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How to Support Your Immune System Ahead of the Big Freeze

How to Support Your Immune System Ahead of the Big Freeze

For reasons that don’t need getting into, most people are concerned about their immune systems right now. With the autumn/winter season on the horizon, there’s no better time to start thinking about propping up your immune system.

Understandably, some people who follow plant-based lifestyles have concerns about their immune health. Particularly for those who have recently transitioned to veganism (or vegetarianism), achieving optimum dietary balance and nutrient intake can be a challenge.

Truth is, there are more than enough fortified products and everyday supplements available to ensure you get everything you need. It’s simply a case of keeping a careful watch over your nutrient intake, rather than making things up as you go along and risking a deficiency in the process.

The Benefits of Plant-Based Living 

Just as long as you get things right in terms of nutrient intake, plant-based living can be a comprehensively healthy lifestyle. Countless studies have drawn direct links between the elevated consumption of plant-based whole foods and a significantly lower risk of numerous diseases.

In addition, there’s absolutely no reason why you cannot build and maintain strong natural defences, without a trace of meat or any animal product in your diet. It’s simply a case of knowing what to eat, what to do and what to avoid doing, for the benefit of your immune system.

Things are still fairly pleasant outdoors right now, but the worst of the weather will be here soon enough. Before things take a turn for the worse, here are just a few things nutritionists advise getting a head start on now, in order to prop up your immune system for a healthy winter season:

Work on reducing stress levels

First up, the toll taken by stress on the immune system is no less than astonishing. Stress is known to have an adverse effect on pretty much all aspects of physical and psychological health. Your body simply cannot do its job properly if blighted by stress – neither can your immune system. Hence, anything you can be doing to bring everyday stress levels under control is probably something you should be doing.

With the obvious exceptions of drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes, which are guaranteed to have the opposite of the intended effect.

Get more exercise

Regular exercise holds the key to building and maintaining a healthier body. The healthier your body is in general, the better its capacity to defend itself from seasonal bugs. Studies have shown that even moderate workouts can significantly boost the efficiency of the immune system. You don’t have to go to extremes – you simply have to make the effort to move more on a day-to-day basis. 

In addition, exercise prompts the release of serotonin and is also known for keeping cortisol levels under control. Cortisol is commonly referred to as ‘the stress hormone’ for a reason, which as outlined above is something best kept under control.

Prioritise regular and restful sleep

Getting enough sleep every night isn’t just about feeling restful and energised the next day. Overnight, the human body goes through a remarkable process of rebuilding and repairing itself, while undergoing a natural detoxification process. Consequently, a lack of sleep can prevent all such things from occurring, resulting in an elevated risk of illness. In fact, research has shown that a lack of sleep directly contributes to a person’s risk of developing any number of diseases.

Sleep plays a major role in supporting the immune system, therefore should be prioritised at all times of year. It’s just that with the winter weather on the horizon, now could be a good time to think about working on your sleep hygiene…as it’s often called. 

Eat more whole foods

It’s commonly assumed that simply by eliminating animal-based products, you’re automatically living a supremely healthy lifestyle. In reality, the market for vegetarian and vegan products is littered with just as much junk food as all other markets. It’s perfectly possible to be a committed vegan and still consume nothing but dangerously unhealthy garbage. Hence, the advice to eat more whole foods applies just as much to vegans/vegetarians as it does anyone else.

The term ‘wholefoods’ applies to anything consumed in its original, processed and unrefined form. Fruits, vegetables, pulses, legumes and so on – all packed with the good stuff you need right now to keep your immune system in good working order.

Include turmeric in your recipes

This stuff has been used in herbal medicine across India and China for centuries. It’s a renowned antioxidant with powerful therapeutic properties, which is said to work even better when combined with a dash of black pepper. If you can’t find ways to incorporate turmeric into your recipes, there are also plenty of supplements available to ensure you get your fill.

Either way, research into the effects of turmeric suggest that it could be helpful in building and maintaining strong natural defences. Good news for anyone with a taste for Indian Food, which has a tendency to be absolutely loaded with turmeric.

Gorge on garlic 

Likewise, anyone who can’t resist loading their dishes with a ton of garlic could be in for a happy winter season to come. Garlic is one of the original super foods, which according to countless studies boosts the immune system by activating and stimulating white blood cells. It’s also loaded with sulphur phytochemicals, which are renowned for their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. The only proviso being that you get your fill with the fresh stuff, as the processed garlic that makes its way into supplements is not nearly as powerful.

Ideally, aiming for around two cloves a day – as fresh as possible – is the best way to capitalise on garlic’s rich nutrient content.

Drink lemon water

Another quick and easy way to give your body a boost is to get into the habit of drinking a sizeable glass of lemon water each morning. It’s good for you at any time of day, but is said to be at its most effective first thing in the morning. This is due to the way it boosts the efficiency of the digestive system, while at the same time aiding the body’s natural detoxification processes. Something of particular importance in the morning, in order to give the immune system a welcome boost.

In any case, popping a few slices of lemon into the water you drink the rest of the day isn’t exactly difficult, so go for it! 

Take probiotics

As always, it’s advisable to consult with your doctor (or an appropriately qualified expert) before embarking on a course of daily supplementation. But when it comes to the naturally occurring probiotics in things like sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, and kombucha, they’re generally considered safe and effective for most people. Probiotics provide the gut with a massive dose of the beneficial bacteria it needs to keep it in pristine working order. There are so many things that have the potential to send your intestinal flora out of synch, so it can be helpful to give them a daily dose of the good stuff.

Given that the vast majority of the immune system is located in the gut, it simply makes sense to show it a little TLC. 

Supplement vitamins and minerals where necessary

When following a plant-based lifestyle, it is important to keep a close eye on your nutrient intake at all times. Nevertheless, it is particularly important to avoid deficiencies (minor or otherwise) at this time of year. The plant-based product market is loaded with anything and everything you could ever need to easily get your fill of all key nutrients. Nevertheless, it is something that should be tracked and monitored carefully, in order to avoid the risk of deficiencies.

Vitamins C and D in particular and essential for propping up the immune system. As is ensuring you get enough zinc in your diet, which depending on your eating habits could mean turning to daily dietary supplements.

Look after yourself properly 

Lastly, this final pointer is vague for a good reason. Quite simply, anything you can be doing right now that’s good for you is something to prioritise. Likewise, anything that probably isn’t doing you the world of good is something to minimise. Examples that fit into the former of the two brackets include everything outlined above. Keeping your body healthy, exercising regularly, sleeping and keeping stress levels under control in particular. Make the effort now and you’re far more likely to stay fit and healthy over the weeks and months to come.

In the latter bracket, things to avoid include drinking, smoking and eating garbage. Even though they may technically make you feel good at the time, they’re not going to do you much good longer-term. The occasional indulgence is fine and can provide an important wellbeing-boost. It’s simply a case of knowing where to draw the line, and understanding the meaning of the word ‘moderation’. 


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