1. Start the day with a mug of green tea
Green tea contains high levels of a polyphenol known as EGCG. This has been shown to increase the number of immune cells in the body, whilst reducing inflammation. Although black tea has these polyphenols too, Green tea has significantly higher quantities. To turn your green tea into a even more powerful immune booster, grate some fresh ginger, add a squeeze of lemon and 1/2 tsp of honey to your morning wake up cuppa.
2. Hit the sack
Lack of sleep is one of the quickest ways to ensure you’ll pick up any bugs going round - studies have found that being sleep deprived not only decreases immune cells, but also increases inflammatory cells. The effect of sleep deprivation will depend on the strength of your natural immune system so if you know you’re prone to illness and infection make sleep a priority.
3. Exercise - but not too hard!
The relationship between exercise and immunity is a J shaped curve - this means people who don’t exercise at all have lower immunity, moderate exercisers have the highest immunity, but very high intensity exercisers have the lowest immunity of all. So if you’re prone to infections or feeling run down stick with moderate intensity exercise such as walking, pilates or gentle yoga, swimming or gentle cycling.
Stress is the enemy when it comes to immunity. A great example of this is a study involving students during final exams looking at their rate of wound healing. Those under the most pressure had the slowest rate of wound healing. By taking daily steps to relax, whether it’s practising yoga or simply taking time for yourself to have a warm bath, you can reduce your levels of stress hormones and up your immunity. What better excuse to relax and put your feet up?
5. Avoid very low calorie diets or cutting out food groups
Although we often think we’re looking after our health by trying to lose weight, going on crash diets or cutting out major food groups like carbohydrates or fats could be putting us at risk of infection and inflammation. This is because crash diets decrease our intake of the essential nutrients needed for immunity, and also put the body into an inflammatory state. This can happen with diets of less than 1200 calories a day.
So if you’re trying to lose weight, avoid reducing your calorie intake by more than 500 calories a day and ensure you’re getting a balanced intake of carbohydrate, protein, fat and fibre.
Written by Ruth Tongue