Cold and flu season is upon us, and oh yeah, let’s not forget the elephant in the room, the PANDEMIC. With all of these seasonal and circumstantial immune system “villains,” it is essential to remember that there are plenty of simple steps we can take to improve our health and wellbeing. Health does not need to be reactionary. Quite on the contrary. If you can learn how to boost your immune system, you may stay ahead of any ailments that come your way. In this article, you will learn about our favorite immune-boosting foods, as well as other immune-boosting supplements and habits.
With the current state of affairs, vocabulary words, such as “vaccinations,” have become extremely common. The ICU bed counts in every city are being blasted everywhere and are hard to avoid. Culturally, we are experiencing tragedy, anxiety, and mourning like never before. While science and the medical field at large are of the utmost importance in times like these, we must not forget that we were born with an incredible and sophisticated system to combat many things that may attack our health. Our immune systems are, by design, our body’s first line of defense. We each have the ability to strengthen our personal health with these top five immune-boosting tips.
1. Trade happy hour for a session at the gym.
Let’s face it. Alcohol has a way of taking the edge off some of the panic and anxiety we all may feel. Beyond that, it has a prominent place in our social structure. During the holidays, we drink. During birthdays, we drink. During social or work outings, we drink. The thing is, alcohol suppresses your immune functions. According to the US National Library of Medicine (National Institutes of Health), alcohol disrupts immune pathways in complex ways. “These disruptions can impair the body’s ability to defend against infection, contribute to organ damage, and impede recovery from tissue injury.”
So, the key to this immune-boosting tip is to drink in moderation. Make sure you stay hydrated, especially when drinking. Make a conscious effort to consume a full glass of water for every alcoholic beverage you drink.
2. Exercise often and maintain a healthy weight.
Another way to boost your immune system is to exercise and stay active. When you increase your heart rate, you also increase blood flow to your organs, connective tissue, and lymph nodes. All of this helps your body to rid itself of toxins, flushing them out of your system and allowing new nutrients and oxygen to take their place.
When you let your weight get out of hand, more goes downhill than your existing wardrobe. Your immune system will also take a hit. According to the National Library of Medicine (National Center for Biotechnology Information), obesity (like other states of malnutrition) alters your leucocyte counts, as well as cell-mediated immune responses. Also, evidence has arisen that an altered immune function contributes to the pathogenesis of obesity. This may be a “chicken or the egg” scenario. The bottom line is, do your best to stay in shape so that your immune system stays healthy.
3. Commit to getting enough sleep every night.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that sleep has a powerful effect on immune system functionality. In fact, restricted sleep can lead to various disorders, including but not limited to inflammatory cytokines and a higher risk for infection. No thanks!
In these crazy times (and every year during cold and flu season), it is vital to let your body rest and recharge. Create a bedtime routine to promote a restful night of sleep. This can be done in several ways, but firstly, minimize screen time before bed. That blue light emitted from your cell phone can make it much harder for you to fall asleep and can also cause interruptions throughout the night.
Perhaps before bed, set aside some time (even 20 or 30 minutes) to meditate or reflect in a journal. Let your mind unwind in preparation for rest and relaxation. Perhaps use essential oils in a diffuser to help create a peaceful environment in your bedroom. Lavender is an excellent choice for promoting sleep.
4. May thy food be thy medicine.
One of the most important and powerful immune boosters is the food you eat. Historically, humans (and all creatures in nature) ate to fuel their bodies and as a means of survival. The development of eating for pleasure or entertainment is a relatively new phenomenon in the grand scheme of the world’s history. While it is fun and convenient, our bodies may pay the price.
As a culture, we (voluntarily) consume more chemicals and preservatives than the human body was ever designed to handle. We also overconsume calories because eating is as easy as a walk to the fridge, or at worst, a trip to the store. These habits are a detriment to your immune system. Instead, it would be best if you focused on eating as many whole foods as possible, with a particular focus on produce. Produce is loaded with vitamins and minerals (especially leafy greens – the darker, the better). Also, add as many immune-boosting foods (such as ginger, garlic, turmeric, and citrus) to your diet as possible.
5. Stop smoking.
One of the worst things you can do for your immune system (and health in general) is to smoke cigarettes. These nasty, cancer-causing little devils greatly suppress your immune system. They make it difficult for your lungs to do their extremely important job. On top of that, they suppress your appetite and may induce cravings for junk foods. If these reasons are not enough to convince you, cigarettes also cause a greater susceptibility to infections (like the flu and pneumonia) and lower your levels of antioxidants (such as vitamin C) in your bloodstream.
And finally, don’t forget to wear your mask! While mask-wearing is not technically “immune-boosting,” it will help decrease your risk of being exposed to germs that may lead to sickness. In times like this, play it safe!