tricky for many of us!) You can also invest in some blue light blocking glasses. These effectively filter through the blue light meaning that we absorb less of it through our eyes. I’d recommend Blublox, which are the most advanced blue light blocking glasses on the market.