What do we mean by this? We have three core pillars of eating well…
First of all, eat more plants!
A diet rich in a diverse array of whole plant foods including fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds will provide our bodies with the nutrients and antioxidants that serve as the building blocks for thriving immune function. Generally, a great rule of thumb is to eat the rainbow, because the colors of our plant foods are visual cues for specific vitamins and minerals. By eating foods along the full spectrum of colors, we can supply our bodies with a diverse and complete set of nutrients. Once we are adequately providing your body with a healthy breadth of nutrients, we can focus on elevating a couple key dietary components shown to boost immunity.
Specifically, the antioxidants found in plant-based foods are essential for a vibrant immune response. The most famous of the powerful antioxidants boasting immune boosting properties is vitamin C, which our bodies can neither store nor produce, so we have to make sure we are supplying them with sufficient levels through our diets. While citrus fruits are the poster children of vitamin C, they are neither the only nor even most concentrated sources – bell peppers, acerola cherries, mustard spinach, broccoli, and kale are all excellent sources of the vitamin.
An important point we want to emphasize, however, is that all antioxidants are our immune system’s little helpers, with varying antioxidants working to support different cell and bodily functions. By keeping chronic or excess inflammation at bay and fighting disease-causing free radicals, antioxidants keep our bodies prepared to utilize inflammation properly as a defense mechanism when we truly need it. When inflammation exists within our bodies without a disease to fight or an injury to heal, our immune systems can overreact and cause damage to otherwise healthy organs, tissues, or cells, leaving us susceptible to more serious threats, like viruses and diseases. Our favorite way to amplify our antioxidant intake is, of course, with our daily dose of Cannaves Oliva.
Second, build a flourishing gut microbiome!
The fiber we ingest from our plant-based foods serves as a prebiotic, nourishing our microbiomes. Just as importantly, however, we must consume probiotics to keep our digestive tracts populated with beneficial bacteria. Fermented foods are excellent sources of probiotics – including yogurts, sauerkraut, and kimchi. A healthy and diverse set of good bacteria within our gut microbiomes ensures our bodies can properly digest the wide variety of nutrients we supply them from our plant-rich diets. Furthermore, the gut microbiome is a key component of our immune system, acting as a front line by preventing harmful pathogens from entering via our digestive tracts. The stronger our gut microbiome, the strong this line of defense. Research shows that up to 70% of our bodies’ immune cells reside within the gut. It comes as no surprise, then, that studies have shown that people who regularly intake probiotic fermented foods or supplements have fewer infectious diseases and stronger immune response to viruses.
Our bodies require fluids and electrolytes to function optimally. Proper hydration is essential for digestion, nutrient absorption, nutrient delivery, joint lubrication, body temperature regulation, organ function, mood, and cognition. Our immune system relies on nutrients – the ones we nourish our bodies with through our plant rich diets – floating through our bloodstream, which is primarily composed of water. So, if we are not adequately hydrated, our bodies are unable to transport these nutrients to each organ.
Just as significantly, hydration is also essential for detoxification pathways. It increases our lymphatic drainage, helping clear out any foreign invaders. Aim to drink 3-4 liters of water per day. Additionally, one of the most effective ways of hydrating our bodies is through food, in which water molecules are surrounded by other macro- and micronutrients that facilitate water absorption and retention. Cucumbers, zucchini, celery, tomatoes, watermelon, and broccoli are some of the most hydrating foods.
We know you’ve heard this a million times, but it bears repeating…
Get enough sleep! Every single night!
Sleep and immunity are closely tied. If you are a non-fiction, science, or health nerd like us, we highly recommend reading Matthew Walker’s Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams for an in-depth understanding of just how critical sleep is for, well, just about every aspect of bodily function. But, for the sake of this post, we will stick to immunity benefits. Studies show that adults who sleep less than 6 hours a night are more likely to catch a cold than those who sleep at least 6 hours a night.
