365 days a year immunity: All year round health and nutrition tips to boost your body’s natural defences.
Our immune systems work 365 days a year and are specifically designed to protect our bodies from illness and external forces that can make us unwell. Never falling asleep on the job and a Type A personality if ever we’ve seen one, it keeps a record of every germ (microbe) it has ever defeated so it can recognise and destroy the microbe quickly if it enters the body again1. Your immune system is impressive, there’s no question about that. But like everything that’s worth having, you need to take care of your immune system, so it can take care of you.
Nutrition is a key factor that can positively influence the immune system. As a complex network of cells and proteins that defend the body against infection, it’s not a single entity; there are in fact seven parts to your immune system: white blood cells, antibodies, complement system, lymphatic system, spleen, bone marrow and thymus. This means it requires balance and harmony to function at peak condition. To put it simply, you need to put the good stuff in, so it can keep the bad stuff out.
According to Australian health experts, healthy living strategies are a great way to start giving your immune system the upper hand. The best things you can do for your immune system are all part of living a regular and healthy lifestyle – eating healthy foods, exercising and keeping your weight and blood pressure under control, have all been shown to be important2.
Not sure where to start? Let us help you out with 5 simple ways you can boost your immunity in your daily life to achieve maximum immune system function all year round2:
Tip 1: Good nutrition
Eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables that are brightly coloured can ensure you are getting the ideal amounts of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants to support a healthy immune system3. The Australian Dietary Guidelines4 state the key to eating well is to enjoy a wide variety of nutritious foods. The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating5 complement the core Australian Dietary Guidelines by actually showing you the five food groups and the recommended amounts you should eat every day.
If you are at risk of malnutrition, undergoing treatment for a disease like cancer, and/or recovering from illness, a consultation with a healthcare professional such as a dietitian, will ensure you understand how these recommendations can be applied to your individual situation and specific health needs.
They may also recommend taking an oral nutritional supplement like Fortisip Compact Protein. This nutritional shake is clinically proven to improve nutritional status, which can support the immune system to recover more quickly from illness. It’s also a good source of protein and energy with nutrients to support your body and immune system function.
Tip 2: Regular exercise
Being physically active and moving frequently every day is essential for your health and wellbeing6. Food alone cannot “boost” your immune system, so maintaining a healthy body through regular exercise is an important part of keeping your immune system strong6.
Evidence shows that leading a physically active lifestyle reduces the incidence of bacterial and viral infections, plus non-communicable diseases like cancer, implying your immune system function is enhanced by regular exercise7.
Physical activity is defined by the Australian Government’s Department of Health as any activity that gets your body moving, makes your breathing become quicker, and your heart beat faster. Regardless of your age, physical ability or health condition, there is generally something you can do to improve your movement. Choose something that you like to do, and perhaps buddy up with a family member or friend to keep you accountable8.
Tip 3: Maintaining normal weight
The correlation between weight and immune function is well documented and scientists have known for some time, that excess body fat, particularly abdominal fat, triggers the production of ‘pro-inflammatory’ immune cells, which circulate in the blood and can damage our bodies9.
Excitingly, Australian scientists were the first to show that even modest weight loss reverses many of the damaging changes often seen in the immune cells of obese people, particularly those with Type 2 diabetes9. So, achieving a normal weight is a no brainer for your immune health. A normal weight is different for all of us, and that’s why it’s important to know what that is for you.
If you’re not sure whether you’re underweight, a healthy weight, or overweight, your body mass index, or BMI, is an accurate way to assess whether your weight is in the healthy range. This calculation combines your height and weight to form a measure that can help predict your risk of developing disease.
According to the Australian Government Department of Health, if your BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9, your BMI is within the healthy weight category10. You can find out your BMI using this online BMI calculator.
Tip 4: Human relationships and connection
It’s a fact of life: having family, friends and other social connections is good for your health and well-being. But did you know that strong, healthy relationships can also help to strengthen your immune system, help you recover from disease, and may even lengthen your life11?
Conversely, loneliness can have dramatic consequences for your immune health; it can lead to disrupted sleep patterns, elevated blood pressure, and increased cortisol (a stress hormone) which can affect your immune system11.
Try and interact with other people in a meaningful way a few times a week. This could be your family and friends, someone you share common interests with, or a professional colleague who wants their coffee the same time that you do!
No matter how you connect with other human beings, there’s no doubt your immune system will thank you for it.
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- Better Health Channel, Victoria State Government: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/immune-system#:~:text=The%20immune%20system%20is%20a,it%20enters%20the%20body%20again
- Queensland Government Queensland Health: https://www.health.qld.gov.au/news-events/podcast/my-amazing-body-the-immune-system
- Nutrition Australia, Australian Government Partner: https://nutritionaustralia.org/division/qld/supporting-your-immune-system/
- NHMRC Australian Dietary Guidelines: https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/guidelines
- Australian Government Eat for Health Guide to Healthy Eating: https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/guidelines/australian-guide-healthy-eating
- Australian Government Department of Health: https://www1.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/Nutrition+and+Physical+Activity-1
- Front. Immunol., 16 April 2018 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fimmu.2018.00648
- Australian Government, Department of Health: https://www1.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/faq-phy-act-sedb-guide#2g
- Garvan Institute of Medical Research: https://www.garvan.org.au/news-events/news/the-remarkable-effects-of-fat-loss-on-the-immune-system
- Australian Government Department of Health: http://healthyweight.health.gov.au/wps/portal/Home/get-started/are-you-a-healthy-weight/bmi/
- Better Health Channel, Victoria State Government: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/Strong-relationships-strong-health