As we enter the winter, there are more viruses around, and people tend to get sicker. Having a robust immune system is always an excellent way to help fight off colds and flu. This year it seems even more critical that we take care of our bodies with a global virus wreaking havoc across the world. Thankfully there are plenty of ways to naturally boost your immune system, from supplements to exercise, to resting and taking breaks. Let’s take a look in a little more detail.
Exercise is essential for many different reasons; it is great for weight loss and overall health, but it also has a vital role to play in a healthy immune system. People who exercise regularly have a superior circulatory system. This gives an easier rite of passage for our infection-fighting cells to dissipate through the body and get to the area in which they are needed. The immune system is stimulated by about 30 minutes of exercise on a daily basis, so it is important that whatever else you are doing you take time to move your body and try and keep it a little fitter and in tip-top condition.
While many people rely on coffee to get them through the day, it is important that we remember that this is actually a diuretic and not particularly good for hydration. It is really important that we keep the body properly hydrated. We lose water through breathing, exercise and sweating as well as going to the toilet. So, it’s therefore important that we replace fluids regularly, and this needs to be water rather than caffeine-based drinks like tea and coffee. The water in the immune system context is there to move fluid around your lymphatic system, and this is important for keeping your virus-fighting abilities high. Lack of water leads to sluggish lymph systems which in turn leaves you more vulnerable to catching bugs.
Sleep is really important and often underestimated by people. Quality sleep is another vital component of a healthy immune system with those who do not sleep well, being more likely to succumb to viruses. When you sleep, you are repairing the body, and in turn, this will strengthen the immune system helping you when it comes to fighting illnesses or infections. If you are struggling to sleep, you should create good sleep hygiene which means things like going to bed at the same time every night, keeping the room cool and dark, avoiding using electronics right before bed, and not drinking caffeine-based products after 3:00 PM in the afternoon.
We can actually get everything we need in the form of nutrients from our diet, but it is sometimes easier to take vitamins and minerals. There are many good food sources that can give your vitamin intake a boost, vitamin B6, for example, can be found in bananas, chicken, tuna, green vegetables and potatoes with the skin on. Vitamin C is essential for the immune system, and this is found in all citrus fruits like oranges and in tomatoes and strawberries as well as broccoli and spinach. We also need an adequate supply of vitamin E for a strong immune system, and this is found in things like nuts and seeds. If you really don’t think you can get all of that from your diet, then a high-quality vitamin supplement could well be appropriate. It is also essential to try and eat foods in their natural state, rather than over-processed. While they might be convenient things like ready meals, do not offer an exceptionally high-quality vitamin and mineral intake. Therefore, if that’s what you live on, you are risking having a weakened immune system because of poor dietary habits. It is best to eat fresh fruit and vegetables, and meat in as close to the natural state as possible.
Another area that we often forget links to the immune system is stress hormones. Stress is actually very bad for your overall health and weakens the immune system. The stress response, often known as fight or flight, actually also suppresses the immune system, so you become more susceptible to picking up some kind of illness or infection. Controlling stress in the modern world can be quite tricky, but it’s important that you try. Many people find that exercise is a good way to relieve stress, and we’ve already mentioned that that is also good for the immune system. Things like meditation, a long hot bath, and snuggling up with a good film are also great ways to leave the stretches of the day behind. Taking a day to do things you enjoy is also a great way to distress, and in turn, leave the immune system healthier.
The Immune Response
Finally, it’s important to remember that the immune system does actually have a job to do. So, the fact that you pick up a cold from time to time is no bad thing. Being mildly ill gives your immune system a chance to work and practise, the concern is when you become susceptible and continually pick-up viruses and colds. If you only get viruses very occasionally, then the chances are you have a nice strong immune system that is functioning well. However, all of the above advice is still pertinent and should be practised in order to make sure it stays that way.