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How to boost your immune system

December 6, 2023 • read

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How to boost your immune system

Keeping your immune system in tip-top shape can go a long way towards warding off colds and flus this winter. Without a healthy immune system, your body can’t fight off infections, viruses or pathogens effectively. Pesky viruses, bacteria and fungi are all around, and given the opportunity, they’ll try to make you sick.

You don’t always have to have a serious illness to experience a compromised immune system. According to the College of Family Physicians of Canada, adults have an average of four to six colds a year. If you find you get sick more often than that, or if it takes you longer than a week to feel better after one, that may be the sign of a few things, including a potentially weakened immune system.

Quote: A nutrient-deficient diet deprives your immune system of the building blocks it needs to function properly"

Your immune system is your body’s natural defence against illness, so keep it ready- for-anything by considering these important lifestyle choices listed below. Advice from a Canadian-licensed physician at Maple can help too, available 24/7 virtually.

Eat a nutritious diet to boost your immune system 

What you eat can have a major impact on your quality of life. A nutrient-deficient diet deprives your immune system of the building blocks it needs to function properly, and conversely, certain foods can boost your immune function by providing the vitamins and minerals your body needs.

What to eat

Whole foods can positively impact your health—think whole grain bread, fruits, leafy greens and lean proteins. Vitamins and supplements can also help boost your immune system when your diet alone isn’t enough. For most people, taking supplements in addition to a nutritious diet is not necessary. A dietitian can help you shape your meal plans to include foods rich in these immune supporting vitamins and minerals. Consider consuming foods rich in the following:

Infograph featuring Calcium, Vitamin C, Vitamin D and Vitamin E rich foods

Healthy eating for kids

Research shows that children eat a more nutritious diet when they’re a part of regular family meals. Your kids learn their eating habits from you. If you wrinkle your nose every time you see a brussel sprout, or lean into processed foods that may be convenient but lack nutritional value, chances are your kids will too. This doesn’t mean you have to eat heaping quantities of vegetables you hate, but it’s important to model the behaviour you want to see. Even if broccoli isn’t your favourite, put a floret or two on your plate and eat it. If you don’t make a big deal out of it, your kids might not either.

Foods to avoid

A diet high in saturated fats and processed foods can lead to inflammation, and chronic inflammation can actually impair your immune response to transmissible illnesses like the flu (and to non-transmissible ones, such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and depression). But saturated fats and highly-processed foods aren’t necessarily the worst when compared to sugar.

Eating a high-sugar diet alters the balance of gut bacteria which can lead to leaky gut syndrome, triggering inflammation. Acute inflammation is part of your immune response, and when your body is exposed to a pathogen, it’s what you want to happen. Chronic inflammation, however, is a problem and actually leads to a weakening of the immune system.

So while natural sugars like the ones found in fruits and vegetables are okay, it’s best to steer clear of or limit foods with added sugar.

Adopt healthy sleep habits

Make sure you’re getting the recommended seven to nine hours of shuteye a night. It can help your mind and body function properly throughout the day and help bolster your immune system by giving your body a chance to rest. An effective sleep routine can be as easy as:

  • No caffeine at least six hours before bedtime
  • Maintain a room temperature of 18°C each night
  • Sleep in a dark room — this also means avoiding blue light from devices
  • Go to bed at the same time every night, including on weekends

Get Moving: Exercise can keep you healthy

Regular physical activity can increase your lifespan, not to mention boost your immune system. Canadian guidelines recommend exercising for at least 2.5 hours per week to achieve health benefits. You should focus on moderate to vigorous aerobic activity each week, broken into sessions of 10 minutes or more.

At the end of the day, boosting your immune system can keep you healthy, and we’re available 24/7 to connect you with a Canadian-licensed medical provider for any questions, guidance or treatment you may need to feel your best. You can also access specialists such as allergists, naturopathic doctors, sleep therapists or registered dietitians through our virtual care, as well as get a doctor’s note to ensure you get the rest you need if you do get sick.

Get the guidance and care you need from Maple to stay healthy, no matter the season.

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