You probably don’t give your immune system a second thought until you feel unwell. Then you might start thinking about ways to give it a helping hand. But actually, wouldn’t it be better if you shored up your immune system so you avoided coming down with bugs in the first place? Prevention is, after all, better than cure...

There are many ways we can support our immune system and give it a much-needed boost. Manuka honey is one of them – whether that’s by the spoonful or stirred into a warm drink or porridge, it may be very helpful for your wellbeing.

Manuka honey not only has antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, but some research suggests it may also have antiviral effects and might even help protect your body from viruses. When buying manuka honey it is important to look out for certified brands. New Zealand manuka honey contains unique compounds (MGO which has shown to restrict bacterial growth). Choosing manuka honey products with a higher MGO rating means you’re likely to gain more benefits from the healthful compounds in manuka honey. 

Manuka honey also acts as a skin barrier. Keeping our skin clean is one thing we’re all encouraged to do, especially during these times. However, the more we wash our hands, the drier they become. Using protective hand creams and lotions after we wash our hands will reduce the risk of ending up with rough and damaged skin, which will make the physical barrier of our skin weak.

Studies also show that manuka honey may be beneficial for gut health. With gut health having a major influence on our immune system, it is important to keep it in check. Manuka honey contains oligosaccharides, an important food for healthy gut bacteria. Getting your daily dose of manuka honey can help. But what else can you do to look after your immune system and prevent health problems?

Alongside your manuka honey habit, here are some of the proven ways you can keep your immune system in tip-top shape.

Have an early night  

Studies have shown that missing out on sleep makes you more prone to falling ill. You’ll also take longer to get over an illness if you’re sleeping badly. When you sleep, your body releases protective cytokines, and the production of antibodies – key immune system cells – also drops if you don’t get enough shuteye.

Treat yourself to a glass of wine  

Why? It may sound too good to be true but recent studies have shown moderate alcohol intake is beneficial to immunity. Especially red wine since it’s high in polyphenols, which is a potent antioxidant. But remember, moderation is key. Research has also shown overdoing booze dampens immune response, so stick to a maximum of one or two drinks a day.

Consider supplements   

A healthy, balanced diet, packed with fruit and vegetables is an immunity must. However, missing out on certain micronutrients has been proven to lower immune response – particularly certain B vitamins, zinc and selenium, which aren’t always easy to get in your diet.

Zinc contributes to the normal function of the immune system and can be found in seafood, red meat, chickpeas, eggs, pumpkin and sunflower seeds or in supplement form.

Vitamin A also supports the normal functioning of the immune system as it’s proven to help develop a type of white blood cell that produces antibodies.

Some sources of vitamin A include eggs, dark green leafy vegetables, as well as cod liver oil.

If you don’t think your diet is always all it should be, think about taking a multivitamin as insurance.

Go for a walk  

Moderate exercise seems to boost the immune system. Being active may help to flush bacteria out of the lungs and airways. Try and stick to outdoor exercise as this will help to top up vitamin D levels, which are crucial for the immune system. If you can’t get outside, make sure you top up your vitamin D levels through other ways.  Moderate exercise also lowers stress hormones, which can dampen immunity.

Manage your stress  

Managing stress is of utmost importance when taking care of our immune system. Keep safe and be kind.

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