Immunity and Nutrition in a Nutshell!
Immunity and Nutrition in a Nutshell!
Questions on immunity are rising on the daily. How can I prepare my immune system; how can I boost my immune system?
What’s important to understand is that you can’t instantly improve an immune system. You CAN however, support your immune system and over time, like a muscle, it will get stronger. It does take consistency though. Essentially, how you care for your body day to day ultimately determines your health over time. Here are some key things to keep in mind:
- Veggies and fruits – get them in, these are your vitamins and minerals. Take a look at what you are currently taking in and see how you can add an additional serving each week and eventually each day. These also help with inflammation as well and are your protection for your immune system.
- Vitamin D = Sunshine! – whether the sun is out or not, get outside. Fresh air makes a huge difference and we are absorbing vitamin D, whether the sun is out or not. It just feels better when we have the sun on our face! Also, consider getting in the minimum amount of 2,000IU/day. You can get 2,000IU from a few cups of milk or milk alternative, as this is the easiest route, or you can supplement. This is the minimum amount needed to maintain any current level of vitamin D you may have. Its always a good idea to keep tabs on this number so get it checked out once you feel comfortable returning to your doctor. I usually advise my clients to have this checked twice a year as it will vary depending on a lot of factors. A spring reading and again early fall. This helps us know if we need to supplement more or less or if there are other things going on.
- Sugar and alcohol. Not saying to completely avoid it, but take an inventory of how much sneaks into your diet on a daily basis. Are these two things taking space where something more nutritious could go? I believe in making room for all foods to fit, it is up to us to have that balance around it. Making sure we are taking care of our bodies as well as having the flavors we desire as well.
- Hydration – get your water in! ½ your body weight in water in ounces. Water helps to move these vitamins and minerals and other nutrients to the tissue.
- Get enough sleep. Do your best for an average of 7-9 hours. And if you have a rough night sleep, like many are these days, allow time during the day for even a 15-20min power nap.
Everyone is a little different, but this not only strengthens your immune system, but also decreases cortisol, which is a stress hormone and a hormone that aids in inflammation in the body. When we don’t get enough sleep, cortisol stays heightened and you’ll notice you’ll want to grab caffeine, which only elevates cortisol more and allows it to stay elevated longer in the day. In addition, this hormone can also make you crave certain things. Everyone is different, sometimes its sugar or other forms of simple carbohydrates and sometimes its fat and sometimes it’s a combination of both. So if you find yourself craving, see where your stress level and caffeine intake are for the day.
- This is a tough one. Make you sure you get enough but not too much. Too much creates more cortisol in the body which only weakens immunity. And be mindful of the intensity of exercise when you haven’t had a lot of sleep the night before. Pushing yourself is not the answer when stress is already high. So be careful. Know when you need a light workout -such as just simple movement with lower heart rates – a nice walk, simple weight session, yoga etc. Vs, something higher intensity. Save those workouts for when you are operating on all cylinders. When we exercise too much under stress, we are more likely for injuries in general, and this activity at these times work against us and not for us.
- Take in enough calories. Cutting calories too low over time, also weakens immunes system and also deprives the body of these vital vitamins and minerals. Focus on a mix of foods each day – predominantly whole food as much as possible versus packaged. Only because whole food offers the most nutrition to support your body, your immune system, aids in better and higher quality sleep and decreases stress hormone.
There you have it! Immunity and nutrition in a nutshell! Go and be well friends!
Photo Credit: Markus Spiske – unsplash
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist
Nicole is recognized state-wide and nationally as a Registered Dietitian and is also a Certified dietitian through the state of Wisconsin. She is also a Board Certified Sports Dietitian and a Certified Personal Trainer and Physical Fitness Instructor.
Nicole’s areas of expertise include: Wellness and lifestyle coaching, weight management, behavior modification, eating disorders, vegetarian lifestyles, gluten-free living, sports nutrition, recipe and menu design and development.