Remember the last time you had a stressful week that toppled your body like dominos? You were left lying awake at night. You slept in. You zipped through lunch on a banana and latte. You skipped exercising and ended the day giving in to a craving for chips. The next day you woke up with that achy, a cold-is-coming feeling. This is a prime example of our body’s interconnected, often overworked systems that then have to face infection, invaders, inflammation or toxins. Try these everyday things to help strengthen your early defences against illness and balance your immune system.
1. Get Better Sleep
The odd night of a restless sleep is one thing—a lot of bad sleeps is another. After a while, the body registers poor sleep as a stressor and begins to overproduce cortisol to get through the day. Chronically high cortisol suppresses other systems, including the immune system.
What are some tools that can help you get longer, deeper ‘good’ sleeps? A bedtime routine that creates a sense of calm and a shifting down can make all the difference: putting away screens an hour or two ahead of hitting the pillow, a light yoga session or meditation, relaxation teas, Epsom salt baths, white noise, blackout blinds and even sleep aids.
2. Eat Nourishing, Balancing Foods
You’ve probably heard this one before, but it works: to really take care of your immune health, eat your greens and vitamin C. For the greens, kale, spinach and broccoli—those dark greens—are what you’re really after. Citrus fruits give you that hit of sunshine that’s so important in the winter. Chickpeas are a terrific protein, which is key to kicking off an immune response, and great for regulating blood sugar.
Processed and sugary foods can have the opposite effect: by creating inflammation and suppressing the immune system for several hours, they slow down your body’s ability to fight bacteria and illness. (There’s a reason most kids get sick after Halloween!).
3. Get Enough Movement
Going for a good walk every day can do wonders for your immune health. Why? Your body’s muscles and joints are pumping along the lymphatic fluids that collect toxins and send them to lymph nodes and the liver. Deep breathing during exercise or a post-workout massage are other ways to help flush out toxins and de-stress.
4. Offset Stress
Things will always come up that make us feel anxious or upset. We can’t pause stress; we can only set ourselves up to manage it in a healthy way. Too much stress means too much cortisol means a weak immune system.
When you start to notice signs of feeling stressed (increased heart rate, foggy brain, heaviness in the chest), think about what you can do to offset: go for a walk, eat whole foods, drink water and set yourself up for a good night’s rest. Resist the urges for sugar, coffee or alcohol—they will only worsen inflammation and weaken the immune system.
Daily self-care in all of these ways is your superpower against sickness. Good food, good rest, a bit of movement and those dozy-cozy evening routines.
This article was published in The Good Life magazine.