After many weeks of lockdown, sitting around my house, reading, eating, drinking, occasionally engaging in some moderate and limited physical activity, I have come to realise all the precious things I was taking for granted. One of them is my health especially at a time where so many people in the world are fighting illness and diseases.
My pre 20’s were plagued by frequent colds, touches of flu, earaches, sore throats, and many other non-threatening but debilitating illnesses. But when I literally threw myself into diving, it all changed. Although I was exposed to all kinds of weather conditions, extreme temperature fluctuations, physical activity and demands on my body, I had none of the illnesses of my youth…
It was like I had gone through a total transformation, I had developed a completely different mindset towards my body and my immune system. Since then I have been fortunate enough to always be aware of my immunity and have developed a very special relationship with my immune system. This Boost to my immune system was the result of obvious changes in my diet, lifestyle, outdoor activity, constant physical activity, social interaction and a change in my breathing awareness.
How to boost your immune system?
Here are a number of different ways to naturally boost your immune system.
- Don’t smoke.
- Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables to help boost your immune system. Find here some of the most potent ones.
- Almost all citrus fruits like grapefruit, limes, lemons, oranges are high in vitamin C. With such a variety to choose from, it’s easy to add a squeeze of this vitamin to any meal.- Ounce for ounce, red bell peppers contain almost 3 times as much vitamin C.
– Broccoli is supercharged with vitamins and minerals. Packed with vitamins A, C, and E, as well as fibre and many other antioxidants, broccoli is one of the healthiest vegetables you can put on your plate.
– Garlic’s immune-boosting properties seem to come from a heavy concentration of sulfur-containing compounds, such as allicin.
– Ginger is another ingredient many turns to after getting sick. Ginger may help decrease inflammation, which can help reduce sore throat and inflammatory illnesses. Ginger may help with nausea as well.
– Spinach is rich in vitamin C — it’s also packed with numerous antioxidants and beta carotene, which may both increase the infection-fighting ability of our immune systems.
– Curcumin; This bright yellow bitter spice has also been used for years as an anti-inflammatory in treating both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis and is showing promising results as an immune booster.
– Where green tea really excels is in its levels of epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), another powerful antioxidant, shown to enhance immune function.
– Look for yoghurts that have “live and active cultures” printed on the label, like Greek yoghurt. These cultures may stimulate your immune system to help fight diseases.
– Papayas and kiwis are naturally full of a ton of essential nutrients, including folate, potassium, vitamin K, and vitamin C. Vitamin C boosts the white blood cells to fight infection, while kiwi’s other nutrients keep the rest of your body functioning properly.
– Nuts such as almonds and walnuts are packed with vitamin E and healthy fats. This powerful antioxidant is essential to a strong immune system.
- Exercise regularly. Just like a healthy diet, exercise is one of the natural pillars when it comes to boosting your immune system. It improves cardiovascular health, lowers blood pressure, helps control body weight, and protects against a variety of diseases, contributes to your general good health and therefore to a healthy immune system. It also promotes good circulation of the lymph fluid packed with infection-fighting white cells.
- Drink plenty of water and If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation.
- Get adequate sleep. If you need yet another reason that good night sleep is good for you, some researchers from Germany have found that sound sleep improves your T Cells count. “T cells are a type of… immune cells that fight against intracellular pathogens, for example, virus-infected cells such as flu, HIV, herpes, and cancer cells,” says Stoyan Dimitrov, PhD, a researcher at the University of Tübingen and an author of the study.
- Take steps to avoid infection, such as washing your hands frequently and cooking meats thoroughly.
- Try to minimize stress. Modern medicine has come to appreciate the closely linked relationship between mind and body. Stress occurs when life events surpass your abilities to cope. Short bursts of stress are considered to be acceptable but it’s the long term effects of chronic stress that are damaging to your health. It causes your body to produce greater levels of the stress hormone cortisol. It also reduces the body’s lymphocyte count, lowering your ability to fight off infection.
Other factors to consider in boosting your immune system.
- Vitamin D. Low levels of vitamin D are related to a higher susceptibility to infection and autoimmune diseases. Our body produces vitamin D via exposure to sunlight. Supplementing vitamin D is advised in autumn and winter when relatively little sunshine reaches our skin.
