4 Ways to Naturally Boost Immunity
by Morgan Simon, WB Resident
Fostering a healthy immune system is, understandably, top of mind for everyone right now. In addition to a global pandemic, we’re also in the middle of winter which naturally sees a spike in seasonal illnesses like cold and flu. (1) Thankfully, there are many things we can do to naturally boost immunity – several of which can be done without spending a penny or leaving your home!
It’s well known just how important Vitamin D is for health, but the protective benefits for illness make it even more important in our current environment. A 2016 meta-analysis found that optimal Vitamin D levels reduces the risk of acute respiratory tract infection, and more recent studies have found that vitamin D deficiency is far more prevalent in patients with severe cases of COVID–19 requiring ICU admission. (2, 3)
One easy, completely free way to get your fill of Vitamin D is to simply head outside and soak up some sun! When skin is exposed to sunlight, it uses our body’s cholesterol to produce the ever-important Vitamin D. It is best absorbed when larger areas of skin are exposed; namely the stomach, back, and thighs. Additionally, timing matters – around noon tends to be the most effective time for absorption, though Apps like D Minder can give optimal timing for Vitamin D based on location. (4)
And of course, sunburn should always be avoided. Individuals with lighter skin will need less time in the sun to produce adequate Vitamin D, while those with darker skin will require more sun. (5, 6, 7) If you suspect you may be low in Vitamin D, work with your health care provider to test serum levels to determine if supplementation is necessary.
Ample Water Intake
What does water have to do with immunity? Well, quite a lot as it turns out! Water carries oxygen to cells, transports nutrients, regulates body temperature, and eliminates toxins from the body. When water content in the body drops by even 2%, it can cause health problems. (8) Specifically, not being able to optimally eliminate toxins and transport nutrients can make the body more susceptible to infections – something we are all hoping to avoid. (9)
While water requirements vary largely person-to-person, a good starting point is to divide your weight by 2 and drink that amount of ounces as a daily minimum. Additional water should be added to account for diuretic beverages (coffee, alcohol, juice, soda, etc.) as well as activity level and external temperature.
Tip: Don’t forget about electrolytes! Optimal hydration can’t be achieved without proper electrolyte balance. I love adding a pinch of Himalayan pink salt and a squeeze of lemon to my water as a natural electrolyte solution.
A healthy movement routine is vital for a well functioning immune system. Studies have shown that exercise helps diversify bacteria in our gut, flushes bacteria from airways, and supports healthy regulation of stress hormones which may correlate to increased immunity (10). A healthy movement routine looks different for everyone, but one great way to incorporate regular physical activity is to simply walk, jog, or bike our beautiful neighborhood trails!
Eliminate Refined Sugars
I saved this one for last, though it is arguably one of the most important! To keep it short and simple: refined sugars essentially suppress the immune system. Sugar reduces how cells perform, specifically white blood cells which play a key role in fighting infection. One study showed a decrease in white blood cell effectiveness of up to 50% after consuming sugar, lasting up to 5 hours! (11)
One easy way to help mitigate the amount of sugar you consume is to do a few simple swaps in the kitchen! Opt for marinara sauce, salad dressings, and BBQ sauces that don’t contain added sugar (which is often sneakily added to these products!). For baking and cooking, swap out refined white sugar for coconut sugar, honey or maple syrup. (Don’t, however, opt for artificial sweeteners, which have been shown to be even more harmful than sugar).
Overwhelmed by all of the options? My suggestion: pick one immunity booster to work on! Even small changes can have a profound health impact when done regularly. Know that your neighborhood nutritionist is cheering you on this year!
Note: Everything stated above is for educational purposes only and not intended as medical advice. Consult your healthcare provider before beginning any new supplement/ health protocol.
About the Author: Morgan Simon is a Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner (FNTP). She works with individuals and families to help them address imbalances within the body, adopt a nutrient-dense lifestyle, and reduce environmental toxins. A 7-year Wells Branch resident, you can often find her on the WB trails with her two kids or checking out books from the WBCL. You can find her on her website at www.wellthymed.com or on Instagram @wellthymed.
1 – https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season.htm
2 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6523821/
3 – https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-77093-z
4 – https://www.bmj.com/content/356/bmj.i6583
5 – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21310306/
https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007165.htm (exercise and immunity)
6 – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20072137/
7 – https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780124158535000133
8 – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/9694412/
9 – https://ssihi.uci.edu/tip/hydration-for-immune-system/
10 – https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007165.htm
11 – https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article-abstract/26/11/1180/4732762