Dec. 19. 2018
Health Articles
McKel (Hill) Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

McKel (Hill) Kooienga, MS, RDN, LDN

Dietitian, Founder

We can all benefit from supporting our immune system — check out these 5 ways to support your immune system.

Whether it’s a busy season, cold season, stressful season, etc., our immune systems can take a hit if we aren’t prioritizing our health and getting the nutrients our bodies need in order to optimally support our immune system.

Our bodies are made up of complex, working systems and all of those systems rely on one another to function properly. That means when we neglect our health in one area, it’s likely impacting other areas of our health. This is particularly true in regards to our immune system.

Everything from how we eat to how we exercise and manage stress impacts our immune health.

These are 5 simple steps you can take today to help improve your immune system.

1. Take Care Of Your Gut

It’s no secret that what we eat has a significant impact on our health and it’s been shown that gut health can influence other areas of our health, like our immune systems. The gut microbiome “trains” our immune systems by communicating with our cells about how to respond to infection so having a healthy gut is imperative to overall immune system health.

Our digestive system is home to a lot of bacteria. In fact, our bodies contain around 3-5 pounds of bacteria in our digestive system and the bacteria cells in our body even outnumber human cells 10 to 1?**

Our digestive systems are also home to yeast and it is important to maintain a good balance between the bacteria and the yeast present for our digestive systems to function at their normal level.

This post was in partnership with the New Chapter Inc. — we only partner with brands that are NS approved and all our opinions are authentic and remain our own.

So how do you support your body for better gut health? First, check with your dietitian or doctor so they can get you on a nutrition and lifestyle plan that will support your unique needs if you ever need any help just email me or apply for our coaching.

Otherwise, try incorporating more fermented foods into your diet like kimchi, kefir, and kombucha that may promote a healthy gut environment. If you’re eating the Standard American Diet, it’s likely you’re not getting enough probiotic-rich food to support a healthy gut.

Another option I recommend to most of my clients to support overall gut health is to add in a daily probiotic to supplement their diet.

If you’re curious on what probiotic type you should use, first check with your dietitian, otherwise in general look for a company that has clear manufacturing practices, potency, and multiple strains of bacteria in the probiotic that have been shown via clinical research to help support gut health.

One probiotic to check out to see if it’s right for you is New Chapter’s Probiotic All-Flora. It’s a combination of probiotics and beneficial yeast that work to replenish good bacteria and reduce problematic yeast, prebiotics that acts as fuel for the probiotics, and postbiotics to boost probiotic activity.

Another thing to look for is the other ingredients that make up the supplement — New Chapter probiotics are non-GMO, gluten-free, and they test to verify each clinically studied strain at the DNA level.

2. Hydrate

Like gut health, staying hydrated has a huge impact on our overall health, but how does hydration directly impact our immune systems?

For starters, drinking water helps deliver oxygen throughout your entire working body which helps all of the systems in the body to function properly.

Water also helps our body do what it already does best, detox, by flushing unwanted toxins from the body (i.e. urination) and transports the nutrients (particularly water-soluble vitamins) from our food which keeps our cells healthy.

If drinking water seems like a task and hard for you to do, try incorporating warming liquids like hot tea, broths, or soups. They’re super comforting and can even help you to relax.

3. Get Moving

Exercise can be beneficial for both your mental health and physical health. In fact, keeping your body moving regularly is an important factor in maintaining a healthy immune system.

It’s been shown that that one 20-minute session of moderate exercise can stimulate the immune system, producing an anti-inflammatory cellular response.

Not to mention sweating through our skin, which is one of our largest detoxification organs, is also beneficial.

If you’re already under the weather, skip your regular workout. Instead, focus on light movement. Even just small stretches or getting up of the couch can help keep your lymphatic system moving.

4. Rest

We talk about this often at NS, but it’s important to know your limits. If you feel like you need some extra rest, listen to your body and give in to that feeling as much as you are able to. Getting the proper amount of sleep (7-8 hours a night) is vital for the body to rebuild, restore, and keep the immune system healthy.

When we sleep at night, we are maintaining our brain health which in turn helps the rest of our bodily functions. The strength of the synapses in the brain are able to restore themselves each night when you sleep which helps them to deal with and process the following day’s activities.

If you’re struggling to get your eight hours in, take a look at this article where we break down tips and tricks to establishing an evening routine and improving sleep.

5. Focus on Stress Management

When we neglect our mental health, our immune systems can take a hit. This is because both our mental and emotional health play a key role in our physical health and immune systems.

What exactly is stress? Stress is our brain’s’ reaction to any changes in our lives that demand our physical, mental, or emotional energy.

When experiencing stress, our brains release stress hormones called cortisol that put us into fight or flight mode. When cortisol is released, our bodies essentially stop functioning normally and we go into survival mode.

The energy that our bodies would typically use to keep all of our bodily systems functioning properly is instead used to fight those stress hormones. The release of those stress hormones can be beneficial when we are actually in danger, but when we live in a constant state of stress, our bodies produce far more cortisol than they actually need.

So how do we manage stress? Stress is unavoidable. It affects us all and sometimes a small amount of stress can even be beneficial. The real problems associated with stress are often a result of how we deal with and manage stressors.

To make sure stress isn’t negatively impacting us, it’s important to have stress management techniques in place for when it inevitably pops up.

These techniques will look different for everyone but focus on taking time to yourself and implementing techniques that help proactively manage stress such as meditation, deep breathing, journaling, taking a bath, or cleaning.

The big takeaway here is to find whatever helps you to relax, recharge, and manage stress and implement that daily. A resource that I recommend to clients is an app called Headspace, a guided meditation for those of you new to meditation. I also recommend starting each morning with The Five Minute Journal, a handy journal created by the team at Intelligent Change that includes prompts to help you narrow in on what’s bringing you joy at the start of each morning, with goals for the day and affirmations.

Contribute

Out of this list, what do you do to support your immune system? Share below by commenting or share on Instagram and tag @nutritionstripped.