By Carla Oates
Here at The Beauty Chef, we believe that beauty begins in the belly—but truth be told, it’s not just your skin and gut that share an intimate connection. Your gastrointestinal tract is where 70% of your immune system lies, meaning that your gut and your immunity are also inextricably linked...
While we've been sure to include some tried and tested methods of supporting your immune system, we've also included some handy tips and tricks to help you keep your gut in tip top shape, because strong immunity really does begin with good nutrition.
Focus on Food
Studies suggest that the richer and more diverse your gut microbiome, the lower your risk of illness and disease. This means that munching on foods that nourish your gut microbes—think fibrous veggies, fresh fruit, lean protein, legumes, grains, nuts and seeds—is crucial to a strong immune system. You might also like to consider adding garlic, onion and leek to your meals, as they contain an antioxidant called “quercetin” which is both antibiotic and antiviral. Similarly, ginger is known for its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory effects, so enjoy liberally!
Power up with Fermentation
While most of us know that fermented foods like sauerkraut, yoghurt and our very own GLOW powder contain live probiotics, what many of us don’t realise is that they also contain postbiotics—the cell walls of the probiotics that have died during the fermentation process. Postbiotics have been shown to possess powerful anti-inflammatory and immune-modulating properties. Kimchi, anyone?
Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate
Your lymphatic system is an important part of your immune system because it carries white blood cells around your body via your blood. These cells, also known as leukocytes or leucocytes, protect your body from infection. In order to make lymph fluid, however, your body needs water, which means that staying hydrated is essential for immune health.
Manage your Stress
The immune-dampening effects of cortisol (aka your stress hormone) are well documented. When you experience stress, your body’s ability to fight off illness is significantly reduced, so rest well, maintain a regular sleep schedule and commit to ten minutes of yoga, breath work, stretching or meditation every day.
Sleep Well (and Regularly!)
Studies have also shown that a lack of sleep can “turn on” genes that are linked to inflammation, which can be incredibly taxing on your immune system. A lack of sleep also leads to elevated cortisol levels (hello, stress!). Aim for seven to eight hours of sleep per night, and wherever possible, go to bed and wake up around the same time every day.
Wash your Hands
Cold and flu viruses are mostly spread as tiny droplets of mucus that become airborne when people cough or sneeze. As unpleasant as it sounds, this does mean that you can breathe them in or pick them up when you touch a surface. Washing your hands thoroughly with soap before touching your face or preparing food is incredibly important when it comes to stopping the spread of germs and nasties. Tea tree infused soaps are a good choice as they’re antibacterial.
Don’t Give up on Working Out
While the link between exercise and immunity needs more research, there are a few theories as to why physical activity may help to keep your immune system powering on. The first is that moderate physical activity may help flush bacteria out of the lungs and reduce your chances of catching a cold or flu. The second is that exercise helps antibodies and white blood cells to circulate more rapidly, meaning they can detect illness earlier. There have also been some suggestions that the brief rise in body temperature experienced during (and immediately after) exercise may work like a fever, helping the body fight infection. If nothing else, moving makes us feel good, by slowing down the release of stress hormones (which weaken immunity) and triggering the release of endorphins. There’s never been a better time to whip out your yoga mat, pop on your activewear and discover the online world of home workouts!