Why exactly is that? When we don’t get enough sleep and/or disrupt our circadian rhythm, our bodies produce fewer cytokines, a type of protein that creates an immune response by targeting infection and inflammation. We both produce and release cytokines during sleep, so a lack thereof thwarts our bodies’ natural defense mechanisms. Chronic sleep loss can even cause flu vaccines to be less effective, because our bodies’ ability to respond is reduced.
Make your sleep as much a priority as your diet and exercise routines. Aim to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night in order to keep your immune system in full force. Here are a couple life hacks to help keep your sleep schedule on track … First, limit screen time for an hour before bed, because the blue light emitted from electronic device screens disrupts our circadian rhythm. Second, support your body with natural, plant-based products that promote better and deeper sleep, like sleep tea (our favorites include chamomile, lavender, and valerian root) or our hemp-infused extra virgin olive oil.
Move Your Body
Moving our bodies is something we love to do on a daily basis to feel like our best selves. But it is also…
A daily ritual that can help boost our immune systems
Research has found that acute exercise – workouts of moderate to vigorous intensity such as walking, biking, or running for under an hour – can improve immune response, reduce illness risk, and lower inflammation.
How exactly does exercise boost immunity? When we workout, we increase blood and lymphatic flow as our muscles contract, thus increasing the circulation of immune cells. They can travel through our body at a faster rate and in higher numbers, making them more likely to find pathogens, like viruses, and wipe them out. Studies have shown that after 45 minutes of power walking, the number of immune cells floating through our bodies increases for up to 3 hours. While that immediate response from aerobic activities fades thereafter, if we make moving our bodies a daily practice, the benefits accrue. In fact, research shows that if we exercise at least five days per week, we can lower the number of upper respiratory tract infections, like colds, by over 40%.
Another significant way exercise benefits our levels of immunity, and this is a point we talk about a lot with due cause, is by decreasing the level of inflammation in our bodies. Research has linked lower levels of inflammatory markers with individuals who exercise more often. As we have mentioned above, our immune system cannot function optimally if our bodies exhibit chronic inflammation. If we haven’t hammered this point home enough yet, consider the fact that patients with pre-existing chronic diseases linked to inflammation, namely obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, have the worst outcomes from COVID-19.
But don’t overdo it!
Longer, more intense activities – like running over 13 miles or biking intensely for an hour and a half – can cause stress on our bodies that might actually lower immune function. The dysfunction induced by this stressful state could last from a few hours to a few days. With that in mind, maybe consider leaving the excessive and intense workouts for another time, and just focusing on maintaining and/or very gradually increasing your level of physique during the pandemic. However, if you, like us, like the challenge of an intense workout like HIIT training a couple times a week, then make sure you are prioritizing your recovery rituals. The amount of rest our bodies require to recover from exercise-induced stress increases along with the intensity of our exercise. So, prioritize your healing practices – stretch, do some recovery yoga, get the right amount of sleep, and have your daily dose of Cannaves Oliva.
This one is easier said than done, but don’t stress! Undoubtedly, we are living through extraordinarily stressful times, with a seemingly endless global pandemic and an economic recession tearing lives apart. But that is exactly why this is an especially crucial time in our lives to…
Perfect our mindfulness practices
When we experience psychological stress, our bodies produce higher levels of a stress hormone, cortisol. Brief spikes in cortisol can elevate immune levels by limiting inflammation. However, when our bodies get accustomed to constantly having elevated cortisol levels, we actually become susceptible to excess inflammation. As we have mentioned several times now in this post, chronic inflammation will suppress our immune systems.
On top of that, stress lowers our bodies’ lymphocyte levels – these are the white blood cells that target and fight off infections. If we have less lymphocytes circulating through our bloodstreams, we are at increased risk for harmful pathogens like viruses and colds.
So, finding daily practices to relieve psychological stress and anxiety is essential for having a thriving immune system. If you need help thinking of some stress-releasing rituals, check out prior blog post, 5 Tips for Staying Serene! And when you need an extra hand reducing stress and anxiety, reach for a dose of calm from our hemp-infused extra virgin olive oil.