By Jo Riley
Sleep deprivation weakens your immune system, effectively via a compromised immune response where your body struggles to fight infection and inflammation. Adults generally require 7-8 hours sleep a night and teens 9-10 hours a night. A power nap has also been shown to benefit the immune system.
Stress hormones, in particular cortisol, severely depresses immunity, increasing infection and inflammation. Regular meditation, mindfulness and exercises practices have proven to be beneficial in managing stress. Acupuncture & herbs (see TCM below) offer restoration and a reset where ongoing stress is compromising your mood, sleep and overall health and wellbeing. Counselling too can offer tools to assist you in identifying your patterns and strategies to better manage stress.
Diet. For a strong & healthy immune system, it is important to avoid refined sugar and fats and oils that promote inflammation. These are typically found in processed foods such as biscuits, breads, dips etc. Alternatively opt for whole foods, especially fruit and vegetables that are nutrient dense particularly in polyphenols, chemical compounds found in plants; many antioxidants are polyphenols, which help protect cells from toxins and reduce inflammation in your body. Spices are a great source of polyphenols so include more garlic, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, cloves etc. Other sources: berries and most fruits, also rich in immune enhancing vitamin C; olives and olive oil; nuts; seeds, also rich in immune enhancing zinc; fresh and dried herbs; and herbal and green tea.
Sunshine is essential for vitamin D manufacturing. Vitamin D is associated with healthy immunity and a better mood. However, it is almost impossible to get adequate sunshine to absorb through your skin in the winter months and you may be putting yourself at risk of sunburn and skin cancers with overexposure in the summer months. You may also take some vitamin D in via your diet by including fish, cheese and eggs. Cod liver oil is a great supplement rich in vitamin D and also vitamin A, a great tonic to the mucus membranes that acts as your first line of immune defence.
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) uses acupuncture & herbs to help form the strongest immunity you can have. As practitioners, we personalise a treatment plan to meet your individual needs and look at your quality of sleep; lung function; digestive health; mental & emotional stressors; and other immune compromises.
You can support this approach to health with regular exercise to enhance your breathing capacity and improve lung function; alleviate some of the effects of stress; and to promote a more restful sleep.
Enjoying a well-balanced diet of seasonal organic fruit and vegetables, focusing on more cooked and warm foods in the cooler months: slow-cooks; winter bakes; and soups; add a little miso, kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh and other fermented foods to boost your microbiome: potentiating immune health; better mood and ideal weight.