- Supply good bacteria to your gut. Many important processes that are related to your immune system take place in your gut. By consuming probiotic foods, you can stimulate the digestion of nutrients that support your immune system. Inside the gut are about 100 trillion live microorganisms that promote normal GI function, protect the body from infection, and regulate metabolism and the mucosal immune system. Chronic inflammation has been linked to your gut microbiome is out of balance. More than 70% of our immune system is packed behind your stomach lining. What we eat is what feeds our microbiome and that actually trains our immune system to respond efficiently. So if your microbiome is out of balance so is your immune system and this can result in your entire body being out of sync.
- Get more micronutrients; Some form of ” micronutrient malnutrition” is surprisingly common in the elderly population. This is when a person is deficient in some essential vitamins and trace minerals like zinc, selenium, iron, copper, folic acid, and vitamins A, B6, C, and E. Older people tend to eat less and often have less variety in their diets. One important question is whether dietary supplements may help older people maintain a healthier immune system. If you suspect your diet is not providing you with all your micronutrient needs, taking a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement may have beneficial effects on the immune system. Older people should discuss this question with their doctor.
- Attempting to boost the cells of your immune system is especially complicated because there are so many different kinds of cells in the immune system. The body is continually generating immune cells, it produces many more lymphocytes than it can possibly use. The extra cells remove themselves through a natural process of cell death called apoptosis. No one knows how many cells or what the best mix of cells the immune system needs to function at its optimum level.
- While some people age healthily, compared with younger people the elderly are more likely to contract infectious diseases. Respiratory infections, influenza, the COVID-19 virus and particularly pneumonia are a leading cause of death in people over 65 worldwide. Some scientists observe that this increased risk correlates with a decrease in T cells, possibly from the thymus atrophying with age and producing fewer T cells to fight off infection. Others are interested in whether the bone marrow becomes less efficient at producing the stem cells that give rise to the cells of the immune system.
- Echinacea. Certain species have been shown to improve immune health and may have antiviral effects against several respiratory viruses, including respiratory syncytial virus and rhinoviruses.
- Propolis. Propolis is a resin-like material produced by honeybees for use as a sealant in hives. Though it has impressive immune-enhancing effects and may have antiviral properties as well.
How I started the wim hof method!
With all the lifestyle and dietary changes I mentioned above, I went from a poor/ average health to good health. Literally jumping in feet first into my full-time diving career promoted all these changes. My research into breath control and breathwork led me to practise yoga, freediving and the Wim hof method. The Wim hof method is based upon 3 pillars: cold therapy, breathing and commitment. I started practising with his guided breathing, then swiftly followed by his popular 10 week Fundamental course.
Upon starting the Wim hof method my general state of health jumped from good to never being sick, fully energised all day long, feeling happy and strong most of the time. Both cold exposure and conscious breathing require patience and dedication in order to be fully mastered. Armed with focus and determination you are ready to explore and deepen your body & mind connection and somehow intuitively connect with my immunity and further understand my immune system.
For those that don’t know about Wim Hof or “The Iceman “ and his method here is a brief introduction;
Wim Hof is famous for his incredible stunts like running a half marathon on his bare feet in the snow, swimming under ice, and climbing Mount Everest in his shorts. Achievements like these require an enormous amount of focus and dedication. Over the years, Wim Hof has developed his own method that enables him to achieve extraordinary things.
I can still remember my first guided breathing, I lay on the sofa, listening to Wim hof’s instruction,…deeply in…and let it go, for 30 breaths and then held my breath. It was all a bit odd at first, not at all familiar. The second round felt better. Now the third round was such a memorable experience that it is still very vivid in my mind. It felt like I was experiencing an internal revolution, my hands were tingling, I could see flashing multicoloured lights coming and going behind my eyes and mini lightning bolts going through my brain, I noticed also that my entire body and especially my cells were gently electrified, finally, I experienced a pleasant light-headed floating sensation as if my mind was leaving my body and gliding above me. I did not panic at the time as I had been warned that I would experience some very unusual sensations, so I went along with it…
Also on my first rounds, my breath-holding time was of 1, maximum 2 mins, but after a few sessions, I could easily reach 3 mins.
