5 immune boosting actions you can take at work
Words / Carla Oates
Your health can suffer from the impact of viral assault on the body’s immune function at the stuffy environment of the office, so staying healthy is more important than ever to protect your complexion and your immunity. Your immune system — a sophisticated network of billions of cells that move through your bloodstream, organs and tissues — is constantly defending you against invaders that can make you sick, such as bacteria, viruses, parasites and some types of fungus.
When an unwelcome visitor enters your body, your immune system identifies it then produces white blood cells and other substances to attack and destroy it.
At the office for starters, you spend more time indoors and in close proximity to others, making you vulnerable to picking up viruses and infections.
Although scientists haven’t been able to pinpoint one magic immunity-boosting ingredient, there are plenty of simple things you can do to support your immune system and keep you healthy and energised.
1. Manage stress levels:
The immune-dampening effect of the stress hormone cortisol has been well documented. And it is no secret that during our day-to-day work life, tension and anxiety can pop up incessantly. Taking small breaks during the day practice mindfulness, deep breathing exercises and self-compassion to reduce stress in the body. This will ultimately improve wellbeing and overall health.
2. Get moving at your desk:
While the exercise-immunity link isn’t clear, there are a few theories on why getting active may help us stay well. Moderate physical activity during our time off work can help flush out the toxins and build up in our skin through sweating. Adopting simple stretches and small exercise movements at the comfort of your desk will help circulate regular blood flow.
3. Nourish yourself:
A well-nourished body has all the micronutrients it needs to arm itself against unwelcome visitors. So strong immunity begins with good nutrition. Eating well balanced foods during your lunch break is pivotal.
To do its job well, your immune system needs plenty of phytochemicals (plant chemicals), antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin C (kiwi, citrus fruits), iron (red meat, leafy greens), zinc (red meat, shellfish, sunflower seeds), calcium (dairy, tahini, leafy greens), selenium (brazil nuts), vitamin A (carrots) and vitamin E (avocados, almonds).
Antioxidants are basically free-radical scavengers. They hunt down free radicals that damage your cells, cause inflammation and tax your immune system. So eat plenty of colourful, antioxidant-rich fresh fruit and vegetables plus lean protein, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
Where possible, avoid the typical snacks bad for your health – fried foods, processed meats, sugars and refined carbohydrates.
Extra-virgin olive oil and green tea are other rich antioxidant sources and are anti-inflammatory. Add some extra-virgin olive oil to a salad and keep a container of green tea bags handy in your desk draw for the perfect mid-afternoon pick-me-up.
4. Wash your hands:
Cold and flu viruses mostly spread as tiny mucus droplets that become airborne upon coughing or sneezing. Unfortunately this is a virus that is most commonly spread in the workplace. You can inhale them or pick them up from surfaces, where viruses can survive for two hours or more. Wash your hands well with soap before touching your face or eating during your lunch break. Another tip is to keep hand sanitiser and a box of tissues in your drawer.
5. Drink up:
It’s important to dose up on H20 in the office environment. Lymph is an important part of your immune system. It carries white blood cells around your body via your blood. Your body needs water to make lymph. Water also keeps your digestive system functioning properly and helps to flush toxins from the body. If you do catch a cold or the flu, dehydration can worsen your health and make you feel even worse. So keep sipping at your desk and keep a jug handy.