This is the time of year we all tend to pick up more viruses. There are many theories as to why this happens and how to boost our immune system, however, there is not a lot of scientific evidence to substantiate these theories.
One thing we do know is ~70% of our Immune System is found in our small intestine, otherwise known as the “gut”. It makes sense then, that the healthier the gut, the stronger the immune system.
Here are five ways to keep your immune system strong this winter buy focusing on a healthy gut.
- Avoid inflammatory foods. The gut does not perform well when it’s bombarded with foods like sugar, dairy, gluten, trans fats (i.e. margarine) and oils such as corn and safflower. These foods increase the inflammation of the gut and therefore weakens our ability to fight off viruses and have an overall healthy, functioning immune system. An anti-inflammatory diet can increase the health of our gut and therefore our immune system.
- Check your blood for Food Sensitivities. A simple blood test can determine if certain foods specifically cause inflammation for you. For example, many people would agree that eggs are a healthy source of protein. But, what if eggs caused inflammation in your body and you weren’t aware of it and you kept eating eggs? It’s good to know what foods are uniquely sensitive for you. Avoiding specific inflammatory foods is an excellent way to ensure your gut stays healthy and your immune system remains strong.
- Keep stress in check. We need stress and the stress hormone, cortisol, in our life or we wouldn’t function very well at all! However, too much stress and too much cortisol does not let the body regulate inflammation that way it needs too. In fact, stress causes our intestine to become more permeable, which means ‘leaky’. A leaky gut weakens the immune system. Keeping stress low helps the structural integrity of the small intestine and therefore helps strengthen our immune system.
- Stay active. Regular exercise is vital to an overall healthy body. Intense workouts aren’t necessary. Long walks and gentle resistance training (weights of some kind) is all you need.
- Vitamin D. Did you know that all cells in our body have receptors for Vitamin D? Knowing this, proper Vitamin D levels are important. Living in Calgary doesn’t allow us to obtain adequate levels of Vitamin D from the sun, so, this is where supplements can come in handy. Choose a Vitamin D3 (naturally occurring) over a D2 (synthetic).