Here is a succinct description of his breathing method.
Breathe in deep, moving the air flow from your belly, to your chest and into your head and let it go.
Do this 30/40/50 times, whatever feels comfortable for you.
Then hold your breath for as long as is comfortable for you without forcing
. At this stage you have raised your PH levels, so you can easily stay 1 min or more without air in your lungs.
When you feel the need to breathe
Take a deep breath in and hold it for 10/15 seconds. Then let go.
This is your first round!! Repeat this for 2 more rounds.
In starting the cold shower progressive training I immediately felt different and was almost looking forward to this challenge. Once I realized that I was gradually changing my mindset from fearing the cold to enjoying it, there was no stopping me, I was gone like a rocket…. I literally understood that I had changed my perception of the cold and this all happened with the power of my mind.
Now 2 and half years down the line, no aches or pains, no flu or colds, no more allergies or eczema, no more fatigue. All in fine working order and I have exceptional levels of energy.
In the last 10 years, I have also suffered from old sports induced injuries that kept dragging on and on. Well, surprise surprise… with the cold exposure and the breathing techniques these old pains and aches have subsided tremendously and no longer stop me from any physical activity.
When you feel the cold or the heat and get out of your comfort zone with the Wim Hof Method (WHM) you learn to tap into that mind/body connection and regain control over it. So by breathing deep and changing your focus you can willfully influence the bone marrow to activate T cell and B cell production and these, in turn, will fight any inflammation that is taking place in your body.
With this breathing method not only do you bring in more oxygen to your tissues to subside inflammation, but you also increase your adrenaline production which in turn will suppress inflammatory markers in your body.
How does the wim hof method benefit your immune system?
When you engage in the Wim hof breathing you increase your levels of adrenaline in your body. This increase in adrenaline coincides with higher production of interleukin 10 . Interleukin 10 (IL–10) is a cytokine with potent anti-inflammatory properties that plays a central role in limiting host immune response to pathogens, thereby preventing damage to the host and maintaining normal tissue homeostasis. The anti-inflammatory element of IL 10 is that it inhibits the release of other cytokines that contribute to inflammation. So as a result of this breathing method your inflammatory response is lower than normal. In the case of a virus infection, your symptoms are barely noticeable and your recovery much faster than normal. Even though the inflammatory response is suppressed white blood cells are still being produced. So having high levels of adrenaline stirs leukocytosis which increases white blood cells in the blood.
Being able to dampen inflammation is fabulous news in itself, as it presents an alternative to medication for those suffering from chronic inflammation.
During one study, subjects that were trained in the Wim Hof Method and control subjects were injected with a pathogen and monitored for symptoms. Compared to the control group, followers of the Wim Hof Method showed a stronger immune response and fewer symptoms related to the pathogen. In 2011, the University Medical Center St. Radboud in Nijmegen couldn’t but admit that Wim and others trained with his method are able to voluntarily influence the Autonomic Nervous System. Despite what medical books suggest, this study clearly demonstrates that a human being can voluntarily influence his/ her autonomic nervous system and immune response.
My take on the wim hof method
This amazing technique has opened my understanding of the huge power that resides in my mind (and yours). The benefits of the Wim Hof method are great, even if you never jump in icy waters, it will boost your immune system, increase your energy levels, reduce stress, decrease inflammation, improve your athletic performance and sharpen your focus and determination. It has given me a life long wish to discover and work on the mind & body connection. So after 2 and a half years of Wim Hof method practice, I keep learning on a daily basis and enjoying it every single day. I feel grateful and privileged to be able to take yet another breath. It has made me so aware that breathing is our own and unique gift that we carry with us every single moment of our life. I am only 54 and my aim is to live to 100. I haven’t counted them yet, but that’s many breaths left… so join me on this trip of a lifetime.
DISCLAIMER; The material on this post is for informational purposes only. As each individual situation is unique, you should use proper discretion, in consultation with a health care practitioner, before undertaking the protocols, diet, exercises, techniques, training methods, or otherwise described herein. The author and publisher expressly disclaim responsibility for any adverse effects that may result from the use or application of the information contained herein. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
This wim hof breathing should be done laying down or sitting in a safe environment, not in water or close to water or whilst driving.