Our health is maintained by our immune systems. The simplest way to understand our immune systems is to understand the three sub-systems that our immune health depends on: the skin barrier, the innate system, and the adaptive system.
Skin acts as a barrier, protecting us from infections and disease. This is why frequent hand washing and protecting cuts is essential. Our skin acts as our first line of defense and stops us from getting sick in the first place.
Our Innate System is fast. This system is activated after any sort of injury or infection. If there is an infection by a pathogen (virus, bacteria, fungi, or parasite), the innate Immune system mobilizes to kill off the invader, while starting a cascade of other immune reactions like fever & the adaptive system.
The Adaptive System is smart. When the innate system doesn't work, the adaptive immune system is activated. It's the adaptive system that creates antibodies and makes it harder to get things like chicken pox twice. Antibodies identify specific pathogens and help the broader immune system destroy them. Those antibodies are also what typically make us immune to diseases.
Simple, daily rituals can have a huge impact on your overall health & immunity. Four key pillars have an outsized impact in helping you stay fit and healthy: optimized nutrition, regular exercise, reduced stress & restful sleep.
Color, quality & variety make for good nutrition. Health promoting micro-nutrients like resveratrol (antioxidant found in grapes) strengthen your immune system.
Particular fruits have flavonoids which provide antioxidant, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory & anti-allergic properties. What are some fruits high in flavonoids? Raspberries, blueberries, and bananas.
Snacks like almonds, dark chocolate, and pop-corn contain fiber which strengthens the immune system by creating a protein called interleukin-4 which combats inflammation.
In certain vegetables, beta carotene is an antioxidant that converts to vitamin A, which is vital for the immune system. Good sources include carrots, peppers, and kale.
Good drinks? happy being®... duh. In every bottle, Vitamin D and EGCG help activate different immune cells like white blood cells, while Elderberry helps coordinate those immune cells, keeping our immune systems in sync.
Sweating daily is key. Exercise is fantastic for the mind, body & spirit. For immune health, cardio intensive exercises like HIIT training are best. This sort of training helps increase the number of immune cells that move from lymph nodes to the bloodstream, along with increasing production of several cells that make up the innate immune system. Exercise also leads to redistribution of immune cells which act as sentinels that help monitor the risk of infection.
Sleep is a priority. Good sleep helps your adaptive immune response operate effectively while also regulating a variety of immunity signals like TNF-alpha. The quickest first-step for better sleep is having a consistent wake up time. Getting up at the same time primes your circadian rhythm for sleep the night before. Having a relaxing evening ritual is a great way to both focus on self-care and to wind down as you prepare for sleep as well.
Pre-bed nutrition ideas. Try kiwis, walnuts, and chamomile tea. Why? Kiwis contain serotonin, a brain chemical that helps regulate sleep cycles. Walnuts have melatonin & magnesium which help promote sleep quality. And chamomile tea offers apigenin, an antioxidant that binds to receptors in your brain promoting sleepiness and reduced insomnia.
Keep calm & carry on. Chronic stress has a very negative effect on both your innate and adaptive immune systems. It reduces the production and effectiveness of many critical immune cells like macrophages. A consistent meditation & journaling practice helps calm the mind and reframe daily stresses. If you mediate and keep a gratitude journal before going to bed you have both reduced stress & better sleep.
Mantra Meditation for 5 minutes.
- A mantra is a word or phrase that you repeat to yourself like 'I am at peace.'
- Focus only on the sound & feel of your mantra, nothing else.
- When thoughts creep into your head, acknowledge the thought, and gently redirect your attention to your mantra.
Walking Meditation for 10 minutes.
- Focus on the sensations you feel as you walk (the weight of your body on the bottom of your feet & your arms swinging with each stride).
- Incorporate your breath, try to breathe in for four steps & out for four steps.
- When thoughts come into your mind, gently let them go and redirect your focus to the sensations you feel as you walk.
Tub/Shower Meditation for 3 minutes.
- Let your breath become slower and deeper, allowing your belly to rise and fall with each breath (instead of your shoulders or chest).
- Focus on the sensations you feel in your body like the warmth & pressure of the water on your skin.
- When thoughts or internal dialogue begin, gently redirect your attention to the present moment.
Our immune systems are dependent on sub-systems that require different resources & provide different functions. Through simple, daily habits & intelligent lifestyle choices we can strengthen each of these sub-systems and feel our best. There's no denying we could all benefit from a few less sick days, more blood flow, clearer thoughts, and better rest. Join our mailing list today and stay up-to-date as we publish new entries. Feel free to send us a text or email anytime with thoughts, questions, or whatever!