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Five Ways to Help Support Your Immune System

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Five Ways to Help Support Your Immune System

From eating well, remembering to slow down and take a pause, to considering the importance of your gut microbiome, there are plenty of daily habits we can adopt to help support our immune system, including these five daily habits...

 

As we know from our Immune System 101 conversation, that our immune system is, in fact, our body’s natural defense system. Until something goes wrong, many of us let our immune system casually ride in cruise control. What we should be doing is the opposite: making conscious lifestyle choices that are much more involved than simply ensuring we load up on vitamin C once we’re already feeling run down. Being proactive is key. Thankfully, our immune system naturally does a great job of keeping us in good health, as long as we give it the tools it needs to function properly. Here are some lifestyle choices that can support your immune system—the network of cells, tissues and organs—to function as best it can.

Focus on food:

Did you know, eating a plant-based diet can provide your body with the nutrients, antioxidants, and dietary fibres it needs? “Focus on foods like colorful, antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables that are a great source of vitamins and minerals to help support your immune system,” says Nicola Anderson, our Vega Education Specialist and Registered Holistic Nutritionist. “Depriving your body of good nutrition is like putting dirty oil back in your car and expecting precision performance out of it.” Think citrus fruits, root vegetables, leafy greens, nuts, seeds, superfoods, Vegetarians have been shown to have more effective white blood cells when compared to nonvegetarians, due to a high intake of vitamins and low intake of fat.[1] Choosing whole, unprocessed foods is great for overall health. Supplementing with essential vitamins and minerals, especially vitamins A and D can also be a great way to help support your immune system.[2] Check out our story on foods to eat to help support a healthy immune system for a deep dive.

Reduce everyday stress:

While some stress can be a good thing—it can help our bodies prepared for adverse situations and challenges, initiating our natural stress response—living with chronic levels of stress can take a toll on our immune system.

“Prolonged stress, on the other hand, if left untreated, can manifest as fatigue, weight gain, and more serious conditions,[3]” explains Anderson. “The ability to weaken the immune system is what stress is very well known for. Some signs that the body is stressed out include fatigue, sleep disturbances, mental fog and food cravings.[4]

Instead of stressing about things, take a moment out of your day to do something you love. Something that allows you to take a deep breath, get outside into nature, meditate, practice yoga or whatever that thing is that makes you slow down and pause.

Prioritize getting some rest:

According to the Mayo Clinic, studies show that people who don’t get quality sleep or enough sleep could comprise the function of the immune system. A good sleep period allows the body to regenerate weak and dying cells. While we sleep is when recovery and repair happen,” says Anderson. “You may notice that when you aren’t feeling well you tend to sleep more, that’s because the body can do a lot of healing during sleep.” According to the National Sleep Foundation, the optimal amount of sleep for most adults is seven to nine hours of good sleep each night[5]. Some studies even show people who get this much sleep live longer[6]—if that’s not incentive to hit the sack, we don’t know what is. Have trouble sleeping? Create a bedtime routine that relaxes you before getting into bed at night. That could involve reading, listening to a podcast, journaling, taking a bath, meditating, yin yoga, and avoiding screen time at least an hour before closing your eyes.

Break a sweat:

Did you know getting your heart rate up for 30-60 mins a day can support your immune system?[7] Exercising may help the lungs and airways, and it also causes your antibodies and white blood cells to circulate more rapidly—which can help your body stay in good health.[8] “We know that exercise is beneficial to our overall health,” says Anderson. “However, overdoing it can stress our immune function especially if we aren’t committed to refueling and recovering during and post-workout.”[9] Chose an exercise you enjoy—you’ll have a much better chance of sticking to your routine if you love what you’re doing. Hate running? Try a heartrate-boosting HIIT workout. Don’t like going to the gym? Try an at-home workout—tune into our IGTV for a 10-minute workout you can do anywhere, or check out this IGTV on four movements to boost your mood with Vega’s PR Specialist, Katie Fagen. Biking, hiking, and even simply taking a walk outside are great options.

Trust your gut:

You know the saying, ‘Trust your gut?’ Turns out it has some real science-backed fact to it. Did you know that 70-80% of your immune system resides in your gut? Gut health literally affects your entire body. Our Education Specialist and Registered Holistic Nutritionist, Bridgette Clare, describes our gut as our second command centre after our brain. Talk about a gut feeling—healthy bacteria, supported by prebiotics, which has shown, in one study done in healthy volunteers, to reduce cortisol and support positive emotions.[10] The foods we put into our bodies can affect our gut microbiome. Eating moderate amounts of fermented foods, such as kimchi, plant-based yogurt, and sauerkraut, which contain active live cultures. Clare recommends more fermented foods and explains our gut microbiome in more depth here. There’s also plenty of information on how to benefit from Vega’s products containing probiotics here.

Looking for nutrients to help support your immune system? Vega One® All-in-One provides you with 20% DV (daily value) antioxidant Vitamin A and 40% DV Vitamin C. Vega One® Organic All-in-One Shake provides you with 20% DV antioxidant Vitamin A and 50% DV Vitamin C and  Vega® Essentials provides you with 30% DV Vitamin C or check out the Vega Sport® Pro line of supplements for Vitamin D.

Once you’ve added in some of the immune system tips above into your daily routine you may want to learn more. Connect with our community on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

 

[1] Malter M, Schriever G, Eilber U. Natural killer cells, vitamins, and other blood components of vegetarian and omnivorous men. Nutr Cancer. 1989;12:271-278; Carddock JC, Neale EP, People GE, Probst YC. Vegetarian-based dietary patterns and their relation with inflammatory and immune biomarkers: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Adv Nutr. 2019;10:433-451

[2] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2906676/

[3] Finsterer J, Mahjoub SZ. Fatigue in healthy and diseased individuals. Am J Hosp Palliat Care. 2014;31(5):562-575. doi:10.1177/1049909113494748

[3] van der Valk ES, van den Akker ELT, Savas M, et al. A comprehensive diagnostic approach to detect underlying causes of obesity in adults. Obes Rev. 2019;20(6):795-804. doi:10.1111/obr.12836

[4] van der Valk ES, van den Akker ELT, Savas M, et al. A comprehensive diagnostic approach to detect underlying causes of obesity in adults. Obes Rev. 2019;20(6):795-804. doi:10.1111/obr.12836

[5] https://www.sleepfoundation.org/press-release/national-sleep-foundation-recommends-new-sleep-times

[6] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1172056/

[7] http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.1017.4208&rep=rep1&type=pdf and https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/45/12/987.abstract?sid=e6594508-3aaa-4c61-99ba-4ea138580947

[8] https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007165.htm

[9] https://link.springer.com/article/10.2165/00007256-199927020-00001

[10] http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00213-014-3810-0/fulltext.html + https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5641835/

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