Nine Ways to Strengthen Your Immune System
Your immune system is your body’s defense against viruses, infections and diseases. It also detects, blocks and removes foreign substances that may enter our bodies. The stronger the immune system, the better the opportunity to fight off illness.
What Weakens the Immune System?
Many things can interrupt our immune system – genetics, age, vices, diet, fitness levels, sleeping habits, infection history, previous and current illnesses and the medicines we take. Regardless of the cause, having a weakened immune system can make you more susceptible to viruses and infections that may lead to more serious diseases.
How to Boost Your Immune System
For better or worse, our immune system is a “system,” not a single unit. It requires a collective effort from different aspects of our lives to function efficiently. Here are some ways to help you boost your immune system.
1. Eat healthy food.
Fill your fridge and cupboards with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, peas, beans and other nutrient-dense food to get as much fiber, vitamins and minerals as you can on a daily basis. Try to avoid added sugar, processed food, harmful fats and all sorts of junk food that may do more harm than good in the long run.
2. Fuel up on water.
Drinking at least eight glasses of water a day is the best way to stay hydrated and properly digest food and nutrients. It may also help you lose weight, improve brain function, prevent headaches, maximize physical performance and relieve constipation.
3. Stay active and keep a healthy weight.
Exercising promotes good blood circulation, allowing cells in the immune system to freely move across the body. Staying active also helps control body weight, helps improve heart and respiratory health, helps you stay on top of stress and more.
4. Get enough sleep.
The immune system needs rest to avoid overworking. Sleep reboots the immune system; that’s why we need it. When you're sleep-deprived, your body produces fewer cytokines, a type of protein that helps the immune system regulate infection and inflammation.
5. Manage and reduce stress.
Stress hormones, like cortisol, suppress the immune system. Although you can’t avoid stress altogether, you can be strategic in managing stress and eventually reducing your triggers. Some effective ways to manage stress include exercising, meditation, talking to someone, listening to relaxing music and sleeping.
6. Avoid drinking alcohol.
The Alcohol Research: Current Reviews (ARCR) says that chronic alcohol consumption can disrupt the immune system, affecting the body’s defense against infection and delaying recovery from injury. Depending on your drinking habits, it may be best to completely remove alcohol from your system; you can slowly limit your consumption if you don’t cut it entirely. Talk with your doctor for more information.
7. Don’t smoke.
Smoking cigarettes can also disrupt the body’s capacity to fight infection. It promotes inflammatory responses and may cause respiratory disease, asthma, DNA damage and various cancers.
8. Keep your hands clean.
Microorganisms like germs, bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites may enter our bodies and interfere with our immune system. These infection-causing microorganisms live on doorknobs, tables, remote controls, elevator buttons and the like which is why you have to wash or sanitize your hands regularly.
9. Consider vaccines.
Vaccines are created to stimulate our immune system to fight specific illnesses and infections such as flu, hepatitis, polio, measles, HIV and more. If you’re interested in getting a specific vaccine, talk to your doctor first to find out if it’s safe for you at this point.
As mentioned, boosting your immune system takes a collective effort of improving one’s lifestyle, habits and physical and mental health. Got questions? Schedule an appointment with your doctor to learn more about this topic.
Center for Disease Control and Prevention
Harvard Health Publishing
National Center for Biotechnology Information