Immunity has been an important topic in the last few months. In the wake of COVID19, people have begun to take a deeper look at the importance of a strong immune system.
When our bodies are strong and healthy, we can fight off harmful invaders like bacteria and viruses much quicker and with more efficiency. We may not get that cold or flu circulating around work, and if we do the symptoms are far less severe and we bounce back a lot quicker.
In the last few years, I’ve become increasingly aware of how key a strong immune system is in feeling (and looking) my best.
After a stressful couple of months a few years back, I acquired numerous allergies – along with a skin condition called perioral dermatitis. I was inflamed and did not feel like myself whatsoever…
Needless to say, my immune system had gone completely haywire!
I had to take a major step back and begin to recreate a life that would support and heal my body, mind, and soul and in turn, my immune system.
One of the ways that helped bring me back to health was creating a morning routine and really sticking with it. Routine had been a difficult thing for me to practice in the past – I’m sure many of you can relate! But since creating more structure in my day, and particularly my morning, life has changed dramatically for me. I am far more productive and feel way less stressed.
Today, I’ve put together a comprehensive list of the top things you can do during your morning routine to help boost immunity, gain more energy, and feel amazing!
1. Make a nutrient-dense smoothie or elixir
One of the best ways to get in a bunch of healthful foods and supplements all-in-one is a smoothie or elixir.
For smoothies, I like to toss in fruits, vegetables, and immune-supporting powders like a greens powder or superfood blend. I recommend adding a good variety of both fruit and veg to ensure you get an assortment of vitamins, minerals, and lots of fiber (think mixed fruit and baby greens). When choosing a base for your smoothie, I suggest unsweetened nut milk, green juices, yogurt, and/or water.
Whole fruit contains fiber, which slows the influx of sugars into your bloodstream, but straight fruit juice on the other hand contains no fiber and a lot of sugar (it’s almost like adding soda to your smoothie!). Because of this, I don’t use fruit juice as a base for smoothies.
TIP: Try adding a little aloe vera gel for a big immune system boost. Just make sure it’s the gel, not the whole leaf juice…it’s a major laxative!
Another one of my personal favorite ways to get in immune-boosting properties is a delicious elixir to sip on. These can be made in many different ways – hot or cold, and with a variety of different antioxidant-rich superfoods, spices, herbs, coffee, etc. I typically make them with either hot water or nut milk as the base, then add a fat such as coconut oil and/or ghee, a sweetener of choice, and then blend it all together with my remaining ingredients.
A good example would be a coffee cacao elixir with turkey tail and chaga powders. These are both medicinal mushrooms with exceptional immune-boosting properties.
2. Practice yoga or get a workout in
Moving our bodies is one of the best ways to improve our immune system. When we exercise, lymph (a fluid that contains white blood cells, water, nutrients, and oxygen) circulates more quickly throughout our body, getting to the places that need it most, faster.
Regular exercise may also help the lungs to rid themselves of airborne viruses and bacteria that are associated with respiratory tract infections.
Nowadays you can find what seems like an unlimited amount of yoga and workout resources online, if you’d like to do a class from the comfort of your own home. You can also take a class at a local studio or gym, there are usually early morning group classes starting at around 6am.
Remember, though: too much exercise is definitely a thing, and can actually lower your immune system due to the excess stress on the body. It’s ideal to move your body every single day, in the form of walks or yoga, and get a more high intensity, sweaty workout in a few times a week, if possible.
3. Eat a breakfast full of gut happy foods
Around 70% of our immune system is actually in our gut, with lymphoid tissue situated throughout our digestive tract. Our gut bacteria actually communicate with one another and work alongside the gut’s immune system to keep homeostasis (balance).
Because of this, you want to make sure you’re feeding your gut bugs the best food possible. That means a bunch of fiber, plus good quality fats and proteins.
It’s also important to consume foods that are chemical/pesticide-free as much as possible. The Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 is a great resource that provides a list of the most and least sprayed conventionally grown fruits and vegetables, and is updated annually.
