Today, we're going to talk about 2 ways to boost your immune system for free: protein and sleep. These powerful tools can fortify your body's defenses and should be your base for a good defense without the need to supplement.
Let's dive in and learn how to support your immune system with winter coming up!
Picture protein as the building blocks (not only for hormone production, but) for a strong fortress, ready to defend your body. Just like you’re not going to build a house without foundations, your immune system relies on protein to function optimally.
One thing I frequently see in patients struggling with autoimmunity, chronic inflammation, and other immune-based disorders is they don’t eat enough protein.
Protein plays an essential role in various aspects of your immune resilience: it manages the immune response to viruses, regulates inflammation, and the production of various immune cells.
1. Immune Cell Warriors
Protein is essential for creating immune cells, the frontline soldiers that combat invaders like bacteria and viruses. They're like the heroes guarding your body from the bad guys!
2. Antibody Production
Protein helps produce antibodies, which are like specialized weapons (or actually known as your B-cells) designed to target specific invaders.
3. Tissue Repair and Healing
Protein plays a crucial role in repairing and healing tissues. When your body needs to recover from an illness or injury, protein aids the process.
Go back to my recent article on sufficient protein intake, especially as we age, for best protein sources and indications on how much you need.
Now, let's talk about another free immune-boosting tool: sleep! When you sleep, your body works hard to keep you healthy:
1. Immune System Recharge
Sleep gives your immune system a chance to recharge and strengthen its defenses. It's like pressing the reset button for your body!
2. Cytokine Production
During deep sleep, your body produces cytokines—tiny proteins that help fight infections and inflammation. They're the peacekeepers, maintaining order in your immune system.
3. Cell Repair and Growth
While you're asleep your body repairs and regenerates cells. This process is crucial for a robust immune response and overall well-being. (Aren't you feeling cranky and overeating when you haven't had a good night's sleep?)
It's clear: a good night's sleep is a non-negotiable part of a healthy immune system! Aim for a minimum of 7 hours of restorative sleep each night.
Sleeping well is sometimes easier said than done though…. While you can certainly chose to reduce screen time and go to bed early at night, there may be other things that prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep:
Clinically, one of the most common causes of poor sleep we see is a blood sugar imbalance.
People who have chronically high blood sugar, which causes inflammation, insulin resistance, and declining brain health, all of which degrade sleep. One of the most common symptoms of insulin resistance is feeling sleepy after meals.
One of the most common symptoms of low blood sugar is feeling energized after meals because the intake of food raises blood sugar that has dropped.
People with low blood sugar tend to fall asleep ok, but wake up at 3 or 4 AM, often worrying about something, and have difficulty falling back asleep. This can be due to their blood sugar dropping too low during the night. As a result, stress hormones kick in to resupply energy to the brain. Unfortunately, these stress hormones also cause alertness and anxiety when you should be sleeping. You may also feel nauseous in the morning or like you can’t possibly eat breakfast. Again, this is due to stress hormones skewing the brain’s appetite centers.
Many people have a mix of high and low blood sugar symptoms though, so it’s not black or white most of the time. And the culprit is not always your diet but can be toxins or other inflammation herds in your body impacting your blood sugar via the release of stress hormones.
Before you do anything else, work on these 2 or maybe 3 lifestyle and food choices to give your immune system the ideal base to support or defend you.
Empower your body naturally, giving it the support it needs to keep you healthy and strong!
Then, if you still need extra support, go back to my article on other immune boosting foods and supplements.