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Young woman by open window | Protect your immune system

7 small steps to help your immune system

We have never talked about our health more than at the present. Whilst there is no medicine, supplement or therapy that can protect you from COVID-19, there are easy and sensible steps you can take to help make sure your immune system is as strong as possible.

At HRI Herbal Medicine, we’re firm believers in using the power of nature rather than pharmaceuticals to help boost the immune system wherever possible.

As we know from government advice, the only way to reduce the likelihood of succumbing to Coronavirus is to stay home, maintain social distancing, wash your hands thoroughly and cough or sneeze into quickly disposed of tissues.

But if you want to boost your immune system and be as resistant as possible to everyday illnesses, here is a roundup of our favourite small steps you can take to help stay well:

1. Get some sun to boost your immune system

Striking the balance between staying safe at home and getting a shot of immune-boosting vitamin D by getting the sun on your skin is tricky, especially if you don’t have much outside space near your home. Known as the ‘sunshine vitamin’, vitamin D is essential for bone health and density and is key in helping to protect the immune system. 

However, unless you are having to keep yourself in full isolation, it is important to get out of doors and get the sun on your skin. If you usually wear a high SPF foundation, you may want to consider going bare-faced for your hour outside, as long as the sun isn’t too strong and you don’t have any skin conditions.

If you can’t get outside, try and sit by an open window if it’s safe for you to do so. The window does need to be fully open to give you the benefit of the sun’s rays as glass screens out the UVB rays that help generate vitamin D.

2. Make the most of your exercise time

Physical activity is a great stress reliever. Whether your favourite form of exercise is a 10k run, a power-walk or just a stroll around the block with the dog, it will almost always help you feel better, both mentally and physically. 

Being as active as you can helps to clear your thoughts and cheers you up by releasing endorphins – the ‘feel-good hormone’. When you exercise outdoors, you also get the benefits of fresh air with additional oxygen to feed your brain and help you deal with problems more effectively.

3. Watch what you eat

It’s very tempting to tuck into snacks if you’re working from home or are having to spend a lot of time indoors with time on your hands. A high-salt diet will weaken the immune system and leave the body vulnerable to certain types of infection, according to immunologists from the University of Bonn.

The team investigated the effect a diet high in salt had on the immune system, first in mice and then in humans. They found that mice on a high-salt diet suffered from more severe bacterial infections, while the humans displayed pronounced immune deficiencies.

4. Stay positive to help immunity

It’s very hard to feel optimistic when there is so much going on, but feeling under stress for long periods means you have too much adrenaline coursing around your body. This can have a long-term negative effect on your health and ability to fight disease. As well as feeling unpleasant, chronic stress is known to worsen existing health problems like heart or skin conditions. 

If you are feeling anxious and overwhelmed, it is well worth trying relaxation techniques such as mindfulness or breathing exercises to help reduce your body’s natural ‘fight or flight’ stress response.

5. Laugh

The old adage that ‘laughter is the best medicine’ may not apply to fighting a serious disease, but believe it or not, a good laugh actually triggers physical and emotional changes in the body that help boost the immune system. 

When we laugh, we reduce the level of stress hormones in our bodies and ramp up the production of immune cells and infection-fighting antibodies, thus improving our resistance to disease.

Look at any kids you know: they probably laugh dozens of times a day, but we adults often forget about laughter. 

Even in these challenging times, you can talk to family, friends and neighbours, or just laugh at some of the funnier things on social media: I recommend pretty much any videos containing baby elephants if you want to forget about feeling glum and have a good giggle!

6. Cut back on the booze

Many of us try to ‘self-medicate’ to cope with stress through activities such as drinking alcohol, comfort eating or smoking, which of course are all detrimental to our health and wellbeing.

It’s so tempting to reach for the wine or gin bottle at the end of a tiring and stressful day, but according to Dr Aragona Giuseppe, GP and medical advisor at Prescription Doctor writing in the Metro, consuming excessive amounts of alcohol could cause damage to immune cells in the lungs and upper respiratory system, making you more susceptible to viruses.  

Dr Guiseppe explains, ‘Alcohol can also affect the gut barrier allowing more bacteria to pass into the blood, this, in turn, causes a depletion of the three most important kinds of cells in your immune system, Macrophages, T and C cells.’ 

Macrophages, T and C cells all work to protect your body by helping to kill off anything toxic that attacks your body, including viruses.

At this challenging time, it is worth making a real effort to curb your alcohol intake. Stick to 14 units a week maximum, and make sure you consume these over three or four days, with a few consecutive ‘dry’ days in succession to give your liver a good rest and a chance to recharge so it can do its job of fighting infection. 

7. Harness the power of Echinacea

Echinacea tablets are a popular choice for people who want to protect themselves from everyday cold or flu viruses. Echinacea has been used for centuries to help support the immune system and your body’s natural ability to fight germs. 

Many people find that by taking it at the first sign of a sniffle, you can reduce the severity of cold and flu symptoms. If you take it once you already have a cold or flu, it is designed to help your body fight the virus so that you can shake it off more quickly.

Echinacea contains four types of compounds which are traditionally used for their anti-viral and antiseptic properties: alkamides, glycoproteins, polysaccharides and caffeic acid derivatives.

HRI Cold & Flu Echinacea tablets contain 56mg of extract from the root of Echinacea purpurea plant which is equivalent to 338-450mg of Echinacea per tablet. We recommend taking 1-2 tablets per day to help boost your immune system.

HRI Cold and Flu, like all HRI herbal medicines, carries the THR (Traditional Herbal Registration) symbol to guarantee the highest standards of quality and safety in Europe, as approved by the government regulator, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency.

Even if you use every one of these immune-boosting tips, it’s vital to follow government advice to keep you and your family safe and protect the NHS. https://www.gov.uk/coronavirus

For more tips, ideas and advice on looking after your health naturally, why not join our HRI Facebook Community

Photo by Emiliano Vittoriosi on Unsplash

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