When your immune system is working effectively, you won’t even notice it working its magic. But if it stops working – because it’s weak or lacks support, then you’ll notice the negative effects.
Your immune system plays a vital role in defending you against disease-causing microorganisms. As you get older, your immune system changes – making it challenging to fight off colds and sickness. However, there are many ways that you can support your immune system as you get older.
In this post, we’ll share the signs of a strong immune system and we’ll also share our top six tips for supporting your body’s defences if you’re over 40. After all, you deserve to feel your best at every stage of your life and during every season.
Your immune system is complex and is made of cells, blood, bone marrow, tissues and organs. When they’re working optimally, they’ll protect your body from harm and limit any damage. If your immune system is weak, you’ll likely encounter sickness, infections and more.
If you already have a strong immune system, it’s probably because you’re prioritising all of the healthy behaviours you need for optimal wellness.
The signs that you have a good immune system could include higher energy levels, sleeping soundly each evening and experiencing optimal recovery from colds and sickness. Your immune system is made up of many components that need to work seamlessly together for the best protection.
As you get older, it can be daunting to think that your immune system becomes weaker. Small, positive steps each day could help you feel your best whilst also helping your health in the long term.
Maybe this is an obvious one? But it’s often overlooked. It can feel impossible to get good quality sleep sometimes, we understand. Long evenings working and family commitments taking over. However, over time, these can all have a negative impact on your immune system.
Lack of sleep can elevate your cortisol levels (the stress hormone), decrease your concentration, cause depression, impairment in immunity and lower your sex drive. Sleep and the immune system have a bidirectional relationship.
When you sleep, it’s your body’s time to heal and repair. Whilst we sleep, our bodies produce proteins called cytokines. These target infection and inflammation, creating an immune response. We also produce T-cells during sleep, which are white blood cells that play a critical role in our immune response to infectious diseases. Making sleep critical for a healthy immune response.
According to The National Sleep Foundation, all adults should get at least seven hours of sleep per night for optimal health. We know that this isn’t always possible. However, following a good sleep hygiene routine will help. Turn off tech an hour before bed, try some calming meditation, don’t go to bed on a full stomach and create a calming sleep space. Claim your relaxation and make it a priority – after all, it’ll help you feel your best.
Daily exercise is an essential contributor to optimal wellbeing. Physical activity helps boost the production of immune system cells and lower inflammation in your body. It can also increase the release of endorphins (feel-good hormones that reduce pain and create feelings of pleasure). Exercise is a great way to manage stress, boost your energy and leave you feeling incredible.
But how much should you be exercising? At a minimum, it’s recommended that adults should try to get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (like walking, jogging, or cycling). Or, if you’re short on time, you could do 75 minutes of high-intensity aerobic exercise (like running) every week. You should also be doing strength training at least twice a week.
This may sound overwhelming – but it doesn’t need to be. As we’ve mentioned already, small steps every day add up over time. A brisk walk outside every day for 30 minutes will do wonders for your health – physical and mental. You could participate in weekly gym classes, online dance routines or sign up with a PT. Don’t be afraid or put off – it’ll bring so many positives beyond boosting your immunity.
Eating a healthy diet is one thing but enjoying a healthy diet is another. If you enjoy the food you eat, you’ll likely form a consistent habit for the long term. Eating a diet rich in nutrients and minerals has many benefits – including immune system support.
Plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices and legumes are essential for supporting your immune system. Many plant-based foods also have antiviral and antimicrobial properties, which help fight off infection and reduce inflammation in the body, helping to boost the immune system.
Proteins are also important and play a vital role in protecting the immune system. Protein is rich in amino acids – these organic compounds help build and maintain immune cells. Sources of protein can include – seafood, lean meat, poultry, eggs, beans, pulses and more.
Skimping on any of these micro and macronutrients may lower your body’s ability to fight infections successfully. Having a healthy balanced diet at 40+ is essential for enhancing your immunity as well as helping you stay focused and feel energised. Don’t restrict yourself but ensure you’re having a diet rich in protein, carbohydrates and healthy fats with lots of variety and colour.
Managing your stress levels may sound easier said than done, but it isn’t impossible. Taking control of your exposure to stress will positively impact your sleep, energy levels and your immune system.
Stress can be caused by everything – work, family life, financial worries, relationships, illness and more. Whether it comes in short bursts throughout the day or you allow it to build up over time, it’s important to be aware of the impact it has on your immune system. Stress can release the stress response inside the body. This stress response suppresses the immune system, increasing the chances of catching an infection or worse, an illness.
We all experience levels of stress from time to time, but it’s important to take control and minimise the stress you do experience. You can try daily meditation, breathing practices, exercise, walking in the fresh air, therapeutic hobbies and more.
Don’t let the chaos of your commitments take over – your well-being is important and your immune system needs to be made a priority for the future.
Drinking high amounts of alcohol can cause all sorts of negative effects – including lowered immune function. When you consume high amounts of alcohol, your body uses a lot of energy to detoxify your system – whilst your immune system slows down.
High amounts of alcohol can cause inflammation in the body as well as stress on your organs. Alcohol can increase feelings of fatigue too. If consumed in high amounts it can weaken your body’s ability to fight infection and slow down your recovery time.
If you enjoy drinking an alcoholic beverage to unwind or you enjoy drinking at the weekend socially, this is ok. But be aware of the amount you’re consuming and be mindful. After all, it’s prolonging your recovery time so decide wisely and be aware. Alcohol-free drinks are a delicious alternative if you want something refreshing that’ll satisfy the taste buds.
In addition to the other lifestyle and behaviour tips we’ve shared, you could also consider supplements in moderation to keep your immune system functioning at its best.
The good thing with some supplements is that they can be carried on the go and they’re a convenient way to ensure you’re getting all of the vital nutrients you need. They help fill in the gaps where your diet may be lacking.
Some dietary supplements you could consider:
Dietary supplements should be taken alongside a healthy balanced diet. It’s important to note that before taking any supplements, you should consult your health professional first.
Now you know the vital tips you should consider to support your immune system, it’s now time to take control of your wellbeing. After all, taking control of your well-being will not only help you feel physically better but mentally too.
To perform at your best, it’s important to consider all of the factors that can contribute to optimal wellbeing. In our FREE downloadable Ebook, you’ll learn all you need to know about wellness and how to start putting your health first – both mental and physical.