The human immune system is a bit of a mystery since we can’t see it or germs that cause illness and really don’t have 100% control over if we get sick or not. With the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, everyone is now hyperconscious about staying healthy and maintaining a healthy immune system.
However, when it comes to fighting viruses, everyday precautions such as washing your hands often and avoiding sick people are key to staying well. There are ways that can boost your immune system and give you an edge on staying healthy by strengthening your immune system and combating or lessening illness symptoms. How can you improve your immune system? Will staying vigilant and making certain lifestyle changes produce a near-perfect immune response? (Harvard March 2020)
Ways to Bolster the Immune System
Working out is a powerful way to boost your immune system and being active in this way also lowers stress hormones, which reduces your chances of getting sick.
Research suggests that exercise’s effects may be directly relevant to virus-fighting, too. According to studies published recently, those who exercised at least five days a week had almost half the risk of coming down with a cold as those who were more sedentary. And even if they did get one, they reported less severe symptoms.
Kick Back and Relax
It is said mild stress can be a good thing at times as it helps your body to get ready for a challenge. But if it lasts too long, it can be detrimental. Studies and research clearly show that stress can weaken your body’s defense system. Avoid it when you can and make it a point to unwind and do things you enjoy.
The bottom line is your body does a better job fighting off illness and healing wounds when it’s not under stress. Learning techniques for managing stress, like meditation and controlled breathing are a few ways to help your immune system stay strong. (On Health, 2020)
Get Enough Sleep
Your immune system is like your computer — it needs moments of rest, so it doesn’t become overheated and sleep is the biggest factor in rebooting our bodies immunities.
When you’re sleep-deprived, your body churns out stress hormones to keep you awake and alert, which suppresses the immune system. A good night’s sleep is fundamental to maintaining proper health and most adults need seven to nine hours a night. If you have trouble sleeping, forget about counting sheep, instead, make time for some meditation. Not only does this help you sleep, but it also gives the immune system a further boost.
Catch Some Rays
Vitamin D plays an important role in immune system support and it is readily available through exposure to the sun yet is found in very few foods that we eat enough of such as dark green leafy vegetables. Most people do well by combining a daily dose of sunshine and a high-quality Vitamin D supplement. It is known that one-third of the U.S. population is Vitamin D deficient and low vitamin D levels correlate with a greater risk of respiratory infection.
Avoid Tobacco & Drink Less Alcohol
Smoking or tobacco contributes to the weakening of our immune system, and it is important to remember that even second-hand smoke can trigger an asthma attack or help turn a simple cold into bronchitis. Avoid second-hand smoke. Many who smoke also drink. They are traditionally two habits that go hand in hand. Excessive consumption of alcohol impairs the immune system and increases vulnerability to lung infections. (WebMD, 2020)
Drinking enough water is important to keep hydrated, especially when it’s cold and flu season. Keep your immunity up by drinking plenty of water to stave off infection. Staying hydrated helps your body naturally eliminate toxins and other bacteria that may cause illness. Drink the recommended eight ounces per day, and four to eight ounces per every 15 minutes of activity if you’re exercising.
Add Plant-Based Food into the Daily Diet
Try to follow a diet filled with plant-based foods, fresh fruits and vegetables. A study in older adults showed that boosting fruit and vegetable intake improved antibody response to the Pneumovax vaccine, which protects against Streptococcus pneumonia.
Sunflower seeds are rich in zinc, which boosts the immune system by creating lymphocytes. Vitamin C is also good and is found abundantly in many fresh fruits and vegetables. Garlic is a natural antibiotic, while ginger cleanses the accumulation of toxins in the organs. It’s always a good idea to consult with your primary care physician before adding supplements to your diet to be sure there are no drug interactions with prescriptions you may be taking.
Get a Flu Shot
It is important to get a flu shot each year. For those people at risk of complications due to compromised immune systems or chronic disease, including the elderly, infants who have yet to build a robust immune system. (Everyday Health, 2020)
As we age the body’s production of T-cells decreases. T-cells are the so-called “killer” cells that destroy infections. As our ability to produce T-cells decreases, our ability to fight disease and infection decreases as well. Vaccines, such as the flu shot, can decrease the risk we face from a weakened immune system.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
In many cases, people are overweight because they eat foods with low nutritional content. Since our bodies use the food we eat to create compounds that protect our health, eating poor-quality foods hampers our body’s ability to create the compounds required to fight infection and disease. People who are overweight are often less likely to exercise and being physically active is important for overall health. (Everyday Health, 2020)
Why are we more likely to get sick during the cold, winter months? Because when your extremities are colder, it reduces the supply of white blood cells, which help fight illness.
Viruses are also more likely to survive better in colder climates. As air temperatures drop, your mucus secretions increase. A common theme among all these tips is to do what you can to boost and support your white blood cells and avoid activities that don’t allow them to do their job properly. (GoMacro, 2020)
Maintain Good Hygiene
Simply keeping your hands clean is one of the best ways to ward off illness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Make sure to wash your hands for 20 seconds using warm water and soap before preparing food or eating, as well as after coughing, sneezing, using the bathroom, or touching public surfaces.
Fight the Good Fight!
In the end, if you can manage your chronic conditions better, you’ll free up more reserves to help your body fight off infection. So be sure to stay on top of any medications, doctor visits, and healthy habits that keep illness and disease at bay. Your immune system will thank you. (Verywellhealth, 2020)
Harvard Health Publishing. “How to Boost Your Immune System.” Harvard Health, https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-boost-your-immune-system.
“Top 15 Immune System Boosters.” OnHealth, OnHealth, 4 Mar. 2020, https://www.onhealth.com/content/1/immune_system_boost.
“Improve Your Immunity With Diet and Lifestyle Changes.” WebMD, https://www.webmd.com/diet/ss/slideshow-strengthen-immunity.
“10 Tips for Building a Strong Immune System.” GoMacro, https://www.gomacro.com/resources/article/10-tips-building-strong-immune-system/.
Bedosky, ByLauren, et al. “How to Boost Your Immune System Naturally: Everyday Health.” EverydayHealth.com, https://www.everydayhealth.com/columns/white-seeber-grogan-the-remedy-chicks/ten-simple-natural-ways-to-boost-immune-system/.
Wong, Cathy. “How to Use Natural Remedies for Cold and Flu Prevention.” Verywell Health, 11 Mar. 2020, https://www.verywellhealth.com/ways-to-boost-your-immune-system-naturally-89283.