If 2020 has you wondering how you can stay healthy and boost your immune system, you are not alone. People all around the world want to know how they can fortify this vital component of their well-being.
Before we begin, there are a couple of things you ought to know. First, the immune system isn’t an organ, like your heart or lungs. It’s a collection of things, including your spleen, your lymphatic system, bone marrow, white blood cells, antibodies and more. That’s why we call it a system - and it’s a complex one. Which is to say, there’s no single, simple way to make your immune system better than everyone else’s. There may be no scientific way to do it all.
But that’s different than maintaining a balanced immune system, which most experts say you should shoot for. And there are plenty of healthy habits to help you do that. Even science is intrigued by the effects of age, exercise, sleep, diet and more on the body’s immune system and response.
Want to make sure your immune system is in tip-top shape? Consider adopting some of these healthy habits:
Pick the right diet
Eating right will help you maintain immune system balance. Experts suggest stocking the fridge with citrus fruits for the Vitamin C and green superfood like broccoli, spinach and green tea. Garlic is charged with immune-boosting sulfur-containing compounds and ginger is believed to have anti-inflammatory properties. Through some almonds, rich in Vitamin E., on yogurt for a tasty treat. Yogurt’s natural Vitamin D helps regulate your immune system.
Limit your fat intake (but don’t eliminate it). Too much can throw your system out of whack. High-fat diets can alter your gut biome, closely related to your immune system, weakening the whole. For more information, you can can check HCGDietInfo.
Get enough sleep
Science is always telling us to get more sleep, and it’s not that we don't want to. Life is busy, after all. But sleep deprivation might be sabotaging our ability to fight off infection and inflammation. While you sleep, your immune system releases cytokines, proteins that take on various jobs, including sleep promotion. If you’re not sleeping enough, you are actively reducing the production of these disease-busting proteins.
Most experts suggest no less than eight hours of sleep a night, though recent research suggests that varies by individual. Start a sleep journal and keep track of your hours. Increase them as needed.
No one is surprised that smoking has a negative effect on the immune system. What might be shocking is just how much of a destructive cyclone smoking can be. It can tear apart sensitive lung tissue, which increases the risk of contracting bronchitis and pneumonia. Cigarette and cigar ingredients, like tar and other toxins, can kill antibodies and reduce the body’s production of them. Want to help your immune system? Kick the habit.
Drink in moderation
When the coronavirus went from epidemic to global pandemic, alcohol sales took off. This alarmed health professionals because they knew that excessive drinking was a quick way to weaken the body’s immune system and slow any immune response. Alcohol, it turns out, loves destroying immune system cells.
If immune cells in the lungs are compromised, it makes it much easier for respiratory infections to take hold and grow. Alcohol can also mess with the gut’s biome, encouraging inflammation and crippling immune response.
Generally speaking, exercise promotes all kinds of good health, from leaner muscle, stronger heart and lungs, and lower body mass index to better mental health. It also promotes a more balanced immune system, improving immune response, lowering illness risk and reducing inflammation, according to the “Journal of Sport and Health Science.”
Exercise increases blood flow and lymphatic response, which boosts circulation of immune cells. In a way, exercise calls in the Cavalry, sending more white cells at a higher rate around the body. And it calls in specialized immune cells that target specific pathogens, clearing them from the body.
Find the right, healthy weight for you
Excess weight can wreak havoc on the body, from joint pain to heart disease. The immune system is susceptible as well. Obesity promotes the creation of “pro-inflammatory” immune cells, called macrophages. These little bad guys float through the bloodstream, triggering inflammation wherever they go. That chronic inflammation promotes coronary artery disease and a host of other problems.
You can find your ideal body weight and calculate your body mass index through a number of online calculators. Consulting with your doctor about the weight that’s right for you is also a good idea. Once you have that number, work toward that goal. But don’t despair. Losing just 10 pounds if you are overweight can help restore balance to your immune system.
Stress triggers inflammation in the body, and inflammation weakens the immune system. But how can anyone get through a day without feeling a little stress? Especially in uncertain times?
It is definitely a challenge - for everyone - but there are steps you can take to reduce your stress.Steps like keeping a positive attitude, realizing there are things that are simply out of your control, and adopting relaxation techniques like meditation and yoga. There are even steps to a healthy immune system that will also aid in stress reduction, like exercising regularly and eating healthy.
Mitigate your infection risk
If you lived through the COVID-19 outbreak - or any bad flu season - you know what this means. Wash your hands thoroughly and regularly, avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth before you have washed your hands, and social distance from sick individuals. By lowering your overall chance of picking up an infectious disease, you bolster your immune system by allowing it to stay in peak condition.
Think critically about supplements
At some point on your immune system journey, someone will likely suggest you take vitamin and mineral supplements to give your system the boost you’re looking for. Take some of that advice with a grain of salt. While some research suggests certain vitamins, minerals and herbs can improve immune response, there is no perfect combination and there is still a lot of research to be done.
If you think your immune system might benefit from supplements, consult your doctor first. You may discover you are Vitamin D deficient and supplements are perfect for you. You might also learn that you don’t need supplements, and increasing your vitamin or mineral intake won’t do anything more than cost you money.
Much like the immune system itself, maintaining a balanced system comprises different tactics and an overall strategy. Before you dive in, talk to experts to see what might work best for you.
Can Not Sleeping Make You Sick?
Yes, lack of sleep can affect your immune system. Studies show that people who don't get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, such as a common cold virus. Lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover if you do get sick.
So, your body needs sleep to fight infectious diseases. Long-term lack of sleep also increases your risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) disease.
How much sleep do you need to bolster your immune system? The optimal amount of sleep for most adults is seven to eight hours of good sleep each night. Teenagers need nine to 10 hours of sleep. School-aged children may need 10 or more hours of sleep.
But more sleep isn't always better. For adults, sleeping more than nine to 10 hours a night may result in a poor quality of sleep, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep.
Alaska Sleep Clinic is ready to help you improve your sleep and your life. Call us this week to speak with one of our board-certified sleep specialists.