Your immune system is your body’s natural defense against flu, colds and other infections. It’s delicately balanced so it can respond to threats, but not overreact.
There are some foods and lifestyle habits that have been shown to bolster immunity. Here are some easy ways to support yours: Eat well, get enough sleep, exercise regularly and manage stress.
Eat a Healthy Diet
In order to function properly, your immune system needs good nutrition. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and lean protein helps to bolster immunity.
A healthy immune system is one that recognises the difference between your own cells and bacteria or viruses that enter the body and destroys any of the invaders. At the same time it’s careful not to attack your own healthy cells which would cause autoimmune diseases such as Crohn’s or lupus.
A strong immune system also depends on a healthy digestive tract and the trillions of bacteria that call your gut home. These bacteria are known as the microbiome. They play a role in everything from supporting normal immune function to helping fight off allergies by releasing histamine which is important for allergy symptoms.
Get Enough Sleep
Snoozing well each night is one of the best ways to keep your immune system functioning at peak performance. When you get a good night’s sleep, the body has the time and energy it needs to repair itself and eliminate viruses and bacteria. Getting enough sleep also helps to reduce the stress hormone cortisol.
The immune system is made up of a complex network of cells, proteins and organs that work together to protect the body from bacteria, germs, viruses and other toxins. The immune system is your natural defence against infection so it’s important to look after it with a healthy diet, regular exercise and sufficient rest. In addition, drinking plenty of water and avoiding sugary drinks can help to boost immunity. Adults should aim to get between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night. It’s important to relax before bed to help you fall asleep. Try listening to relaxing music, meditating or reading a book.
We’ve all seen the dodgy ads claiming to offer supplements, cold-water plunges and other things that can boost immunity. But the immune system is delicately balanced and is influenced by many factors, both external and internal.
The best way to support your body’s natural defenses is to make healthy lifestyle choices such as eating well, exercising regularly and getting enough sleep. Avoiding smoking, limiting alcohol intake and keeping stress levels low can also help.
Exercise helps to stimulate your immune system by moving lymphatic fluid around the body. So a 15 to 20-minute at-home workout or a brisk walk a few times per week can keep your body strong and healthy, and improve your mood as well.
Manage Your Stress
Stress is a normal part of life. And in short spurts, like the fight-or-flight response that lasts minutes or hours in reaction to an immediate threat, it can boost the immune system. But, long-term stress wears down the body’s ability to fight infection.
When we’re stressed, the body produces a hormone called cortisol that increases inflammation and decreases levels of white blood cells which are necessary to fight viruses and bacteria. This is why it’s not uncommon for people to get sick after experiencing a period of intense stress.
To help support the immune system during periods of high stress, try to focus on healthy habits and find a way to manage your stress. This can include eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep and regularly exercising (even if it’s just going for a walk). Also, try to socialize regularly as studies show that this helps to manage stress. This can be done by getting together with a group of friends to go for a walk or having regular video calls.