Supporting Immunity Now - a Nutritionist's Playbook for Immune Health
Posted on October 15 2020
Meet Katie Doyle, Niyama's Nutrition Intern and our Guest Blog Author! This is Katie's playbook for keeping your immune system strong this season, as we move back indoors and case numbers continue to rise.
With the cooler temperatures of fall upon us, combined with the beginning of flu season on top of the ongoing pandemic, many of us are looking for ways to boost our immunity to help prevent, and fight off, viruses and illness.
There are many simple dietary and lifestyle changes that can strengthen your body’s natural defences and help you fight off harmful pathogens, and viruses.
Here are 5 tips on how you can strengthen your immunity naturally, this fall:
1. Get enough sleep
Sleep and proper functioning of the body’s immune system, are closely tied. Getting enough sleep is crucial if you want to strengthen your immunity. In fact, not getting enough sleep, has been found to be associated with a higher susceptibility to illnesses such as the common cold.
In a study of 164 healthy adults, those who slept fewer than 6 hours each night were more likely to catch a cold than those who slept 6 hours or more each night (Prather et al., 2015)
If you experience difficulty sleeping, there are several recommendations that may be of support: Try limiting screen time for an hour before bed, as the blue light emitted from your computer, TV, and phone may disrupt your body’s natural wake-sleep cycle (Nagai et al., 2019).
Further sleep hygiene tips include:
- keeping your room cool,
- sleeping in a completely dark room or using a sleep mask,
- going to bed at the same time every night,
- cutting back on caffeine, particularly after mid day
- exercising regularly, and
- not eating right before bed
In addition to these tips, another option is to take a natural sleep supplement. Niyama’s Sleep Like Buddha, is a great option:
- With three trusted natural ingredients for relaxation
- Traditionally used in herbal medicine as a sleep aid in cases of insomnia due to mental stress
- Helps to temporarily promote relaxation and mood balance
2. Stay Hydrated
Hydration does not necessarily protect you from germs and viruses, but preventing dehydration is important to your overall general health.
Dehydration can cause headaches and hinder your physical performance, focus, mood, digestion, and heart and kidney function. These problems can increase your susceptibility to illness. (Popkin et al., 2010)
To prevent dehydration, you should drink enough fluid daily to make your urine pale yellow. Water is your best choice to stay hydrated because it’s free of sugar, additives, and calories (Popkin et al., 2010) If you like a bit more flavor in your water to make it more enjoyable, try drinking unsweetened herbal teas, either hot or chilled as ice tea.
Vegetables and fruits also contain a lot of water in addition to many vitamins and minerals. Some examples of high water low sugar fruits and veggies are:
In addition to this general guideline, adding electrolytes to your water can help you stay hydrated and prevent electrolyte imbalances, especially if you are exercising a lot or live in a hot climate. There are a number of products on the market to choose from, one example is Niyama’s After Practice Replenish & Repair Electrolyte & Amino drink mix:
- Contains all 6 electrolytes plus coconut water
- With buffered vitamin C and L-glutamine
- Natural Pineapple coconut flavour
- Zero calories
- No artificial colours, flavours, sweeteners or preservatives
3. Manage Your Stress Levels
Relieving stress and anxiety and managing your stress levels, is absolutely key to immune health. There is a growing body of research that supports the relationship between stress management and physiological health. For example, in work carried out by Dhabhar (2014), it was found that long-term stress promotes inflammation, as well as imbalances in immune cell function by increasing the release of cortisol from your adrenal glands. Cortisol is ordinarily anti-inflammatory and contains the immune response, but chronic elevations can lead to the immune system becoming “resistant,” which compromises the immune response, and makes the body more susceptible to sickness (Morey et al., 2015)
Tips on how to help manage your stress include; meditation, exercise, journaling, yoga, and other mindfulness practices. You may also benefit from seeing a licensed counselor or therapist, whether virtually or in person.
In addition to the above mentioned tips, there are supplements that can help you support and manage your stress levels. One example is Niyama’s Daytime Zen Stress Support Supplement:
- With L-theanine, Ashwagandha, Rhodiola and Bacopa
- Helps to temporarily promote relaxation
- Used in herbal medicine as an adaptogen to help relieve symptoms of stress
- Supports memory enhancement & cognitive function
4. Eat More Whole Plant Foods
Whole plant foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and legumes are rich in nutrients and antioxidants which may strengthen your body’s natural defenses and help you fight off harmful pathogens, and viruses.
The antioxidants found in whole plant foods help decrease inflammation by combatting unstable compounds called free radicals, which can cause inflammation when they build up in your body in high levels (Serafini et Peluso., 2017).
Chronic inflammation is linked to numerous health conditions, including heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and certain cancers.
