A healthy immune system is one of the best forms of defence when it comes to colds, flus and viruses. Often in our crazy and busy lives, we let ourselves fall off the wagon a bit and put ourselves last. It’s important to remember that you are in charge and the decisions and actions you take will ultimately impact your immune function and hence your susceptibility to any bugs flying around in the world. So, I wanted to share the basics of what you can implement to not only support your immunity, but also these tips help for everyday health and wellbeing!
#1 Calm That Racing Mind and Those Buzzing Nerves
Being stressed is definitely not the bee’s knees. Stress has so many flow-on effects on our body so not only does it make you feel like crap, it also has a negative impact on your immune function. It has been shown through studies that stress can have an immunosuppressive (meaning lower or suppress) effect on the immune system. I’m not talking about stress that involves being scared by a cat and running away (that is beneficial and prepares the immune system for danger), I’m talking about longer term stress or stress that doesn’t go away and hangs around all day and all night. Chronic stress has been shown to cause dysregulation of the immune system’s function and is considered to be a contributing cause to many diseases.
So to reduce our stress, I challenge you to think of something you enjoy (drawing, writing, painting, listening to music or having a relaxing bath are examples), and set aside some time in your day to do one of these things, if only just for 10 minutes. Other great ways to calm your nerves involve doing yoga, pilates, meditation or breathing exercises. Still stuck for ideas? Send me a message and I’m sure we can find something!
#2 Catch Plenty of Zzz’s
Yes, I’m talking about sleep. I remember rebelling against my bed time as a kid and wishing I could stay up later as for some unknown reason, I thought I would be cooler if I had a later bed time. It is in fact quite the opposite. You + less sleep = fatigue + grumpiness + not looking quite as fresh as you had hoped. Further bad news, it can also affect your immune system! Your body is quite busy when you are asleep and regulating your immune system is just one of the things it does. This takes place through bidirectional communication of your central nervous system, autonomic nervous system and immune system through various neurotransmitters, cytokines and hormones. The caveat is that these immune functions display rhythms in synchronicity with your regular 24hr sleep/wake cycle. If these processes aren’t able to happen because you’re going to bed at random times each night and not waking at the same time in the morning, it could invoke a persistent production of pro-inflammatory cytokines which means chronic low-grade inflammation and could cause immunodeficiency. I won’t get into the nitty gritty of it all (if you’re desperate to, have a look at the study below), but having a regular sleep/wake pattern is key to let your immune system and brain do their thing while you sleep.
Find some time to work out when is the optimal time for you to go to sleep and wake up and see how you go sticking to it. It is recommended that healthy individual get 7-9 hours of sleep per night, as less than 7 on a recurrent basis can impact immune and brain function and can increase the risk of a number of chronic diseases including obesity, diabetes, hypertension and depression to name a few.
Stay tuned for part 2!
Besedovsky, L., Lange, T., & Born, J. (2012). Sleep and immune function. Pflugers Archiv European Journal of Physiology, 463(1), 121–137. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00424-011-1044-0
Watson, N. F., Badr, M. S., Belenky, G., Bliwise, D. L., Buxton, O. M., Buysse, D., … Heald, J. L. (2015). Recommended Amount of Sleep for a Healthy Adult: A Joint Consensus Statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society. Sleep, 38(6). https://doi.org/10.5665/sleep.4716
Dhabhar, F. S. (2009). Enhancing versus suppressive effects of stress on immune function: Implications for immunoprotection and immunopathology. NeuroImmunomodulation, 16(5), 300–317. https://doi.org/10.1159/000216188
Whitney, E. N. (2013). Understanding nutrition: Australia and New Zealand (2nd ed.). South Melbourne: Cengage Learning Australia Pty Limited.