A healthy and robust immune system is essential for staying healthy year-round but especially when you have a higher chance of being exposed to various sicknesses. There are a few key nutrients I want to highlight that are important to a healthy immune system that we may or may not be getting adequate amounts of through diet. And then there are some other non-nutrient factors that are just as important in building up the health of your immune system.
Everyone knows sleep is important but what are you doing to improve the quality or quantity of yours? Sometimes it’s almost impossible. If you have little ones who aren’t sleeping, you aren’t sleeping and I’m sure you’re already doing all you can to try to get them to sleep! But if you’re just staying up later than you should watching TV or on the phone or over-scheduling your life to the point you are so busy and your sleep is suffering, I’d encourage you to consider making some changes to make this a priority. Lack of sleep lowers your immune system’s ability to fight viruses. You become more susceptible to contracting them and if you do get one you are not going to be able to fight it off as well as if you were well rested.
Again, we all know stress is bad. But what are you doing to mitigate the sources of stress in your life and manage the stress that comes along with our modern lives? Are you eating foods that stress the body (vegetable and seed oils, sugar, refined and processed carbohydrates)? Are you over-exercising and under-eating or under-exercising and overeating? Are you putting personal care products made with stressful-to-the-body ingredients that disrupt endocrine function and other vital processes? Are you packing your schedule so full of activities that you never have time to actually relax? Simple practices like deep breathing, meditation and/or prayer, walking outside, doing activities in nature that you enjoy, eating whole, real foods, and using products on your body that are made from safe and/or natural ingredients are all ways to help your body’s management of the many forms of stress.
Eat Real Food
Just mentioned this but it deserves its own paragraph. It deserves more than a paragraph actually but you can just go back and read basically any other blog post I’ve written! Our bodies need nutrients. From actual food. Not “edible products.” Do you know what the ingredients are in your food? Are they things you would potentially have in your own kitchen? Are they foods your great-great-grandma would have eaten? She wouldn’t have had all the packaged convenience foods we have now. And some of that is okay but what is the bulk of your diet like? If you’re not eating real food, your immune system is not going to be working optimally.
Also, most of your immune system is located in your gut. So if you’re keeping your gut happy with whole foods, you’ll be more likely to build up a healthy immune system.
Supplement with Immune-Boosting Heavy Hitters
There are a handful of nutrients that can be really helpful in keeping viruses and sicknesses at bay or shortening your time being sick if you do contract something. Our immune systems rely on the synergistic work of many nutrients but here are some that can be especially helpful:
Vitamin C – this is good for prevention and can be taken at high doses if you get sick. You’ll know you’ve had all your body can handle if your stools become too loose.
Vitamin A – Many people are deficient in this important fat-soluble vitamin. The best food sources of preformed vitamin A (the active form your body uses) include egg yolks, beef liver, chicken liver, cod liver oil, and salmon. If you’re not consuming liver or cod liver oil, you’re probably not getting enough vitamin A to really fend off a virus attack.
Vitamin D – Another fat soluble vitamin that many people are deficient in. Vitamin D is vital to a healthy immune system and if you are already immune-compromised you likely could use more of this nutrient.
B Vitamins, particularly B6 – We need B vitamins for so many processes in the body but the immune system needs ample B6 in particular to function well. Best food source include tuna, turkey, beef, chicken, and salmon but you can also get some from sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, sunflower seeds, and spinach.
Zinc – So important for the immune system. Works in tandem with vitamin C to increase your defenses and shorten the lifespan of the sickness if you do catch something.
For some extra umph – Mushroom Powder – Mushrooms have powerful antibacterial and antiviral components called beta-D-glucans and beta-glycosides. They can help you combat viral and bacterial invaders and keep your immune system in tip top shape.
There are certainly more nutrients that help build and sustain a healthy immune system but these are a few of the biggies that are going to give you the most bang for your buck. Supplements are like food – you get what you pay for and you need to understand how they were processed and what the ingredients are. If you’re going to ingest it, you might as well make sure the quality is good!
I’ve taken the guess-work out of that for you and have an “Arm Your Immune System Kit” on Fullscript. All you have to do is sign up and you can enjoy access to high-quality practitioner-grade supplements. There are multiple options for all the recommended products (except the mushrooms – I went with one powder for that) so you can find options that fit your budget and how you’d prefer to take it (powder, liquid, capsule). All you have to do is sign up for an account on Fullscript HERE and check out the practitioner category called Arm Your Immune System in the Catalog.
Keep in mind, these are supplements, not magic pills! It is still just as, or probably even more important to work on the other lifestyle actions to promote a healthy immune system. But what these can do is give you that extra protection that you can’t get from diet alone and help bridge the gap if your stage in life has you more stressed, not sleeping, and/or not able to prepare healthy foods all the time.
Tell me, what do you like to do to keep your immune system in good shape?