Maintaining a nutritious diet is one of the best ways to improve your immune system.

Maintain a nutritious diet, avoid stimulants and sugar, get enough sleep and exercise regularly – these are the best ways to boost your immune system right now, according to health and wellbeing experts, Larah Loutati and Ilyas Anane.

And they warn that with the continuing spread of COVID-19 and the cooler weather settling in, now is the time to be proactive in boosting your immune system and beating the cold and flu season.

Co-founders of health and wellness business, Vitable, Larah and Ilyas know firsthand the significant impact a low immune system can have on an individual’s mental, physical and emotional health.

Following a period of being unwell, they co-founded Vitable, an online vitamin and supplements company that delivers personalised packs based on an individual’s lifestyle, health and diet goals.

Every day we are exposed to a number of organisms that can turn into disease or illness. The immune system fights to remove and neutralise pathogens such as bacteria, parasites and fungi that enter the body. A weakened immune system means your body will suffer more from illnesses and experience symptoms for a longer time.

They say the key to staying healthy during cold and flu season is to live a balanced lifestyle and diet to maintain a good immune system.

Here, Larah and Ilyas share top lifestyle and diet tips to keep your immune system strong in preparation for this cold and flu season.

1. Maintain a nutritious diet

A strong immune system is your body’s first line of defence, consisting of immune blood cells which help fight off viruses and bacteria. Foods rich in Vitamin C, Zinc and 20 minutes of daily sun exposure that fuels Vitamin D provides three essential nutrients in the production and efficacy of your immune cells.

Your gut health is vital to supporting a healthy immune system. The immune system and gut flora regulate and support each other. This interaction is important as 70-80% of the body’s immune cells are found in the gut.

To assist your gut microbiome, eat more high-fibre, nutrient-rich, plant-based and fermented food. Some examples of fermented food and drinks to consider include kefir, tempeh, natto, kombucha, miso, kimchi, sauerkraut and probiotic yogurt. Other foods that improve an individual’s immune response include blueberries, turmeric, broccoli, spinach, ginger, almonds and garlic.

If you can’t maintain a balanced diet, quality vitamin supplements may help your immune system to remain healthy.

2. Avoid stimulants and sugar

Strengthen your immune system and energy levels by avoiding stimulants such as nicotine, energy drinks and anything that is highly caffeinated. Smoking cigarettes suppresses your body’s antibodies. Limit alcohol consumption as it dehydrates the body and is the breeding ground for viruses.

3. Get enough sleep

Adults require seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Studies have shown that people lacking sufficient sleep are more likely to get sick if they’re exposed to a virus. When you sleep, your immune system produces proteins called cytokines and they are needed to fight off infections and inflammations. If you’re not getting enough sleep, your body may be deprived of protective cytokines.

4. Exercise regularly

Exercise helps fight off infections and viruses and stimulate blood flow, which circulates white blood cells around your body. White blood cells play a vital role as it is the body’s first line of defence. You should be physically active every day and spend at least 150 minutes per week on moderate aerobic activity (such as cycling and hiking) or 75 minutes of intense exercise (such as running and swimming).

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