Thinking about our immune system will come naturally to many of us over the long winter months, as colds come to the fore. However, just because we're approaching summer doesn't mean we should stop thinking about it
In fact, ensuring we have a good immune system is crucial, yet many of us aren't aware that sometimes, it just needs that little boost. Otherwise, a combination of stress, a lack of sleep or exercise, and dehydration can all take their toll.
Immunologist Dr Jenna Macchiochi is recommending we start to take care of our immune health on a daily basis. She commented: "Your first line of defence is to choose a healthy lifestyle and good hygiene, washing hands etc. But you can also put your body in the best possible immune shape with a balance of healthy lifestyle habits including of course eating a balanced diet, getting enough rest, drinking enough liquid, and exercise."
To help you get a good start, Jenna, on behalf of Ocean Spray, is recommending the following:
1. Nutrition is key
Did you know your immune system can suffer when you eat both too much and too little? To function at maximum efficiency, it needs both macronutrients (proteins, carbs and fats), and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).
Subsequently, a specific deficiency can compromise your immune system - avoid this by including immune boosting foods, like cranberries, in your daily diet.
2. Colour in
Nutrition is about more than just vitamins and minerals - there's no magic bullet that sorts your immune system. However, plant rich colour is crucial, thanks to their rich phytonutrient content. What do they do? Well, small amounts of phytochemicals work their way from the plant foods, into our cells, with the direct cells subsequently reducing our inflammatory reactions.
3. When you eat
Research has revealed a way to get good health is to time your meals to your daily body rhythm, giving credence to the idea that you should breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and eat dinner like a pauper. It's also been found that eating within a restricted 10 hour window can benefit you, as the body's internal clock doesn't digest food as efficiently when you sleep. Subsequently, it becomes a case of when you sleep, rather than what you're eating.
4. Consolidate your meals
Nowadays, people eat far more regularly than ever before - normally outside of meal times, too. As a nation, we have erratic food patterns, and when we eat, we're failing to take in nutrients. It also prompts our immune system to produce a transient inflammatory response, as our gut does more than simply digest food - it's also the home to trillions of bugs that form our microbiome, along with potentially infectious microorganisms, that can enter through our mouth. Subsequently, eating has an inflammatory impact, and frequently doing so can perpetuate a leaky gut. Snacking can have two impacts - not only will it increase the chances of elevated inflammatory markers, but it can also lead to excessive weight gain too.