A common misconception is that we need expensive vitamins, fancy tinctures from Whole Foods and pantry full of superfoods to stay healthy. All of those things can be beneficial however, there are inexpensive, even free ways to support our bodies immune system.
5 ways to boost your immune system
1.Sunshine: The sun is not the enemy as so many sunscreen companies may want you to believe. Our entire existence is dependent on the sun. In fact the sun provides us a multitude of health benefits. It’s important to note that sun exposure is not the same thing as getting sun burned. We need direct sun exposure to reap the benefits of the sun; however we must still be mindful of how much sun exposure our individual bodies are able to safely process.
Sun therapy or Heliotherapy has been used for hundreds of years and is still practiced in various forms today. Mother’s of newborns experiencing jaundice, are advised to bring their baby out into the sun for a few minutes a day to reduce the build up of bilirubin in the body. Heliotherapy is often recommended to people suffering from eczema and Psoriasis. Historically sun therapy was also very successfully used to treat tuberculosis.
The sun and your immune system
The most commonly known and referenced benefit of sunlight exposure is the sun’s ability to help our bodies synthesize vitamin D. When our skin is exposed to direct sunlight the UV-B rays react with the cholesterol in our skin cells, giving them the energy needed to produce vitamin D. Vitamin D is extremely important for our immune function. One study showed that just 30 minutes of direct sun exposure can produce up to 50,000 IUs of vitamin D. If you would like a detailed explanation of how vitamin D supports the immune system check out my previous blog post on vitamin D.
Besides helping the body to produce vitamin D the sun also helps to increase the production of nitric oxide. The body’s immune cells or macrophages use Nitric Oxide to prevent pathogen replication. Nitric Oxide is also involved in the control of tumors, autoimmune processes and chronic degenerative diseases.
Fifteen to thirty minutes a day of direct sunlight, meaning without sunscreens provides the most benefit while limiting the risk of skin damage.
2.Grounding: Grounding is a holistic therapeutic technique of electrically connecting to the earth. Walking barefoot in nature allows your body to utilize the free electrons that are spread over the earth’s surface. These free electrons help to reduce inflammation, improve sleep and decreases stress levels.
3.Hydration: Most people are chronically dehydrated. The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine recommends 15.5 cups (124 ounces) for men and 11.5 cups (92 ounces) a day for women. I personally aim for an even 100 ounces a day.
Water and the lymphatic system
The lymphatic system is made up of 96% water. Dehydration causes the lymph fluid becomes thick creating a slow and sluggish system. The key function of the lymphatic system is to carry disease fighting white blood cells throughout the body via the lymph fluid. It also assists in toxin and waste removal. Dehydration inhibits the flow of lymph fluid and the bodies ability to effectively get white blood cells where they need to be in the body to fight infection.
One of my favorite ways to drink water and support the lymphatic system as well as kidney’s and liver is to make cranberry detox water. Recipe by: Ann Louise Gittleman Ph.D CNS
Cranberry detox water
- 1 ounce pure unsweetened cranberry juice
- 7 ounces filtered water
- For every 7 ounces of water add 1 ounce of pure unsweetened cranberry juice. It must be unsweetened. Ideally you should make a large batch of this and drink it through out the day. For maximum benefits 1/2 your water intake should come from this cranberry detox water.
4.Eliminate Sugar: refined sugars such as cane sugar and processed sugars such as high fructose corn syrup, and rice syrup are extremely taxing for the immune system. When ingested these sugars put our immune cells in a Coma like state decreasing their ability to engulf and kill foreign invaders. This coma like state lasts for about 5 hours. This definitely gives new meaning to the phrase ” sugar coma.”
Eliminating sugar doesn’t mean eliminating sweets all together. Instead swap the types of sweeteners you’re using. My personal favorites are stevia, monk fruit and coconut palm sugar. on occasion I like to use maple syrup too however this is higher on the glycemic index than the others so use it sparingly!
5. Sleep: Sleep is a big one! Lack of sleep affects weight, increases stress, and decreases your immune function. Lack of sleep decreases the production of cytokines, and their ability to help fight infections. When we sleep our body releases the cytokine proteins who’s main function is aid in immune cell communication. Adults need 7-8 hours of sleep while children need 10-12 hours of sleep.
Tips for falling and staying asleep
If you struggle with falling or staying asleep try these tips!
- Turn off all blue light emitting electronics an hour before going to bed. This includes cell phones, tablets and TVs. E readers are not blue light emitting and shouldn’t effect your sleep cycles.
- Go for a walk in the morning. Going back to the sun, the sun helps to regulate our Circadian rhythm and production of serotonin.
- Drink a cup of herbal tea such as chamomile in the evenings
- utilize sound machines or meditation sound tracks to help you relax and fall asleep easier.
And there you have it five free and simple ways to boost your immune system for a happier and healthier life.