A great breakfast example would be pan-fried sweet potatoes and a greens salad, with a free-range egg cooked in avocado oil, or a sourdough toast topped with avocado, hemp seeds, and greens. Both are personal favorites of mine and keep me full for hours!
If you experience chronic gastrointestinal issues such as bloating, gas or acid reflux, you may be dealing with dysbiosis or SIBO. These can put a burden on the immune system, so healing your gut is imperative if you want to look and feel your best.
4. Get some sun
Over the last few decades, more and more fear has developed over the role the sun plays in skin cancer. Nowadays many of us slather on sunscreen before we let the sun go anywhere near our skin (or we just avoid it altogether). But what we must remember is, the sun provides us with important immune-boosting vitamin D.
This vitamin (which actually isn’t a vitamin at all, it’s a hormone!) has been shown to have pretty serious implications on the immune system when deficient.
Now I’m not saying don’t use any form of sun protection ever, but what has been shown is that our skin cannot properly make vitamin D when it is always covered with sunscreen.
If you have time in the morning, sit in the sun (indoors or outdoors) with your smoothie or elixir and take in 10-20 minutes of sunshine without sun protection. Even if it’s cloudy, studies show you can still get around 80% of the UV rays you would typically get if it was a clear day!
5. Do breathwork/meditation
Have you ever had a super stressful week, only to get sick at the end of it? That’s because the stress hormone cortisol has an immune-suppressing effect. When we calm our nervous system, we in turn lower the amount of cortisol that’s released.
Using our breath and meditation as stress-reducing tools is something shown over and over again to work, and work well. I personally prefer to do this right after I wake up before I start the rest of my day.
Apps like Headspace, Aura, and Calm are excellent for guided meditations, and The Wim Hoff Method is a breathwork technique shown to have impressive benefits for lowering the stress response, increasing oxygenation and in turn improving our immunity.
You can also try this simple and effective breathing technique that I use often for stress-relief: breathe in through the nose for 4 seconds, hold for 4 seconds, and release through the mouth for 6 seconds, and repeat until you feel your heart rate slow down.
6. Try grounding
Grounding, or as some call it, earthing, is the idea that by having your bare skin on the ground (the actual ground, not pavement or your bedroom floor) you can decrease inflammation, improve sleep, and your overall immunity.
How it’s said to work is by negative electrons from the earth combating positively charged free radicals in your body. These free radicals are typically created by inflammatory factors such as stress or toxins. Grounding neutralizes them, which in turn improves the immune system.
This theory has been shown in numerous scientific studies to be very promising, and there are also a few documentaries out there that explore how grounding can heal. One that I watched a few years ago that first turned me on to this is “Grounded.”
My favorite way to ground is simply by going outside and hanging out on the grass in my bare feet. I do this whenever I can! It may be to read a book, do some stretches, or go for a walk.
A way to get the benefits of grounding from inside your home is by using a grounding mat or sheet. These usually connect via a wire to the ground port of an electrical outlet, or through a window and into the earth if you’re on the ground floor. My partner and I sleep with a grounding sheet every night!
7. Take a cold shower
Okay okay, I know this isn’t the most comfortable way to boost immunity, but the science shows it works!
Cold water therapy has been said to cause your lymph vessels to contract. This forces your lymphatic system to pump lymph fluids throughout your body quickly, moving waste out much faster. This also brings white blood cells to areas of the body that may need extra help.
It’s been shown that the more often you do this, the more beneficial it becomes, so making it more of a daily practice is optimal.
I’ll be honest, I have yet to do this daily. But once or twice a week I will turn my shower completely cold for around a minute before I get out. I breathe deeply and try not to tense up too much, and afterward, I feel so energized.
And to me that alone is worth the minute of discomfort!
Having a strong and balanced immune system means more energy and an overall sense of well-being. It can also mean clear, glowing skin, and more time to do the things you want to do (because you’re not sick and tired all the time!).
Taking control of your health can be one of the most empowering things you do in your lifetime.