Our immune system is complex and highly responsive to everything around us, playing a crucial role in fending off viruses and bacteria. And while genetics play a part, research shows that many factors affect its optimal function, including many of our own lifestyle choices(1).
With menopause known to reduce our immunity, boosting our immune system has rarely felt so urgent, or important. We know many of you may be feeling uncertain and helpless during this time, so we’ve reached out to Registered Nutritionist, Shona Wilkinson, who shares her expert advice on the things we can all do to take back control, and give our immune systems the best chance at doing its job.
1. Try to relax
We know it’s easier said than done, but stress and anxiety can really affect our immune system so try to relax as much as possible. Many people find meditation or yoga helpful, or just deep breathing and mindfulness. For others, reading or even listening to music can help reduce stress and anxiety. Find out what works for you, and make sure it’s something you enjoy!
2. Exercise regularly
Regular exercise is one of the pillars of healthy living. It can promote general good health and therefore contribute towards a healthy immune system. Please don’t feel that this involves heavy cardiovascular routines, even Pilates, going for a walk or light weight training indoors can be very beneficial.
3. Improve your sleeping habits
New research has shown the importance of sleep and the link with our immune system (3). Sleep has a positive impact on our body’s immune response, so if you struggle with getting a good night’s sleep consider a supplement to help you drift off, stay asleep, and wake up feeling refreshed.
4. Eat a balanced diet
Our food intake is of course very important for our immune system. Different nutrients are needed to help our immune system be as efficient as possible. Eating a balanced diet that contains these nutrients is a great way to help our overall health as well as our immune system.
5. Immunity-boosting Vitamin C
Good old vitamin C is probably the best-known vitamin for your immune system. Vitamin C helps to keep our immune cells active and help boost production of antibodies and other immune chemicals. Foods high in Vitamin C include: Cantaloupe, citrus fruits and juices such as Oranges and Grapefruit, Kiwi, Mango, Papaya, Pineapple, Strawberries, Raspberries, Blueberries, Cranberries and Watermelon. These are all absolutely delicious too, so try to include them in your diet.
6. Don't forget Vitamin D
You probably know that vitamin D helps to build strong bones, but did you know that it’s also needed for a healthy immune system? Vitamin D is made in your body through the action of sunlight on your skin, but over the winter months in the UK, even if your bare skin is exposed to the sun you will make little or no vitamin D of your own. There are foods which contain Vitamin D, but only in small amounts. These include Mushrooms (that are grown in sunlight), Mackerel, Sardines and Egg Yolks.
7. Omega 3 fatty acids
The omega-3 fats in oily fish and fish oil supplements could be helpful for immune support, and research suggests they can have an anti-inflammatory effect (2). Because autoimmune diseases, stress, allergies and many other health conditions involve excessive inflammation, eating oily fish or taking a good-quality fish oil supplement may help restore balance.
8. Vitamins & Minerals
We need to have a good diet to ensure a good intake of all the essential vitamins and minerals to help our immune system function effectively. This means eating plenty of fish and vegetables, in particular. Nutritionists recommend 5 portions of vegetables per day and 3 portions of fruit per day, but we know that following a healthy diet can be difficult, so if you are concerned about whether you are getting all the nutrients you require, consider taking good quality supplement which will take the guess work out for you.
9. Herbs & Spices
Don’t forget those herbs and spices! Herbs and spices are jam-packed with anti-inflammatory, immune-boosting phytochemicals and antioxidants. Buy some fresh herbs and spices and begin to include them in your meals when you cook. Soups, curries and stews are a great way to sneak them in – the more the better!! Good herbs and spices to add to your food for immune boosting benefits include Garlic, Chilli and Turmeric.
10. One to avoid - sugar!
Remember that sugar can have a negative effect on the immune system, including reducing the ability of your immune cells to destroy bacteria and other bugs. This includes fruit juices as they contain a lot of natural sugars and no fibre to slow down their absorption. Alcohol can have the same effect too. Save these for the occasional treat!
As you can see, there are many ways to take control of our health and help our immune systems to be as efficient as possible. Take time out, and look after your body, and your mental health.
Explore our full range of natural immunity remedies and solutions to help maintain your defences during menopause.
Please note – For preventing coronavirus (COVID-19) we suggest following the national guidelines, which include social distancing and regularly washing your hands.
1 ‘The immune system in menopause: pros and cons of hormone therapy – available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24041719
2 ‘Therapeutic potential of omega-3 fatty acid-derived epoxyeicosanoids in cardiovascular and inflammatory diseases’ – available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29080699
3 ‘The Sleep-Immune Crosstalk in Health and Disease’ – available at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30920354.