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Reducing inflammation to boost our immunity
Immunity; our inbuilt superpower
If the past two years has united us on anything, it’s that we welcome ways to boost our immunity. We have a new appreciation for the valuable commodity that is our health.
As we find ourselves deep into another season of Covid, plus the usual winter nasties, our immune systems are bombarded. It can leave us feeling vulnerable, isolated (literally) and missing out on precious social engagements, and any potential work if you have a job. Finding natural ways to boost our immune superpowers has never felt more important.
Inflammation and immunity
Inflammation is our body’s natural defence mechanism. When you get a splinter in your finger and the area becomes red and swollen, that is inflammation. It is an essential response to fighting injury and disease. So why all this talk of ‘anti-inflammatory’ diets? Why would we want to undermine that natural response?
Well, largely because prolonged inflammation can overwhelm our immune system, leaving us more vulnerable to infection and disease. Too much of a good thing? Excess inflammation causes conditions such as asthma, arthritis and even cancer. In fact, there is now overwhelming evidence to place inflammation at the root of all disease formation in the body.
The advice on how to boost our immunity can be pretty overwhelming. So here are Welfy’s top three tips to keep inflammation in check and ensure our immune systems continue to fight the good fight!
1. Eating to boost immunity
We’d like to keep it simple. Minimise processed foods and increase whole foods. That means plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables and whole grains. As well as the ‘usual suspects’ known to increase inflammation in the body (you guessed it, refined carbs, sugar, alcohol, caffeine, red meat) many foods are credited with reducing inflammation. Top of the pops are green leafy veg, nuts and berries.
Our challenge to you is to replace one highly processed meal a day with a whole food alternative and see how you feel. If you want the advanced class, download Dr Michael Greger’s (author of ‘How Not To Die) Daily Dozen app and see how many portions of his superfoods you can rack up in a day.
Many people supplement their diet with one of the most powerful natural anti-inflammatories. The glorious, sunshine coloured turmeric. You can buy the fresh root and add it to juices, add the powder to savoury dishes or take a supplement.
Always consult a medical professional before adding any supplements to your diet.
2. Moving to boost immunity
In his brilliant book ‘Burn: the misunderstood science of metabolism’ anthropologist Herman Pontzer explodes the myth of exercise and burning calories. His fascinating discovery with the Hadza tribe was that despite doing 5-10 x more physical activity than an average person in the developed world, Hadza people burn a very similar number of calories.
But far from banishing exercise, he identifies one of the most important reasons to move our bodies which is to reallocate our metabolic resources. Movement diverts our bodies from burning calories for excess inflammation. We also now know that during and after physical exercises anti-inflammatory cytokines are released which not only support our immune function but lower the incidence, intensity of symptoms and mortality in viral infections in people who exercise regularly.
So make sure you increase your heart rate for 20 mins each day. This doesn’t have to be a spin class, it might just be a brisk walk around the block at lunch time. Your immune system will thank you!
Whatever your movement of choice, do it with others. As well as helping us to stay motivated, those who move alongside others experience lower stress and improved mood post-workout. Limiting stress is another brilliant way to naturally regulate inflammation.
3. Resting to boost immunity
Just how important is sleep for our immunity? The answer is – very. Sleep and the immune system have a bidirectional relationship. Our immune response can impact sleep and poor sleep can impact our immune response. Evidence shows that we are far more likely to succumb to illness if we have had fewer than 6-7 hours sleep before we are exposed.
Our bodily functions slow down when we sleep, allowing our immune system to get busy. Producing cytokines, responsible for regulating inflammation in the body. In people with healthy sleep, inflammation during the night recedes back to a normal level before waking up. In people who don’t get enough sleep, this system fails. Research also suggests that sleep is responsible for strengthening our immune memory so that our bodies know what to attack and what not to.
To help you strive for the coveted 8 hours, here are some ways to improve your sleep hygiene. Keep your room cooler than you think – around 16-19 degrees. Go to bed and wake up at the same times each day. Avoid screens and blue light before bed and create some healthy boundaries around work and homework in the evening to limit stress.
Get outside for your morning drink, ideally within half an hour of waking. Not only do you get a dose of Vitamin D which is one of the best ways to boost your immunity, you will also get a dose of natural light which is crucial for regulating your circadian rhythm so you will sleep better that night. Try it!
Take care of your body, it’s the only place you have to live.
*Grand View Research; Immune Health Supplements Market Report, 2021-2028
This month’s Personal Wellbeing Report content has been supplied by Welfy, a workplace wellbeing training consultancy supporting individuals and businesses to redefine success. We specialise in workplace wellbeing workshops, wellbeing strategy consultancy and leadership development helping people to live happier, healthier and more productive lives. To find out more, visit Welfy.
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