With the onset of winter approaching, now is a good time to look at ways of boosting your immune system. We are all aware of the importance of a healthy diet and moderate exercise to keep us in check, however there are a few other ways of giving our immune system a helping hand…we’ve asked our Nutritonists to share their shocking ways to boost our immune system.

Hot and cold showers

Shona Wilkinson, Nutritonist at Superfooduk.com says “A simple way to change your existing routine is to change the temperature of the water to either hot or cold every two minutes. This works by increasing two types of white blood cells called Monocytes and Lymphocytes. The immune system is stimulated by your body trying to warm itself up from the cold water, while switching to hot water every now and then stimulates your body’s detoxification system. The fewer toxins we have in our body, the more your immune system is better able to deal with bacteria and viruses.”

Sex

Cassandra Barns, Nutritonist explains “There is a link between how much sex you have and how many sick days you take at work. Regular sex increases the number of IgA immune cells in your blood, keeping colds and flu in check.”

Physical touch

“A rub, a hug, and a passing touch all decrease the level of the stress hormone cortisol in your body. Cortisol decreases your immune response, so snuggle up to a loved one and enjoy the immune boosting properties of an embrace!” says Shona.

Socialising

Contrary to logical thinking about the spread of colds and flu, extensive research has proven time and time again that spending times with friends, family and community members is a great way to decrease your chance of catching a cold. After socialising, your immune system works better” says Wilkinson.

Music

Barns explains “Soothing yourself with music, whatever your tastes may be, activates the same feel good part of the brain as sex and food and increases the amount of Natural Killer immune cells in your blood. Better still, is making your own music. Musicians have even higher amounts of immune cells.”

Meditation and Yoga

“They work to increase immunity in two ways. Firstly it decreases the stress hormone cortisol, which has an immune suppressing affect, and secondly they have been shown to increase the electrical activity in the emotional part of your brain, which also commands your immune system what to do” explains Shona.

Relax

It’s nothing earth shattering – if you give your body a chance to ‘switch off’ and relieve the stresses of everyday life this will boost a suppressed immune system. Why? It seems that stress hampers the body’s ability to fight inflammation, by making immune cells less sensitive to the hormone, which ‘turns off’ inflammation.

Pet the dog

One study showed a significant increase in the immune cell IgA after petting a dog. If you don’t have a dog, you can borrow one from the local rescue centre, or try it out on your cat!

Get out in nature

People who spend time in parks and forests exhibit an increased function of the immune system. “There are certain chemicals that plants omit into the air called phytoncides, designed to protect plants from insects and from rotting. They also has a positive effect on human immune systems” says Shona.

Get your Zzz’s…

Dr Marilyn Glenville, the UK’s leading Nutritonist (www.marilynglenville.com) and author of Natural Alternatives to Sugar explains “As a society we are sleeping less; the time we sleep each night has reduced from 9 hours to 7.5 hours since the 1900s. Sleep is important for your health because it gives your body time to recharge its batteries and repair cells and tissue.  When you don’t get enough or good quality sleep you can feel irritable, with poor concentration, tired and more vulnerable to infections because your body does not have the strength to fight its own battles.

Inadequate sleep lowers our immune response. A recent study showed that missing even a few hours a night on a regular basis can decrease the number of ‘natural killer cells’, which are responsible for fighting off invaders such as bacteria and viruses. This will come as no surprise to those of us who succumb to colds and other illnesses when we are run down – normally after periods of inadequate sleep.”