1. Eat a variety of whole fruits and vegetables – fruits and vegetables contain a large variety of essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fibre all of which strengthen and support the immune system. Garlic, ginger and turmeric are great herbs to add to your meals, not only do they make everything taste a whole lot better, they all contain anti-inflammatory, anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties to support the immune system. A little tip when cooking with garlic – chop or crush it up and let it sit for 10 minutes before heating it, this time allows the allicin to activate, this is the component of the garlic that offers these therapeutic effects.
  2. Sleep – equally, if not more important as to what we eat, 8 hours every night is the recommended amount for adults. Sleep is our bodies time to rest, recover and repair, without optimal sleep our immune response is compromised, leading to inflammation and chronic disease. Without sufficient sleep, our bodies make fewer cytokines, a type of protein that targets infection and inflammation, effectively creating an immune response. Cytokines are both produced and released during sleep, modulating immunity.

Some tips to improve your sleep:

  • Leave your phone out of the room, for some people this may seem impossible, but I swear by it. If you get up in the night to go to the bathroom or just happen to wake up it can be tempting to check the time or have a scroll – out of sight out of mind.
  • If you’re someone that thinks a lot before falling asleep or find you have a lot on your mind, get a notepad and write it down, make a to do list and get it out of your mind so you can relax.
  • Melatonin is a hormone that is responsible for regulating your body’s circadian rhythm, its role is to initiate the sleep process. More melatonin is secreted in darkness and less when it is light, however, many aspects of life can alter your body’s production of melatonin, therefore it is important to control your exposure to light and get as much time outside as possible during the day, avoid bright screens before bed and sleep in complete darkness.
  • Avoid stimulants such as alcohol and caffeine later in the day. Alcohol may seem like it helps you fall asleep, but it interferes with your sleep cycle once you’re asleep.
  • Keep in sync with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle and try to go to bed at the same time each night and wake around the same time each morning.
  • Exercise during the day for a better night sleep, even just a half an hour walk will help.
  1. Sunshine – when possible, 10-15 minutes a day between the hours of 11am and 3pm is enough to get your daily dose of vitamin D. Vitamin D assists immune function by reducing inflammation and increasing antimicrobial proteins that destroy invading viruses and bacteria.
  2. Reduce chronic stress – for most of us, stress is a part of life, lasting for a few hours prior to an exam or lasting for years when dealing with the difficult circumstances that life throws at us. Whatever the case of your stress, if its chronic it can cause havoc on the immune system. Some stress is of course normal and can be beneficial, however, over time the body can adjust to having too much cortisol in the blood and this is where inflammation can occur. In addition to this, chronic stress can reduce the number of lymphocytes in the body which are our white blood cells that help fight off infection. Here are some ways to reduce stress:
  • Practice yoga – yoga has shown to reduce cortisol levels and calm the nervous system thus reducing inflammation. Certain poses in yoga can assist in circulating fluid through your lymphatic system filtering out toxins. If yoga isn’t your thing any form of exercise will assist in reducing stress.
  • Practice mindfulness or meditation, even just for 15 minutes a day.
  • Eat and sleep well.
  • Seek help, if you’re finding it hard to manage your stress on your own, seek professional help.
  1. Hygiene – the single most effective way to prevent the spread of disease is to wash your hands, simple yet effective!
  2. Movement – Gentle exercise on a daily basis keeps circulation healthy and therefore blood and nutrient supply to all areas of the body. Exercise contributes to the circulation of antibodies and increases the production of macrophages, which attack the bacteria that can trigger upper respiratory diseases. It also reduces stress hormones, which as you now know can create havoc with the immune system.