Beat the bug: immune system boosters
Spring is in the air but unfortunately this year so is a nasty, potentially lethal virus. Apart from self-isolating and washing your hands, is there anything else you can do to protect yourself? If your immune system isn’t compromised by age, disease or other factors, it might be prudent to take a few steps to boost it.
Here are my top tips to try to stay as healthy as possible during this crazy time.
1. Keep moving
Make sure you’re getting at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day that raises your heart rate. Research has shown that increasing your heart rate could help to speed up the circulation of white blood cells in the body, making it more likely they will seek and destroy germs early on. If you’re stuck at home, try running up and down your stairs, skipping on the spot or turn up the radio and dance energetically for 30 minutes.
2. Open your heart
Heart-opening yoga poses such as sphinx, cobra, fish and bridge pose stimulate blood flow to the thymus an organ situated behind the breast bone that is instrumental in the growth of germ-killing T-cells.
3. Let’s twist again
Twists are brilliant at helping the body deal with stress or anxiety – two emotions that are clearly running rife right now. Opening the chest, shoulders and back through twisting can help to release stored tension in the body, leaving you feeling calmer mentally.
4. Get upside down
Because inversions increase the flow of blood moving toward the heart, the heart doesn’t have to work as hard to circulate oxygenated blood properly throughout the body. Inversions are also great for moving lymph around the body strengthening the immune system. Try lying with your legs up against the wall for just ten minutes before bed.
5. Create an internal fire
Ujjayi breath, where you exhale through the nose using a slight restriction at the back of the throat, helps to generate internal body heat. This form of pranayama, or breathing exercise, can help to alleviate headaches,relieve sinus pressure, decrease the production of phlegm, and strengthen the nervous and digestive systems.
6. Spice up your life
Include these immune boosting spices and foods into your spring time cooking
a. Turmeric - beneficial for its antiviral and antibacterial properties.
b. Ginger – stimulates digestion, boosts immunity and alleviates coughs and congestion.
c. Cinnamon – great for drying up runny noses
d. Black pepper - revitalises circulation, respiration and digestion.
e. Mushrooms are super immune boosters and have anti-inflammatory properties.
f. Garlic can boost immune function too.
7. Get your vitamin-z’s
Quality sleep can bolster the T cells in your body that fight off infection. Limit caffeine intake in the afternoons and try using lavender oil on your temples to help you nod off.
Meditating helps to reduce the levels of stress hormones in the body, slows the heart rate and decreases blood pressure. If you can’t seem to calm the monkey mind, try just sitting still and focusing on your breath for five minutes. Don’t be hard on yourself if you can’t stop thinking. That’s normal. Keep trying.
9. Water therapy
Drinking water can help your kidneys flush toxins effectively from the body. Tap water is perfectly fine and for the moment readily available… unlike loo paper! Also, at the end of your shower, try turning the water to cold and stand there for 30 seconds, taking deep breaths in and out through your mouth while you do so. This is said to increase the number of disease-fighting white blood cells in the body. Anecdotally, I have been doing this all winter and touch wood haven’t had a cold (or any other nasty) yet.
10. Have fun
Book an uplifting yoga class – like one of mine… ;-) Studies have shown that looking forward to an event boosts immunity, while loneliness can have the opposite effect. For the moment, it’s safe to go to a yoga class if you’re feeling well. Just make sure you wash your hands as soon as you arrive. If you have to self isolate try to stay upbeat and watch something funny on Netflix. It’s true what they say about laughter being the best medicine: not only does it boost the immune system, it protects the heart and burns calories too.
What other immune boosters have you heard of? Please comment below. I apologise for my clunky comments system btw. I'm working on it...