Now more than ever, it’s important to do all you can to strengthen your immune system. You might be lured into thinking herbs and supplements are the best protection against illnesses. But really, making these five simple lifestyle changes can do much more to support a healthy immune system.
Get Good Sleep
Regular, restful sleep recharges and strengthens your immune system. Sleep researchers agree you need at least seven hours of sleep to achieve the immune enhancing benefits.
Interestingly, they’ve noted that compared to those who get a good night’s sleep, when sleep-deprived people are exposed to the virus that causes a cold, they’re more likely to catch it. Also, when given a vaccine, good sleepers produce more antibodies to the vaccine than those who are sleep deprived.
So, if you’re always burning the midnight oil, get to sleep and let your immune system get to work instead.
Power up Your Diet
When it comes to enhancing immunity, food really is the best medicine. Your immune system relies on proteins, healthy fats, and several important micronutrients, like vitamins A, C and D, zinc, and selenium to work optimally. Before you reach for supplements, make sure you’re getting as much as you can from your diet first. Good food choices for those nutrients include:
- Seafood, especially salmon, mahi mahi, pollock, sardines, mussels and oysters
- Beans or legumes
- Nuts and seeds
- Orange fruits and vegetables like cantaloupe, mango, carrots, and sweet potatoes
- Leafy greens
- Sweet peppers
- Citrus fruits like oranges, grapefruit, and limes
Feed Your Gut
Your gut and your immune system might seem like an unlikely pair, but in reality, about 70% of your immune system is located in your digestive tract. It influences your risk of chronic illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, cancer, autoimmune diseases, and allergies, as well as short-term, or acute illnesses.
Your digestive tract is home to billions of healthy microbes which need to be nourished and fed – and their favorite food is prebiotic fiber. The best foods for gut health include fermented foods like:
And prebiotic fiber-rich foods such as:
- Under-ripe bananas
Manage Your Stress
Ongoing stress takes a toll on every part of your body, including your immune system. It causes chronic inflammation, which can raise your blood sugar, damage blood vessels, and weaken your body’s response to bacteria, viruses, and other harmful pathogens.
We all have stress, but some people manage it better than others. Mind-body techniques that help you focus on breathing, relaxation, and living in the present (as opposed to worrying about what might or might not happen tomorrow) are especially helpful in managing stress, as are bodywork therapies. Check out some of the free apps and online classes to get started.
Go for a Walk
Regular, moderate exercise may also give your immune system a boost. It keeps your body and your circulation healthy. That allows your white blood cells, antibodies, and other chemicals that protect your body to quickly travel where they’re needed.
You don’t have to do intense exercise to reap the benefits either. A brisk walk does the trick. And, when you walk outside, in the sunshine, you get an added benefit of vitamin D from the sun. It’s one of the most important vitamins for healthy immune function, and besides fortified milk, and fish, it’s not very prevalent in foods.
Nothing can guarantee that it will prevent an illness, but a strong, healthy immune system is your best defense. Wash your hands frequently, steer clear from known germs, and make these easy lifestyle changes. You’ll be giving your body all the support you can to stay healthy today and in the future.
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