We’ve established the connections between food and mood, and even food and sleep. But, does what you eat also have a connection to your body’s immune function? As it turns out, the answer is yes. And, it’s one of the most overlooked aspects of preventative care when it comes to immunity during flu season. So, if you’re using hand sanitizer like a mad-man and still getting the sniffles, your diet may be a key factor in why.
But don’t worry — read on to learn just how gut health and sleep are important to a strong immune system. Plus, learn what habits can help strengthen your immunity as well as damage it.
The Gut Connection
For some people, the idea that the gut can be so powerfully linked to so many functions of the body, especially immune function, seems outrageous. While relatively new, science is beginning to understand this role more and more. In fact, the John Hopkins University School of Medicine continues to comprehend this in their research. In their advancements in research column, “Fundamentals,” researchers suggest that a huge part of the immune system is actually in the gut.
But how exactly does that work? Well, think of it this way: the gut helps decide what passes through your stomach through the digestive system. In this process, food is broken down, nutrients are absorbed and toxins are eliminated. However, if the gut microbiome does not have enough good bacteria, even one of the cogs in this well-oiled machine can come up short.
What does this mean? Well, if your gut is not functioning at its best, it could potentially allow for bad bacteria to get through and flourish. Depending on the bacteria, that could lead to illness. And we don’t just mean a common cold. A research report published in the Gut Microbes medical journal explores the possibility that these issues can contribute to autoimmune disorders:
Keeping a delicate balance in the immune system by eliminating invading pathogens, while still maintaining self-tolerance to avoid autoimmunity, is critical for the body’s health…. it has recently become obvious that alterations of these gut microbial communities can cause immune dysregulation, leading to autoimmune disorders…
Sleep and Immune Function
One other super important factor of immune function is sleep. We already know that the amount of shut-eye we get every day can affect how our body functions — but some people forget that this includes how your body fights off sickness and infection.
Why, exactly? The Mayo Clinic reports that the immune system releases cytokines when you’re sleeping. These little proteins help encourage your body to rest, but they also come into play when your body experiences an infection or inflammation.
So if you’re not getting enough, that could potentially mean a lower number of produced cytokines in your body, meaning less are available to act when necessary. What’s more, lack of sleep can potentially decrease cell-production of other important antibodies (sickness-fighting cells) in the body.
Studies are tying to understand this process fully. But as a Pflugers Archiv review notes, important immune cells are produced in people with healthy circadian rhythms. So prolonged periods of disrupted cycles could mean you’re more likely to get sick.
Ways to Boost Immune Function
So, we know that the gut and sleep are essential for healthy immune function. How can we use this information to better our immunity?
Simple — we develop healthy habits, like getting better sleep and eating better. Here are just a few things to keep in mind.
Food and Supplements
Eating for a healthier gut microbiome could help boost your immune health. But what foods can help encourage immunity?
Medical News Today reports a diet of antioxidant-rich foods could be helpful in keeping illness at bay. Here’s some of their list of foods you can try to incorporate in your diet:
- dark chocolate
- omega-3’s from fish
- greens like broccoli and spinach (which are naturally high in vitamins)
- green tea
- oranges (and other sources of vitamin-C)
We love that list, but personally, we’d like to add a few other favorites to the mix beginning with our one-of-a-kind pre- and probiotic Biome Medic (which is certified by The Detox Project by the way). Probiotics can help balance the microbiome and in turn, help improve immune function by ridding the body of bad bugs.
Purium also offers an array of immune-supportive supplements:
- Vir-U-Sure (blend of red marine algae and sea-based plants with immune-boosting properties)
- Green Spectrum (blend of greens)
- Apothe-Cherry (tart cherry extract to help encourage more healthy sleep)
- spirulina, red marine algae and astaxanthin
- aloe vera (which is especially essential when dealing with candida)
- coconut oil
How we live also plays a role in our immune function. Here’s some tips to keep in mind.
Smoking and Drinking
Excessive drinking and smoking can damage the immune system (and the body as a whole). Alcohol Research Current Reviews reports an association between drinking and the likelihood of developing immune-related health issues, like phenomena or even acute respiratory stress syndrome.
Smoking, too, takes a toll on how your body can protect itself. Studies show that cigarette smoke contributes to the reduction of immune-helping cells. So, prolonged smoking could result in a weak immune system.
Stress and Cleanliness
Stress also plays a role. When your body is stressed, it can trigger a fight-or-flight mode, which can decrease immunity strength. Managing your stress is one easy way to give support.
Another easy way to boost immune function is to always follow proper hygiene. Wash your hands, brush your teeth and you know, continue to do everything you were taught in pre-school. Well, except for gorging on GMO-filled snacks. You know better, now!
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