How to Increase Our Baseline Health and Immunity

Are we all mere victims to the billions of pathogens circulating around us?  Do we have any power over whether we get sick or not?  Why, during a cold or flu season, do some get sick and some don’t?

We are constantly making choices, every day, which either improve, or reduce our overall health and wellbeing.  I often talk about health as being like a bank account; each time we make a healthful choice, such as taking exercise or choosing a nourishing lunch, we are making a deposit in our health account.  Every time we make less positive choices, such as eating an entire tub of Ben and Jerry’s ice-cream or sitting on the couch for 10 hours a day, we are making a withdrawal.  Our baseline health and immunity is likened to the balance remaining in our health account.

What Can We Do to Help Increase Our Baseline Health and Immunity?

Exercise –

If you are new to exercise, start with just going for a walk.  Begin with say 20 minutes, and build up gradually from there.  Walking really is one of the best forms of exercise.  Exercising outside has the added bonus of getting a dose of fresh air and sunshine.

If you’ve been exercising for a while, aim to be exercising either 30 minutes per day, or for an hour, 3-4 times per week.  Having a good mix of resistance/weight training, some cardio, as well as some work each week on flexibility and core strength and stability.

Nutrition –

This is probably the most powerful way we can make deposits or indeed withdrawals from our health account. 

Keep it simple; we don’t need to be following the latest diet craze or fashion.  Balance is key.  Lots of vegetables, preferably lightly steamed.  Good quality protein, fresh organic eggs.  Some complex carbohydrates.  Plenty of healthy fats, such as avocados, nuts, olive oil and grass-fed butter.

Minimise refined sugar.  Consume in very small amounts any cakes, biscuits/cookies, ice-cream, sweets/candy and deserts.

Drink plenty of water.  High quality, filtered drinking water or mineral water.  Room-temperature is best.  However, avoid drinking at mealtimes.

Avoid fast food.  The big multi-national fast food chains remain open and are seemingly thriving, whilst small family-run cafes and delis are closed or struggling.  Make healthy choices when you need or fancy and take away lunch.  Choose local, choose healthy.

Minimise alcohol and caffeine intake.

Sleep –

Quality sleep is so foundational and integral to our overall health and wellbeing, as well as our immunity.  Adults should aim for a minimum of seven hours of quality sleep per night.  Teenagers and children need more than this.

Sleep hygiene is vital to ensuring our sleep is of high quality.  We should avoid screens for at least one hour prior to sleeping.  Instead, reading a book, taking a bath or a gentle walk would work well.

Avoid drinking caffeine after around 1:00 or 2:00pm. 

Using essential oils in the bedroom can be very helpful too.  Lavender, frankincense and neroli are some of my favourites.

Mindset –

How and what we think, as well as what we choose to believe, has a direct effect on our health and immunity.  Our thoughts also influence our behaviours and ultimately our habits.

I encourage you to consider what you are exposing yourself to in terms of media, news and social media.  Is watching the news for hours per day making you feel empowered or depressed, positive or powerless and despondent?  Why not try switching off the news for a week, and see how different you feel.

What conversations are we having with others?  How do our friends or colleagues make us feel?  Do we surround ourselves with positive people who bring out the best in us?

Stress Reduction –

We all need and thrive from a certain amount of stress in our lives.  However, when this stress becomes prolonged and sustained, this begins to have a negative effect on our health and immunity.

As my patients and followers know, I take a very holistic approach to health.  Meditation and breathing techniques are excellent ways to help us regulate our body’s stress response.  They do this by balancing the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, which helps to regulate the body’s cortisol levels, amongst other things.  Certain breathing or chanting techniques can also help by stimulating the vagus nerve.

The most simple and accessible meditation technique I teach is a simple sitting breath-counting meditation.  Sit either on a chair or cross-legged on the floor, and maintain and good erect posture.  Begin to focus on your breath, which you will find gradually becomes slower and deeper.  Now, begin counting your breath on each exhale.  You can begin by just counting to 3, then start again from 1.  As this gets easier, try increasing the count to 7, 11, 21.  Each time you reach your target number, begin again from one.  Do this for about 10 minutes to begin with.

There are also some great apps available these days.  My favourite is HeadSpace.

All of these areas form my Five Pillars of Health, and are the foundation to my approach to health and wellbeing for my patients, my family and myself. 

Why not try some of these tips yourself, and let me know if you notice any changes.

With love and health,

Dr Steve