Fiber in plant foods feeds your gut microbiome, or the community of healthy bacteria, in your gut. A strong and healthy gut microbiome, can improve your immunity and help keep harmful pathogens from entering your body via your digestive tract (Holscher., 2017).
Additionally, fruits and vegetables which are rich in nutrients like vitamin C, which may reduce the duration of the common cold (Hemilä et Chalker., 2013).
5. Eat More Fermented Foods or Take a Probiotic Supplement
Fermented foods are rich in beneficial bacteria called probiotics, which support your digestive tract (Ozen et Dinleyici., 2015).
They are many fermented products to choose from that would make a great addition to your diet. Fermented foods include cultured milk and yogurt, sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, natto, tempeh, and miso.
Research suggests that a flourishing network of gut bacteria can help your immune cells differentiate between normal, healthy cells and harmful invader organisms (Wu et Wu.,2012).
In a 3-month study in 126 children, those who drank just 2.4 ounces (70 mL) of fermented milk daily had about 20% fewer childhood infectious diseases, compared with a control group (Corsello et al., 2017)
If you don’t regularly eat fermented foods or enjoy eating them, probiotic supplements can be another option.
In a 28-day study in 152 people infected with rhinovirus (common flu), those who supplemented with probiotic Bifidobacterium animalis had a stronger immune response and lower levels of the virus in their nasal mucus than a control group (Turner et al., 2017)
Look for a probiotic supplement with a diverse combination of strains, as no one strain can do all the work! The most well-known and proven probiotics to look for are Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium.
About the Author
Katie Doyle is a part-time Holistic Nutrition Student at the Institute of Holistic Nutrition in Ottawa and works full-time at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. In addition to Katie’s passion for Nutrition she loves spending time outdoors and doing anything fitness or animal related!
- Prather, A., Janicki-Deverts, D., Hall, M., & Cohen, S. (2015). Behaviorally Assessed Sleep and Susceptibility to the Common Cold. Sleep, 38(9), 1353-1359. doi: 10.5665/sleep.4968
- Nagai, N., Ayaki, M., Yanagawa, T., Hattori, A., Negishi, K., & Mori, T. et al. (2019). Suppression of Blue Light at Night Ameliorates Metabolic Abnormalities by Controlling Circadian Rhythms. Investigative Opthalmology & Visual Science, 60(12), 3786. doi: 10.1167/iovs.19-27195
- Popkin, B., D'Anci, K., & Rosenberg, I. (2010). Water, hydration, and health. Nutrition Reviews, 68(8), 439-458. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2010.00304.x
- Dhabhar, F. (2014). Effects of stress on immune function: the good, the bad, and the beautiful. Immunologic Research, 58(2-3), 193-210. doi: 10.1007/s12026-014-8517-0
- Morey, J., Boggero, I., Scott, A., & Segerstrom, S. (2015). Current directions in stress and human immune function. Current Opinion In Psychology, 5, 13-17. doi: 10.1016/j.copsyc.2015.03.007
- Serafini, M., & Peluso, I. (2017). Functional Foods for Health: The Interrelated Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Role of Fruits, Vegetables, Herbs, Spices and Cocoa in Humans. Current Pharmaceutical Design, 22(44), 6701-6715. doi: 10.2174/1381612823666161123094235
- Holscher, H. (2017). Dietary fiber and prebiotics and the gastrointestinal microbiota. Gut Microbes, 8(2), 172-184. doi: 10.1080/19490976.2017.1290756
- Hemilä, H., & Chalker, E. (2013). Vitamin C for preventing and treating the common cold. Cochrane Database Of Systematic Reviews. doi: 10.1002/14651858.cd000980.pub4
- Ozen, M., & Dinleyici, E. (2015). The history of probiotics: the untold story. Beneficial Microbes, 6(2), 159-165. doi: 10.3920/bm2014.0103
- Wu, H., & Wu, E. (2012). The role of gut microbiota in immune homeostasis and autoimmunity. Gut Microbes, 3(1), 4-14. doi: 10.4161/gmic.19320
- Corsello, G., Carta, M., Marinello, R., Picca, M., De Marco, G., & Micillo, M. et al. (2017). Preventive Effect of Cow’s Milk Fermented with Lactobacillus paracasei CBA L74 on Common Infectious Diseases in Children: A Multicenter Randomized Controlled Trial. Nutrients, 9(7), 669. doi: 10.3390/nu9070669
- Turner, R., Woodfolk, J., Borish, L., Steinke, J., Patrie, J., & Muehling, L. et al. (2017). Effect of probiotic on innate inflammatory response and viral shedding in experimental rhinovirus infection – a randomised controlled trial. Beneficial Microbes, 8(2), 207-215. doi: 10.3920/bm2016.0160
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