Flu season is here. Are you ready?
Even as health officials promote the flu vaccine, they know there’s a small chance it will help. We’re not saying you shouldn’t get it – you should always work with your doctor or health care provider to decide what’s best for you. What we are saying is protecting yourself against the flu involves more than rolling up your sleeve.
The good news is that boosting your immune system against the flu is just as simple and can be a whole lot more enjoyable! Eating a diet full of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, healthy fats and fiber is both tasty and a great way to get the vitamins and minerals like zinc and magnesium that you need to keep your immune system strong.
Many people turn to blue-green algae supplements like Algae Infused during flu season for the big nutrient boost of vitamins, minerals and amino acids they supply.
Diet isn’t the only way to do it though. Here are 6 simple ways to boost your immune system naturally and beat the flu this season.
Get Enough Sleep
Work. Family. Your smartphone![i] These and more can steal precious hours of sleep every night leaving your immune system weakened. Dr. John Park of the Mayo Clinic noted in a WebMD article:
“We know that our immune response is suppressed when we are sleep deprived…”[ii]
He’s not basing his comment on what mothers have known for ages though. Research has shown getting enough sleep is essential for a strong immune system. It’s especially important for immune cells like the T-cells which are necessary to fight and protect you against flu. Lack of sleep also increases your body’s inflammatory response which increases your risk of getting sick.[iii]
So, how much sleep do you need?
Experts agree adults should get 7-8 hours of sleep. Children need at least 9-12 hours, with younger children needing more including naps as needed.
If you’re in good health, exercise is a great way to stay in shape and boost your immune response. Researchers have studied the benefits of exercise on immune response for decades and continue to come to the same conclusion – exercise keeps your immune system active and strong.[iv]
Recently, researchers at the University of California – San Diego noted that it doesn’t take a lot of exercise either. Their study found incredible benefits for your immune system – as well as your heart and nervous system! – with only 20 minutes of moderate exercise every day.[v] That’s the equivalent of a brisk walk, making exercise very do-able for anyone of any age!
Get Plenty of Vitamin D
When you start feeling sick, you might turn to vitamin C. If you’d like to skip the whole getting sick thing, then make sure you get plenty of vitamin D every day.
Studies show vitamin D is vital to your immune cells. Without it, they won’t respond to viruses like flu. Here’s how it works…
You have immune cells constantly in your blood and throughout your body on the look-out for viruses, bacteria, and other pathogens. When they encounter one, a receptor (think of it like an antenna) gets active and starts looking for a vitamin D molecule. If it finds one, the immune cell gets active and attacks the invader. However, if there’s no vitamin D around, the immune cell does nothing, and the virus goes about its business making you sick![vi]
Fortunately, getting vitamin D is easy. Spending 20-30 minutes in the sun produces about 10,000 IUs of vitamin D. Of course, for those who live in northern climates, this can be a challenge during flu season. The answer then is to find a good vitamin D3 supplement and take it daily.
Try Immune-Boosting Herbs
Herbal medicine has been practiced for thousands of years and in that time has identified many herbs that provide immune-boosting effects. Some of the most popular include:
- Astragalus: An herb known as an adaptogen which has been shown to boost T-cell response.[vii]
- Reishi mushroom: This mushroom popular in Traditional Chinese Medicine contains beta-glucans, a polysaccharide which increases immune cell production for a heightened immune response.[viii]
- Echinacea: This herb has been popular for years and has been shown to help stimulate and regulate many different elements of the immune system.[ix]
You can find these three herbs in supplements and often as teas. Frankly, there are many herbs known for great immune-boosting properties via their antioxidant power and other plant compounds. You may find many herbal teas contain them.
When working with herbs, however, always make sure to get them from a trusted source to ensure the best quality and limit your exposure to heavy metals and other potential contaminants.
Beneficial bacteria, we commonly just call them probiotics, play a big role in your immune response. Nearly 80% of your immune response takes place in your digestive tract. This makes it essential to maintain stable levels of these beneficial bacteria in your gut. When you do, they keep “bad” bacteria like E. coli and others under control and prevent them from disrupting your immune response.
Taking a daily probiotic supplement like Flora Infused is one (easy) way to maintain good levels of essential beneficial probiotics. Eating natto, sauerkraut, kefir and miso are other good dietary approaches to maintain healthy probiotic levels.
Take Metabolic (aka Systemic) Enzymes
Metabolic enzymes also called systemic enzymes, play an important part in the immune system. With all the talk about immune health, the reality is immune cells rely on enzymes to attack and break down bacteria and viruses like the flu.
Specifically, immune cells use the metabolic or systemic enzymes known as proteases. They get their name “protease” for the way they break down protein, which is essential for immune response. Flu viruses – bacteria and fungi too – are protected by a protein shell. Immune cells use these protein-busting enzymes to break down these shells and kill the virus.
Supplementing with metabolic enzymes like Metabolic Infused during flu season gives your body, especially your immune cells, the tools it needs to attack a flu virus early. And, unlike a flu vaccine which only works on a select number of flu viruses, the presence of a variety of protease enzymes gives your immune cells quick access to the enzymes they need – when they need them.
[iii] Besedovsky L, Lange T, Born J. Sleep and immune function. Pflugers Arch. 2011;463(1):121-37.
[iv] Pdersen, Bente Klarlund and Hoffman-Goetz, Laurie. Exercise and the Immune System: Regulation, Integration and Adaptation. Physiological Reviews. Vol. 80, No. 3. July 2000.
[vi] Aranow C. Vitamin D and the Immune System. Journal of investigative medicine : the official publication of the American Federation for Clinical Research. 2011;59(6):881-886. doi:10.231/JIM.0b013e31821b8755.
[vii] Chen SM1, et al. Astragalus membranaceus modulates Th1/2 immune balance and activates PPARγ in a murine asthma model. Biochem Cell Biol. 2014 Oct;92(5):397-405. doi: 10.1139/bcb-2014-0008. Epub 2014 Sep 2
[viii] Akramiene D1, et al. Effects of beta-glucans on the immune system. Medicina (Kaunas). 2007;43(8):597-606. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17895634
[ix] Zhai Z, Liu Y, Wu L, et al. Enhancement of innate and adaptive immune functions by multiple Echinacea species. J Med Food. 2007;10(3):423-34.