5 easy tips to boost your immune system
During these uncertain and scary times, health is at the forefront of many of our minds. We hear that we need to social distance ourselves and self-isolate if we're feeling ill. But what if we're feeling ok and we just want to give our body what it needs to stay strong in order to fight this coronavirus? What can we do at home to boost our immune system?
To know how to support our immune system, we first have to understand the importance of the mind-gut connection and its ability to affect our body's innate ability to fight off pathogens. There’s a two way communication system between the nervous system and digestive system that’s known as the mind-gut connection. Have you ever experienced being hangry? Or before an exam or presentation, we either overeat or undereat? That's because of this connection! This is a reason why we emotionally eat. Have you also noticed that after a stressful period in life, we tend to fall ill? This is also due to the powerful connection between the mind and gut and their impact on immune health!
Let’s do a little deep dive into each of these two physiological systems and some tips to help strengthen our bodies.
Did you know that 70% of our immune cells are in our gut? That means our gut health is so important for immunity. If we don’t take care of our digestion and develop leaky gut, it’ll increase inflammation in our bodies leading to a compromised immune system. Also, majority of serotonin is produced in the gut. Infact, there are 100 million nerve cells from the esophagus to the rectum that can trigger mood changes. This is the connection between the digestive, nervous and immune systems.
Tip 1: Eat cooked, whole foods. Why cooked? Because the stomach is like an oven or pot, it heats up food so it can be digested and nutrients can be absorbed into the body. If we consume cooked, whole foods, the temperature of the food is already warmed so it helps our stomach with the digestion process. If you don’t have enough “fire” or energy in your stomach, then having cold foods will dampen this fire giving our digestive system problems with digestion. Whole foods are crucial because they give your body the nutrients it needs to function optimally!
Tip 2: Use herbs and spices that help with digestion. Warming herbs help with increasing that “stomach fire” that helps break down food and aid in nutrient absorption. Turmeric, cinnamon and ginger are great examples of warming herbs. Chen pi (dried tangerine peel) also helps aid digestion. The digest tea blend is a mix of peppermint, ginger, and chen pi, that’s meant to help with breaking down food and alleviate digestive problems.
When thinking about digestion, it's not always about digestion of food, but also the digestion of information. In today’s uncertain world and stressful times, we’re overloaded and often overwhelmed by the information on the news. Which is why we also have to take care of our nervous system.
When our bodies are in fight or flight mode, our sympathetic nervous system is activated. Being in this state suppresses the immune system because blood and energy is diverted away from the gut and towards our muscles since our body thinks it is in danger. When there isn’t enough blood helping the digestive system break down food, food becomes undigested and can wreak havoc on our health by increasing inflammation. Whether we’re running away from a tiger or overthinking about our current global situation, our bodies can’t differentiate between the two so we’re constantly running on fight or flight mode. And in turn, affects our gut health and immune health.
Tip 3: Break down information into “bite-sized” pieces instead of taking in everything all at once. Everything we consume is coded information for our bodies whether it is food, news, or collective energy. Being mindful of what we consume can support our immune system. I listen to the news every morning for 5-10 min and then I disconnect from what’s going on with the world until the next morning. This gives me the chance to stay informed but also not overwhelm myself with too much information throughout the day.
Tip 4: Meditation can help relax our minds and give us a chance to be in the moment and disconnect from the world. This allows our bodies to move from our sympathetic nervous system back to our parasympathetic nervous system, which is our body’s automatic relaxed state.
Tip 5: Try to take shower or baths with herbs that help with relaxation. Take a shower with eucalyptus oil to slow down the mind. Try dabbing some oil on the tiles of your bathroom so that the steam from the water will mix with the essential oil without running it down the drain. This will keep the scent for longer! Or try taking a bath with high quality rose petals and epsom salts that helps release stress. It also looks great for photos!
There’s no better time than now to take time to understand your mind-gut connection and be introspective to see what your body needs. Maybe you need a day away from social media or the news to de-stress or include more nutrient dense foods in your diet. Whatever it may be, I hope this served as a helpful tool for you to boost your immune system!