We all know how important supporting our immune system is. Ideally, we’d all like to stay healthy and well for as long as we can and given the current global pandemic it is crucial to tune into how to maximise your body’s defence system. The intrinsic immune system within the human body is a wondrous thing. Its ability to fight off many different bacteria and viruses as well as protecting against the formation of cancer is mind-blowing. Typically, winter is the time where people are more likely to get sick however it is important to be doing your best to support a healthy immune response throughout the year as this will ultimately result in increased general wellbeing. Below are some aspects of your life to keep in mind when supporting your immune system is a priority.
1. Stress Less
Everyone understands that life comes with stress, it is ultimately something that we all face. Research indicates that chronic stress can have a negative impact on immune system function. While it may not be possible to get rid of possible stressors in your life, finding techniques to manage your stress can be extremely worthwhile. Stress effects everyone in a myriad of ways so taking the time to understand the little things you can do to help you better deal with your stress may well change your life. Here are a few ideas to try when you are feeling stressed:
2. Sleep More
Sleep can be a tricky thing, it eludes some while for others it comes easily. Studies show that not having adequate sleep consistently can have a harmful effect on your immune system. The sleep foundation states that adults need between 7 and 9 hours sleep each night. If a delightful slumber is something you find escapes you on a regular basis then you may benefit from making some small changes in your lifestyle. The sleep foundation has some easy and effective tips for a good night sleep you can find this here.
There is evidence showing that habitual exercise assists in the regulation of the immune system. It is well known that there are also many other benefits to getting regular exercise so making the effort to pinpoint the right type of exercise that you find joy in and can fit into your life will give your body that extra boost.
4. Maintain a healthy gut
Gut health has been quite the hot topic for a number of years now so there is no surprise that there is a significant link between gut bacteria and our immune systems which means we want to do everything to keep our tummies happy! Having a diet with varied fruits and vegetables as well as whole grains, nuts, seeds and legumes is one way to ensure your digestive system is receiving all the prebiotics, probiotics, enzymes and various nutrients it needs to function optimally. If you are able to incorporate some fermented foods into your diet daily such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, coconut yoghurt, miso, tempeh and kombucha, these will all assist in encouraging the growth of healthy bacteria in your gut.
5. Limit alcohol
Enjoying a few drinks with friends or family is a well-loved part of many people’s social lives, however, excessive amounts of alcohol have been shown to impact your immune system function. It can increase susceptibility to developing certain conditions, slower recovery time from infections as well as poor wound healing . As many social events will include copious amounts of alcohol, there may be times where it difficult to choose to have less than the people around you. You may find it easier to either to drink less at each social gathering or decide to drink at some events and not at others.
6. Eat the rainbow
We all are aware of how vital it is to eat well, our parents have been telling us since before we could talk. A varied diet full of all different coloured whole–foods is paramount to ensure you are getting all the nutrients you need for both your immune system as well as overall optimal health. There are several key nutrients that are specifically important for keeping the immune system working the way it should; zinc, selenium, vitamin D, vitamin C, iron and protein are all vital in immune system function.
Top plant-based sources:
Zinc: Sunflower seeds, pinto beans, peanut butter, tofu, potato, broccoli 
Selenium: Brazil nuts, cooked long grain brown rice
Vitamin D: Sunlight, the body synthesizes vitamin with the help of sunlight, if your diet is plant–based it may be helpful to supplement during winter months or if you do not live in a sunny environment 
Vitamin C: Red capsicum, kiwifruit, orange, cooked broccoli, cooked brussel sprouts, strawberries . *Note: Make sure to eat these either raw or only lightly cooked, as Vitamin C content reduces with both high heat and long cooking time.
Iron: White beans, lentils, spinach, kidney beans, peas it is also important to have a source of vitamin C when having plant-based sources of iron as this assists with absorption.
Protein: lentils, beans (such as adzuki, fava and chickpea to name a few), peas, soybeans and by products, peanuts, nuts, seeds, wholegrains.
This list may seem overwhelming, it might feel like too many things to adhere to in order to strengthen your immune system. Don’t be concerned if you are finding it difficult to tick off every point mentioned in this article, even just choosing to focus on the majority of these points will make a difference. Nobody on this planet has a lifestyle that is 100% healthy all the time, it is ok to recognize that you are allowed to make choices every now and then that differ from what is recommended above. We are all human and deserve to enjoy treats every now and then. You may also find benefit in changing your mindset when it comes to treating yourself, there doesn’t need to be any guilt when you choose to do something that may differ from your usual lifestyle or diet, it is essential to recognise that balance is very important. There are also opportunities to incorporate healthy treats into your life, if you have a sweet tooth there are many easy and delicious recipes out there which are full of nutritious whole food ingredients. Here are a few healthy treat recipes:
One Green Dream encourages communication within our communities and sharing experiences. We would love to hear from you what techniques you have found helpful in increasing your immunity.
 Sarkar, D., Jung, M. K., & Wang, H. J. (2015). Alcohol and the Immune System.Alcohol Research: Current Reviews, 37(2), 153–155.
 Whitney, E., Rolfes, S. R., Crowe, T., & Walsh, A. (2019). Understanding nutrition (4th ed.). South Melbourne, Victoria: Cengage Learning Australia
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About the Author
Elizabeth is a qualified Naturopath and Medical Herbalist, as well as a natural living advocate passionate about holistic health, natural living and educating and supporting individuals to lead an eco-friendly lifestyle.
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