The recent pandemic has brought the importance of a strong immune system under scrutiny, leaving many asking how they can boost their body’s defenses in troubling times like these. Recent events aside, we should always strive to find ways to protect ourselves and build up our immune systems. A healthy lifestyle, purposeful choices, and natural remedies help optimize our bodies and allow us to heal wounds, fight off viruses, and ward off infections.
Here are six easy ways to strengthen your immune system that you can incorporate into your daily life right now:
Get Enough Sleep
Studies show that getting adequate sleep positively affects the immune system. Sleep allows your body and brain the chance to recover, leaving you feeling refreshed and energetic the next day. Rest also maintains a balanced immune system which is essential for quick, adaptive, and efficient responses to foreign presences in the body. Most importantly, sleep enables your body to produce cytokines which help fight infection, inflammation, and stress. On the flipside, sleep deprivation is linked with obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. Long story short, allow your body the rest time needed to keep your immune system fighting at full steam.
Eat Healthy Foods
It isn’t news that eating healthy foods is good for us. These days, it’s more important that ever to make conscious decisions about how we fuel and strengthen our bodies. Eating a diet rich in nutrients, antioxidants, and healthy fats build up our body’s natural defenses. And incorporating these immunity-boosting foods isn’t as difficult or limiting as you think. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and dark chocolate offer generous doses of antioxidants and microbiome-boosting benefits, helping to improve immunity to harmful pathogens. Salmon, eggs, cheese, olive oil and avocados are stacked with omega-3 and an abundance of vitamins which make them great choices for healthy-fat foods. Dig in and give yourself (and your immune system) a leg up.
Physical activity has all sorts of benefits for our bodies. Moderate exercise boosts the effectiveness of vaccines in “at-risk” patients and aids immune system cells in regular regeneration. Hiking, biking, swimming, and jogging are all great ways to get outside, enjoy the spring weather, and give your immune system a major jump start.
The mind and body are closely linked and when one suffers, so does the other. Studies show correlation between stress and the suppression of antibodies and the increased production of cortisol, which allows inflammation in the body to flourish. Keep your immune system running smoothly by reducing chronic stress in your life. Easier said than done, right? Chronic stress that stems, family, relationships, and finances often find ways to creep into our daily life, but it’s vital to maintain balance and do things to take care of your mental health. Set limits and know when you’ve reach them. Then do what you can to minimize the stress. That means different things for different people; a vacation, a yoga class, less socialization with triggering people, a counseling session. Do whatever you need to do to feel less stressed.
According to the CDC, smoking harms your immune system and dulls its ability to respond to colds, viruses, and serious medical conditions. Smoking is also known to negatively affect the immune system’s equilibrium, making it more likely the smoker could suffer from an autoimmune disorder. This occurs when the body’s own immune system mistakes its own healthy tissue and cells as a threat and attacks the body. Smoking can cause Rheumatoid arthritis—an example of an autoimmune disease—in which the immune system attacks the joints and causes painful swelling. The CDC also found that, on average, smokers get sick more frequently and are admitted to the hospital more often than non-smokers. If you quit smoking, you encourage your immune system to run at full speed again. Not only that, you decrease your risk for heart and lung disease, improve circulation, and decrease your risk of cancer. Clearly there are plenty of reasons to stop smoking, and boosting your immune system is just one of many benefits.
If the past year has taught us anything, it’s to wash our hands more thoroughly and more often. This simple task helps us squash potential threats to our immune system before they even happen. The CDC recommends scrubbing your hands for 20 seconds to remove all the germs. If you’re visiting a high-traffic place (like a grocery store, a concert venue, or a public bathroom) make sure to equip yourself with hand sanitizer in case you find yourself without access to soap and water.
Taking these six simple steps today can help strengthen your immune system and secure a healthier tomorrow!