When our immune system is in top form, you think it is quite normal to be healthy. But as soon as the R is in the month and the sniffles begin, the sore throat sets in, your head gets a bit woozy and you're tired all day... then you hope (and secretly expect) that our immune system will take care of it for you, so that you can get on with your life. Only when you already have complaints do most of us take vitamin C, an extra hour of sleep, or some extra rest in the weekend. But your immune system is an intricate network of cells, tissues and organs that work very closely together to protect our bodies on a daily basis. Not just on sick days, but on all days of the year.
So you can actually imagine that the health of your immune system is such a complex system that adding a supplement or some superfood to your breakfast is not enough. A healthy, balanced immune system also requires a balanced lifestyle. So take good preventive care of yourself!
Do you want to optimize your health? Here are a few tips to optimize your immune response, so you can face the challenges of next winter with a good resistance!
First some explanation about this complex immune system:
Biomarkers and their (immune) function:
White blood cells (WBC), such as lymphocytes, neutrophils, monocytes and basophils, are the primary infection fighters in the body. WBC levels that are too low or too high can be detrimental to your immune system, so it is critical to keep your levels as optimal as possible to keep your immune response healthy.
CRP (C-reactive protein), this is more of an indirect measure of your immune system. It is produced by the liver during physiological stress. High levels can therefore indicate chronic inflammation. Although other factors come into play, chronic inflammation can be associated with a weakened immune system.
However, the health of your immune system is not just limited to these biomarkers. To give you a more complete picture, we've collected some immune boosting tips for you. Together, these guidelines will help you get through this winter without too much discomfort!
What can you do to strengthen your immune system?
Many viruses that occur in the winter months involve our upper respiratory tract, say everything between your nostrils and your throat. Upper respiratory infections can mean more serious illnesses, such as laryngitis and infections of the sinuses, but they usually manifest as the common cold. The tips below are from studies that have focused primarily on preventing respiratory infections so if you incorporate these into your daily routine, those pesky viruses may pass you by!
1. At least 30 minutes of physical activity per day
Multiple studies* have shown that moderate exercise has a positive effect on health, and with better immunity you are less susceptible to viruses and bacteria. Another study found that there was a 43% decrease in respiratory infections in those who did aerobic exercise 5 days a week compared to those who did it 4 days a week. Aerobic exercise is exercise that engages the major muscle groups. These include running, swimming and cycling. versus those who did it one day less. Similarly, the University of Twente recommends at least 30 minutes a day of moderate to reasonable exercise for adults and this does not have to be done consecutively but can also be done in blocks of, for example, 3 x 10 minutes.
Something as simple as walking your dog, a bike ride to the supermarket, cleaning your house or walking to your colleague at the office instead of emailing that person counts as physical activity. It sounds simple, but 60% of the Dutch can't manage to do it every day. Set yourself a goal and keep that cold away!
2. Eat healthy foods that suit you.
Learn how to strengthen yourself from the inside out. There are many stories about healthy food, but generally speaking, if you don't have to read what's in a packet, it's a healthy basic ingredient. In addition, variation is important and the food should be tailored to you. Look out for allergies, food intolerances and your genes.
Eat healthy, (preferably personalized to you) It's best to already look from your DNA, so you know exactly what's good for you.
For example with DNA-Expert Nutrition.
Unfortunately, food intolerances are becoming increasingly common. These often start in childhood and gradually develop further. There are voices saying that this is because people used to eat more egg yolks, liver and shellfish. These substances have the properties to counteract food intolerances.
Find out which food ingredients cause inflammatory reactions in you, avoid these foods for a while, sometimes a year, and then slowly build back up.
It is also possible that you are truly allergic, as is the case with coeliac disease. In that case, it is wise to never eat gluten again.
You can check this with the allergy tests from the doctor orfood allergy FX5or the celiac disease test.
3. Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep every night
The more sleep, the better, right? Wrong: Both lack of sleep and too much sleep can be harmful to the immune system. In one study, those who reported sleeping less than five hours a night had a 70% increased risk of a respiratory infection, and those who slept more than nine hours a night had an increased risk of both respiratory infections as well as lung infections. So what's your sleep goal? Keep it midway between these two extremes and thus aim for 7-8 hours of sleep.
4. Swap allergy pills or medications for natural foods and supplements
Garlic, ginseng, and probiotics are all great natural immune boosters. Researchers examined the effectiveness of each supplement in fighting colds, flu, respiratory infections and other related illnesses, and the results were unanimous: when taken daily, they were associated with a reduced risk of infection, the duration of infection and the severity of symptoms.
Each offers its own unique immune-promoting property:
Garlic - contains allicin a substance with powerful medicinal properties and one of the most important active nutrients, is believed to have antiviral properties. Garlic is very low in calories and high in vitamin C, vitamin B6 and manganese. An additional benefit is that it can lower blood pressure and improve cholesterol. If you suffer from colds often, a garlic supplement might be the answer!
Ginseng - The main extract in ginseng can boost the number of immune cells in the body. It is known as an adaptogen, and it increases the body's healing ability. You can chew on the root or drink it as a tea, or you can opt for a supplement. Take it only in the morning because otherwise it will keep you awake at night.
Probiotics - are live microorganisms that strengthen the function of the intestinal wall and increase the number of defensive cells. Look for Lactobacillus and/or Bifidobacterium; they have been shown to boost the immune system better than other strains.
As always, consult your practitioner before introducing new supplements into your daily routine. And know that organic food contains more nutritious nutrients and organic supplements have better absorption than its chemical counterpart.
5. Take a glass of red wine with dinner
Too good to be true? Moderate alcohol consumption has shown a protective effect against the common cold and its symptoms; those who drank a glass of wine a day were at less risk of catching a cold than non-drinkers. More compared to heavy drinkers, they had better blood values (WBC and CRP.15 you know; those biomarkers). These benefits were most pronounced with red wine.
6. Maintain a healthy weight
Research has shown that both underweight and overweight people have an increased risk of infection. People who are underweight may struggle with a low nutrient intake, which prevents the immune system from getting the fuel it needs to fight off invaders. On the other hand; overweight or obese people are prone to low-grade inflammation, high WBC and CRP levels, and chronic activation of the immune system, which slowly (and sometimes unknowingly) leaves you with an increasingly weak immune system.
We get it, weight management is very difficult for many people. But in the long run, it only benefits your overall health and therefore your immune system!
7. Optimize your vitamin D
It was recently discovered that respiratory infections are associated with blood levels of vitamin D (so when vitamin D levels drop, the risk of infection increases). Here is a link if you would like to have it tested.
Especially in the winter and for the elderly, it is important to take vitamin D (at least 2000 IU). In addition to immune health, a good vitamin D level allows you to think better, promotes bone health, your energy and overall well-being.
8. Relax, reduce stress
It's simple: Higher psychological stress increases your chances of lower resistance and thus of getting colds and respiratory infections. Try our recommendations here to reduce stress. https://info.bloodtesting.nl/cortisol-en-kreatine-kinase-bij-stress/
Did you know that purely with brooding thoughts about the past or future, about your work, relationship or exam, you can trigger physical stress reactions;
- your heart rate goes up
- extra blood goes to your muscles
- your blood vessels are constricting in the skin.
- your breathing is speeding up
- extra oxygen goes to the brain
- your blood will clot sooner
- extra glucose and endorphins are released.
You understand that your immune system then has a lot to deal with and no time left to defeat all germs.
These are just a few tips and tricks to arm yourself against the misery of low resistance. Do you want to know how your biomarkers are doing or do you want to know other blood values?
Benefit now from the special winter promotion: general medical check-up with vitamin d