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During winter, it feels like you’re constantly fighting off a sniffle or sore throat, eating oranges by the kilo and wearing a thick, carpet like coat in an attempt to keep the germs at bay.

When the common cold manages to take hold, with all it’s phlegmy power, you may site your “weak immune system” as the cause of your downfall. Well, according to immunologist and allergist Dr Moday, it turns out that all your immune system needs is a little schooling to do it’s job properly. This job being to protect your body from harmful viruses, pathogenic bacteria, and parasites, while remaining passive toward nontoxic elements like pollen and foods. The immune system also needs to refrain from attacking your own body, which is the problem in the case of autoimmune disease.

In essence, a healthy body needs a healthy immune system that does it’s job properly. The good news? By embracing natural immune boosters and avoiding bad habits, stressors and toxins in favour of healthy, immune-boosting behaviours, you can actively improve your immune system.

The best place to start this immune system reboot process? The gut (obviously).

80 percent of your immune cells resides in the gut, which means that any chronic allergies, frequent infections, or autoimmune problems you have, are likely caused by unhealthy microboime and a damaged digestive tract. With a healthy gut, are far less likely to get sick, have allergies, or develop autoimmune disease.

Here’s how to start boosting your immune system:

1. Are you taking a probiotic yet?

In addition to adding fermented foods like sauerkraut, naturally fermented pickles, yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, kimchi, tempeh, miso, and kombucha to your daily diet, a probiotic is essential to the health of your immune system. This is because they boost the population of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, the two most important families of gut bacteria which positively affect your immune system. Boost your immune system with the Releaf range of probiotics, which are 12-strain, (far stronger than the conventional 9-strain) and completely natural.

2. Don’t do drugs

Just one week of antibiotics requires three to six months for your microbiome to recover from, so avoid antibiotics if you aren’t sure about whether you have a bacterial infection or not. Most upper-respiratory infections are viral and won’t get better any faster with antibiotics. In addition, make sure that if you eat meat, it’s organic so that you don’t accidentally ingest antibiotic residues from chemically-treated animals. Also avoid drugs that lower stomach acid, as you need healthy stomach acid to kill parasites, viruses, and bacteria. Try also to limit your use of painkillers like ibuprofen and other NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories) that damage the gut and weaken our immune health.

3. Take zinc, vitamin D and vitamin C

There are many vitamins and minerals that boost your immune system, but these three in particular have proven to pack an immune punch. If you suffer from frequent sickness, chronic infections or fatigue, take them regularly:

Zinc: 15 to 30 mg a day. Acting as an antioxidant, zinc affects multiple aspects of the immune system and is a common deficiency globally.

Vitamin D: 2,000 IU daily. As we discussed before, it can be difficult to get enough vitamin D through food and sunlight alone, so a supplement such as xxx can be beneficial to modulate your immune system. Vitamin D is also vital for the treatment and prevention of autoimmune diseases.

Vitamin C: 1,500 mg daily. As a powerhouse vitamin for immunity, a vitamin C deficiency is associated with an increased frequency and duration of colds, along with immune system defects. It’s also an important free-radical scavenger that significantly protects your body from infectious disease.

4. Try colostrum

As a breastfed baby, you get protective antibodies from your mother. These antibodies help us through the first years of life while our own immune system is learning the ropes. This is why breastfed babies generally grow up to be healthier with fewer allergies. Colostrum is the “first milk” from nursing mammals, and is a rich source of these protective antibodies, as well as anti-inflammatory substances like lactoferrin. Even as an adult, you can use colostrum to help strengthen your immune system and fend off inflammation. You can find colostrum in the form of powder from grass-fed cows, goats, and other mammals, which can be added to smoothies, water, and juice.

5. Brew some broth

Yup, we’re talking about broth again. Used for generations, bone broth has an array of benefits for your immune system. The natural gelatin, collagen, and amino acids look after the gut, improve wound healing, and help support the health of individual immune cells such as lymphocytes. That’s why homemade chicken soup is the perfect remedy for a cold.

6. Fuel up with fungi

Mushrooms contain some of the most powerful immune-boosting, antiviral, and anti-cancer substances.

Reishi: These mushrooms have great antiviral and anti-cancer powers.  Although not edible, you can take them in the form of dried capsules, tea, or tincture.

Shiitake: Found in the most generic of supermarkets, this mushroom contains beta glucans, a substance which activates your immune system and strengthens your white blood cells.

Maitake: This tasty mushroom boosts your immune cells’s bacteria engulfing ability.

7. Catch some rays

We’ve spoken before about the power of the sun, which positively affects immune cells and is the best natural source of vitamin D. Deficiencies in vitamin D are linked to frequent infections and autoimmune disease.

8. Sweat it out in a sauna

If you need more reasons to step into a steaming sauna this winter, here they are: studies have shown that regular infrared sauna use can improve the health of protective white blood cells, and make it harder for bacteria and viruses to thrive by increasing your body temperature. They may also decrease the occurrence of the common cold and remove toxins through the sweat they induce.

9. Fight infection with natural antimicrobials

Superfoods are always one of the best natural medicines. Delicious and nutritious, these foods constantly improve and boost your immune system.

Here are a few to add to your plate:

Raw garlic: This potent bulb has strong antimicrobial and antiviral properties and a strong sulfur compound known as allicin which treats serious GI infections like SIBO (small-intestinal bacterial overgrowth), and kills parasites and yeast infections. Try eating one raw garlic clove daily at the first sign of an infection, or use concentrated allicin extract.

Oregano oil: Used for years for it’s antimicrobial, antiviral, and antifungal properties, this oil can also treat yeast infections and antibiotic-resistant staph infections of the skin (MRSA).

Manuka honey: There is quite a bit of research indicating that honey is a natural immune booster, anti-inflammatory agent, and antimicrobial agent. In particular, mManuka honey can kill bacteria topically, and when ingested, improve the performance of antibiotics. It’s even a registered wound-care country in New Zealand and Australia, where it originates from.

10. Work it out

Besides the fact that it assists with weight management, floods your body with mood-boosting endorphins and improves your cardiovascular health, exercise can also improve your  antibody response to infections. So don’t stop moving this winter. But also, don’t overdo it, as overtraining without recovery has been associated with increased infections and injury.

11. Rest up

Chronic lack of sleep and disruption of the sleep-wake cycle cause an activation of the inflammatory immune response. Sleep deprivation decreases the activity of your T-cells (a crucial immune cell) and weakens your immune response to vaccines. Studies of identical twins show that the sleep-deprived ones had increased inflammation markers and worse immune markers. Try to get between seven to eight hours of sleep on a regular basis and avoid all-nighters where possible.

12. Don’t stress it

Because stress releases the cortisol hormone, it can suppress your immune response. Cortisol interferes with the ability of  T-cells, specific white blood cells, causing them to proliferate. The hormone can also lower an important In addition, Cortisol also lower secretory IgA, an important antibody which lines the respiratory tract and gut, and is our first line of defense against invading pathogens.

If you can make taking care your immune system a habit, not only will you be able to fight off cold and flu, you’ll also age more gracefully, look better, and prevent the risk of serious disease like cancer.

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