It is times like that we as a species start to truly value the power of our immune systems. But understanding how this complex system works is no easy feat. With plenty of myths swirling around, it’s a challenge to sift through the information and find legitimate evidence on how to make your immune defenses strong. If you’ve heard that megadosing Vitamin C will boost your immunity or that garlic defends against all, you’re obviously familiar with what I am talking about.
These three activities will improve your immune health and are backed by the research. Using these approaches, you’ll be able to know for sure that what you’re doing is actually working to improve your immune health and not just flushing your hard-earned money down the drain. And on top of that, these activities have much broader actions and benefits than just boosting our immune system (a subject for another day) and are all highly pleasurable activities.
Keep reading. I’m going to walk you through a few effective and scientifically-backed strategies to support your immune health.
3 Science-Backed Activities to Boost Immune Health
Sauna and Cold Bathing
Saunas are known as an ancient form of relaxation and wellness support, but they are actually a great immune-boosting tool as well. The heat of the sauna raises your core body temperature and tricks it into thinking it has a fever.
The alternating heat and cooling periods of sauna followed by cold bathing/cold swimming are beneficial to a number of ailments, and speed up recovery while increasing your number of white blood cells. They also help stimulate the immune system, reduce susceptibility to colds and can help prevent infections. (ref. Studies).
Saunas are deeply relaxing and can help the body reduce and regulate levels of our stress hormone, cortisol. Fortunately, this activity is becoming much more popular and accessible, which makes it easy to work saunas into your wellness routine and can be utilized as a great relaxation practice following a workout or a long day.
Make sure to allow for a cool down period after your time in the sauna, and if you can immediately transition to a cold shower or pool, even better. You can repeat 2-3 times for optimal results. The cold bathing alone can have tremendous health benefits too; in fact, one study showed that a routine cold shower reduced sickness by 29%.
Using a sauna and cold bathing routine weekly can have tremendous health benefits, stress relief, and improve your immune health and strength. The key is repetition; the more regularly you use them, the more prolonged the benefits are.
Your mind and body are inextricably linked. The health of one depends on the other. You might not automatically think that stress can affect your immune system, but stress has been linked to a number of illnesses and diseases, for good reason.
Chronic stress in particular is damaging to your health. Finding ways to decrease that stress is critical to your long-term health and wellness. Mindfulness meditation is one stress-reducing activity that is backed by science. In fact, recent studies have shown that mindfulness meditation alone can positively increase immune activity.
Meditation can be intimidating to many, but it’s actually a fairly simple practice that you can do almost anywhere and anytime. Mindfulness meditation is simply being fully present in each moment, observing what you’re sensing in a non-judgmental way. You can practice this for 5-10 minutes while walking, commuting, at your work desk, in bed, in the shower, and so much more. The key for most people is to push through the initial trial period, as it’s in these early stages that we realize how difficult it can be to focus our mind and reduce our distractions. But remember, this is meant to be an enjoyable and peaceful experience; ride the wave and just keep going.
If you’re new to meditation, there are techniques that can help you achieve this mindful state more easily.
- Breathwork: try breathing in for four counts, holding your breath for four counts, releasing your breath for four counts, and repeating.
- Redirection: if your mind starts to race or you can’t focus, gently guide your focus back without anger or frustration.
- Mantra: if you can’t quiet your thoughts, find a soothing mantra to repeat to yourself. It can be any phrase or string of words.
No matter what you’re doing, try to slow it down and give it your full attention. Involve all of your senses to observe what’s happening in each moment. Even if it doesn’t feel like it’s working, the simple act of trying will work wonders for your stress. Keep with it.
Over time, you will more easily slip into mindfulness meditation and eventually you won’t even realize that you’re even practicing it. This can have an incredible effect on stress levels and overall health as you retrain your brain.
This might be a new concept for some, but Earthing (or grounding) revolves around the idea that regular contact with the Earth’s electrical currents can deeply heal the body. The act of Earthing is as simple as exposing your body to any natural surface such as grass, sand, dirt, stone, etc. for a period of time to absorb the Earth’s electrons.
This contact can have profound health benefits. It can reduce pain, inflammation and stress, improve circulation and sleep, and lead to rapid results for chronic health conditions. The flow of electrons from the Earth into the body can also help strengthen the immune system, according to new research.
Ways to incorporate Earthing into your day-to-day:
- Garden barefoot
- Read a book laying or sitting on the grass
- Do your workout on the grass or sand
- Swim in the sea
- Play with your dog barefoot
- Take your meditation to the backyard
Just 10-20 minutes a day can have significant benefits, but the longer you maintain contact with the Earth’s surface, the better.
Another benefit of earthing is that it gets you outside and exposes you to the sun, which triggers your skin to produce vital vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential for proper immune function, and 20 minutes of sun exposure is enough to get you all that you need for a day. You can also use a good quality vitamin D supplement to make sure you’re getting enough. Our Vitamin D-K2has high bioavailability (which means it absorbs well into the body) and works alongside vitamin K2 and vitamin A to help absorb and concentrate calcium into the bones, a function that is critical for long-term bone health.
Your immune system is a complex system that we have yet to fully understand. What wedo know is that these three activities are proven to strengthen your immune system, not to mention your overall health and wellness (which goes hand-in-hand with your immunity).
Practice these activities regularly to see true benefits each cold and flu season. They’re simple to incorporate into your day-to-day routine, and you can do them almost anywhere and anytime.