Your immune system has a very important job to do. It’s your body’s main line of defense against illnesses like colds, the flu, and COVID-19, so keeping it healthy is more important now than ever before.
The immune system is much more complex than most people realize. It consists of skin cells, blood, organs, tissues, and bone marrow that all work together to protect your body from simple things like sunburns and big things like cancer- as well as nasty viruses and bacteria.
You could think of your immune system as a machine. If you want to perform at its best, each individual component of that machine needs to be performing at its best. You can’t have one part slacking off while the rest works double-time trying to compensate.
It’s the same for your immune system. If it’s going to perform optimally, each individual component needs to do its job. Try these tips and techniques to keep your immune system running like a well-oiled machine.
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It All Starts with Good Nutrition
According to experts at a leading integrative functional medicine clinic in NYC, “So much of our health and wellness depends on our inner balance of hydration, vitamins, and nutrients.” Nutrients like B-vitamins, vitamin C, zinc, lysine, trace minerals, and amino acids are all essential for your immune system to do its job.
These essential nutrients each play a unique and essential role in supporting your immune system. So, eating a healthy diet that includes a wide variety of whole foods every day is crucial. Focus on fresh fruits and veggies, lean protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats.
Keep in mind that our bodies can’t produce many nutrients on their own. For example, our bodies do not produce vitamin C, which is essential for fighting infection. And, the amino acids in protein are essential for building and maintaining healthy immune cells.
Eating a healthy diet is key on the day-to-day, but don’t stop there. Boost your nutrition by incorporating a high-quality multivitamin into your daily routine. And any time you’re feeling tired, run-down, or fatigued, consider a nourishing IV vitamin infusion to give your body an instant boost of nutrition that will help it fight off illness.
Take Control of Your Stress
Let’s face it. There’s no way you’re going to be able to completely remove stress from your life. But you should find healthy ways to manage it and reduce it as much as possible. Here’s why.
Long-term, chronic stress causes the level of cortisol (stress hormone) in your body to be elevated. And, chronically elevated cortisol levels aren’t so good for your immune system. In fact, cortisol actually blocks the immune system from doing its job until whatever is causing the stress is over.
The good news is, there are lots of effective ways to improve your mental health and manage stress. You just have to find what works for you. Meditation, yoga, journaling, exercise, and listening to music are all great places to start.
The key is to not let the stress build-up. Try to do something to minimize your stress level every single day. If you’re short on time, even five or 10 minutes of your favorite stress-reducing activity can have tremendous benefits.
Prioritize Quality Sleep
It’s true that the body regenerates and heals while you sleep. That makes quality sleep crucial for a strong immune system. In fact, your body produces key immune cells like interleukin 12, T-cells, and cytokines when you sleep.
So, when you aren’t prioritizing quality sleep, your immune system doesn’t have the opportunity to create and distribute these cells efficiently, which also means it can’t do its job of protecting your body as efficiently, either.
For example, a person who suffers from insomnia is still more susceptible to the flu, even after vaccination, than someone who gets plenty of sleep. That’s because sleep deprivation elevates cortisol levels, much like stress, and we already know that’s not good for your immune system.
Adults should prioritize at least seven to eight hours of quality sleep every night to keep the immune system functioning at its best.
Exercise Often and Get Outside Whenever You Can
We’ve all heard that regular exercise can lower the risk of chronic diseases, such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. But did you know it can also reduce your risk of bacterial and viral infections, too?
Once again, it comes down to hormones. Exercise encourages the release of endorphins, sometimes called the “happy hormone.” That makes exercise fantastic, not only for managing stress and supporting the immune system but also for boosting your mood and your energy levels.
That said, you shouldn’t overdo it. Overworking your body with high-intensity exercise can actually suppress the immune system. Thirty minutes a day, five days a week is all you really need to keep your immune system strong and your body healthy overall.
You can boost your immune system even more by exercising outdoors. Spending time outside supports immune health by reducing inflammation, increasing your vitamin D intake, and lowering blood pressure.
Some Final Thoughts
At the end of the day, your lifestyle has a tremendous impact on the health of your immune system. For example, overindulging in alcohol can harm your health in a variety of ways, including weakening your immune system.
When you drink too much alcohol, your body has to work hard to detoxify it from the system, which takes away from your body’s ability to fight infections- both viral and bacterial. That means you’ll be more susceptible to all sorts of issues- from cancer and pneumonia to COVID-19.
And, just like alcohol, smoking cigarettes not only increases your risk of many health conditions, it also interferes with immune function. In this case, the chemicals released by smoking inhibit the growth and proper function of immune cells, leaving you more vulnerable to infection- including colds, flu, and COVID-19.
The point is, the better you take care of your body overall, the healthier your immune system will be. Leading a healthy lifestyle isn’t just about looking and feeling good right now, it’s about staying healthy for the long haul. What could be more important than that… especially in times like these!