How to Support Your Immune Health in Summer

In the winter, we are all about immune support — taking supplements, bundling up on cold days, keeping things clean and sanitised. Caring for your immune health is equally important in the summer months; even though it’s less likely to be prime cold season, you can still get sick in summer, and there’s nothing worse than being stuck in bed on a beautiful day!

Supporting your immune health is about caring for your entire self, inside and out, and there’s no better time to do it than when the sun is shining and the weather is beckoning you outside.

1. Care for Your Gut

Your digestive system is responsible for breaking down and processing the food and drink you consume. But here are a few other things your gut can do:

  • Produces most of your body’s serotonin (happy hormones)

  • Communicates with your brain through nerve cells

  • Impacts immune function

Take extra care of your gut by taking prebiotics and probiotics. Probiotics are the microorganisms (good bacteria) that live in your gut, while prebiotics are the nourishment those microorganisms need to thrive.

The best whole food sources of prebiotics are:

  • Vegetables: asparagus, garlic, Jerusalem artichokes, leeks, and onions

  • Carbs: barley, beans, oats, quinoa, rye, wheat, and potatoes

  • Fruit: apples, bananas, berries, citrus, kiwi

  • Fats: flax seeds and chia seeds

The best whole food sources of probiotics are:

  • Dairy: yoghurt, cheese, and kefir with live and active cultures

  • Fermented vegetables: pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi

  • Fermented soy: miso, tempeh

For more in-depth information on gut health, check out this article.

2. Eat nutrient-dense foods (+ avoid refined and processed foods)

Focus on a diet that is rich in diversity, fresh, and of good quality which includes vegetables, fruit, good animal and plant sources of protein and healthy fats, and whole grains.

Limit processed food and refined sugars as they can cause inflammation in the gut and are low in nutrients, fibre, and water. This has a negative effect on digestion, impairs absorption, and slows transit time; which can cause constipation and bloating.

Don’t forget that what you put in your body directly affects how well it functions. To give your immune system what it needs to stay healthy, eat well.

3. Vitamin C, Zinc & Elderberries

Increasing vitamin C intake is one of the most popular home remedies for the common cold. Sources of vitamin C are abundant and extend well beyond the ever-popular orange.

Sources of vitamin C include citrus fruits, tomatoes, potatoes, strawberries, green and red bell peppers, broccoli, and kiwi.

Zinc is crucial for the normal development and function of cells mediating innate immunity. Zinc also has the ability to function as an antioxidant, which promotes immunity.

The best food sources of zinc come from animal origin; lamb and beef, eggs and fish (especially shellfish!). There are also some plant-based sources such as pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, legumes, cashews, and mushrooms.

Elderberries are loaded with antioxidants and phytonutrients. Elderberry extract has been found to reduce the length and severity of symptoms caused by the influenza virus. While these results are promising, further large-scale human studies are needed.

4. Manage stress

Sometimes there’s no way around stress, but what matters for your health and your immune system is how you respond to it.

When your body is focused on responding to stress, it diverts attention from other normal bodily functions. Plus, managing constant stress can affect your psychological well-being, which can, in turn, affect much more.

To have a healthy response to stress, take a breath — literally and figuratively. Practicing yoga, breath control, and meditation are great ways to start. Find what works for your body. You can also stay mindful and reduce anxiousness by getting outside to enjoy nature, laughing, spending time with loved ones, and exercising regularly. For more information on how to manage stress, check out this article.

5. Exercise regularly

Regular exercise is an important part of overall health and wellness, but it also helps support your immune system.

For the sake of your health (and your immune system specifically), move your body and stay active on a regular basis. If you need inspiration, here are a few ideas:

  • Go for a hike

  • Enjoy a bike ride

  • Go on an evening stroll

  • Practice yoga

  • Play sports with friends

6. Focus on high-quality sleeping habits

A good night’s sleep isn’t always easy to come by. But sleeping well is important if you want to support your immune system and keep your body in tip-top shape.

During good quality sleep, your body restores many functions it calls on during daily life, such as temperature regulation, immune system and steady hormone levels. All of these factors play a role in how much energy you have. To operate at your peak potential, you need to maintain these functions through quality sleep.

Sleep hygiene practices such as maintaining a regular sleep schedule and avoiding blue light exposure at night. Check out this article here for more tips on sleep.

Rather than looking for a quick fix when you need to support your immune system, the best thing you can do is to care for your body all year long so your immune system can stay strong.