6 ways to strengthen your immune system
Posted by Justine Clarabut on 26 October, 2020
Our home and working lives have changed so much since the pandemic outbreak earlier this year.
Many of us have found ourselves in situations we wouldn’t have chosen to be in, with many social and holiday plans postponed or cancelled, and no definitive line between our work and home lives. It is a testing time for our mental and physical health whilst we all adjust to changing circumstances.
So now more than ever it is essential that we look after our wellbeing and keep ourselves in tip-top condition!
The immune system defends our body against infection. Without it, we would have no way of fighting and removing disease-causing germs (pathogens) like bacteria, viruses, parasites or fungi, or recognising and neutralising harmful substances from the environment. The immune system also helps to fight disease-causing changes in the body, such as cancer cells. Our immune system begins to develop after we are born, strengthens through our teenage and adults years, but declines in old age.
The best defence to fight off illness and strengthen your immune system is to choose a healthy lifestyle
Following good healthy guidelines is the most natural and effective way to help keep the entire body healthy and free from disease, and ensure that our immune system remains strong and healthy.
6 essential lifestyle tips that will help to strengthen your immune system:
1. DIET: Eating a varied and balanced diet that is rich in antioxidants, fibre and essential nutrients is vital to keeping us fit and healthy. Vitamin C is thought to increase the production of white blood cells, which are key to fighting infections. You may well associate high levels of Vitamin C with oranges and citrus fruits, but there any many other foods such as peppers, potatoes and broccoli that are also very high in Vitamin C! Latest research also suggests that a deficiency in Vitamin D may compromise our immune response and increase the risk of infection and disease. Although Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin, it also occurs naturally in a few foods such as fish oils, egg yolks, and in fortified dairy and grain products.
2. EXERCISE: Moderate exercise enables the immune system to perform effectively as it increases blood flow, reduces inflammation and decreases stress. Walking, cycling, swimming, low-impact workouts are all great ways to exercise. What’s more, regular exercise can help you get a better night sleep!
3. SLEEP: Studies show that inadequate sleep can make us more susceptible to viruses, such as common cold and flu. Getting the recommended 7 to 8 hours sleep a night will help to keep your immune system in great shape. According to the Sleep Foundation “Without sufficient sleep, your body makes fewer cytokines, a type of protein that targets infection and inflammation, effectively creating an immune response. Cytokines are both produced and released during sleep. Chronic sleep loss can even make the flu vaccine less effective by reducing your body’s ability to respond”
4. STRESS: Research suggests that long-term (chronic) stress can suppress our protective immune responses and cause inflammation. Whereas short term stress (fight or flight) can actually enhance our immune response! So make sure you are building relaxation into your life and have good coping mechanisms in place for when things get tough! Try Headspace for assisted breathing and meditation techniques. Yoga, walking in nature, journaling and exercise are all great stress relievers.
5. ALCOHOL: For a long time clinicians have observed an association between excessive alcohol consumption and adverse immune-related health effects. According to a study on Alcohol and the Immune System “alcohol disrupts immune pathways in complex and seemingly paradoxical ways” Misuse of alcohol can prevent the body’s ability to defend against infection and can lead to serious illnesses such as cancer and respiratory conditions.
6. SMOKING: Tobacco smoke contains harmful chemicals that can damage our immune systems. Dr. Michael Roizen, MD says “Smoking causes inflammation in areas related to your immune system that make your immune system less effective in fighting all types of infections, whether flu, pneumonia, or any bacteria or virus that attacks you. Smoking also, by causing inflammatory changes in your lungs, diverts your immune system from fighting infections elsewhere, and even from rooting out cancer cells elsewhere, we believe”
Prevention: reduce the risk of spreading infection
Since the outbreak of the pandemic, there are messages coming at us from all sources, telling us to wash our hands, spritz the anti-bac spray, keep our hands away from our faces and clean spaces where we work and live. By doing this, we remove the risk of spreading infection, particularly to those who may have a weakened immune system.
“I have come to believe that caring for myself is not self-indulgent.
Caring for myself is an act of survival” Audre Lorde
Wellbeing People’s mission is to help people achieve optimal wellbeing.
We believe the small simple steps taken to live a more positive, healthy and happy life is the best way to reach this ultimate wellbeing goal. We provide online wellbeing programmes, webinars and workshops to help people make positive lifestyle choices that lead to sustained wellbeing. Our Winter Immunity Webinar empowers individuals to take a pro-active approach to immunity by sharing eye-opening research and actionable lifestyle habits that can be implemented straight away.
Contact us for more information on how we can help you and your employees keep well and fighting fit particularly through the colder winter months.
References and further reading:
How does the immune system work?
Effects of stress on immune function: the good, the bad, and the beautiful
Alcohol and the Immune System
Impacts of cigarette smoking on immune responsiveness: Up and down or upside down?