Your immune system is your body's defense mechanism: an army to fight off bacteria and viruses.
During a global pandemic, strengthening your immune system is one of the most important and impactful things you can do right now. Whether you will get sick or not once your body is exposed to a virus or bacteria solely depends on your immune system.
Your diet, sleep hygiene, daily activities, etc., play a massive role in your immune system. Just by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, the risk of infectious diseases and malignancy reduces drastically.
How Does Your Immune System Work?
The function of our immune system is very complex. To put it into simple words, your body makes proteins called antibodies that destroy abnormal or foreign cells. They help fend off common ailments like the flu or a cold and protect you against major illnesses like cancer or heart disease.
You also have a backup response known as the "cell-mediated immune system." This involves immune system cells rather than antibodies. They help your body create memories of past defenses against specific threats.
When your body sees that invader again, it calls up that memory and sets out to destroy the threat before the disease develops. This makes vaccines or immunizations work for illnesses like the flu, measles, chickenpox, or hepatitis. The shot has a small but harmless amount of the disease in it so your immune cells can react, learn, and remember how to protect you from it next time.
Now, there are many natural ways available to improve your immune system to give it a boost. However, not all of them work.
Let's look into some scientifically proven ways to boost your immune system.
- Maintain a healthy diet
"You're what you eat."
Maintaining a balanced diet is the first pillar to build a healthy body. Including green, leafy vegetables in your diet rich in vitamins help you strengthen your immune system. Studies show that eating cruciferous vegetables sends a chemical signal to the body that boosts specific cell-surface proteins necessary for efficient immune-system function. Greens also offer bioactive compounds that release a chemical signal that optimizes immunity in the gut, the location of 70-80% of immune cells.
Planning out your meals and tracking your macro and micronutrients can keep you away from the flu.
- Get a good night's sleep
Sleep and immune functioning are closely linked. It is a scientifically proven fact that inadequate nighttime sleep results in sickness. In research conducted on 164 healthy adults, it was revealed that those who slept less than 6 hours each night are more susceptible to catching a cold than those who slept more than 6 hours.
If you have trouble sleeping well, learn more about ways to improve your sleep.
- Get More Sun Exposure
Georgetown University Medical Center researchers have found that sunlight, through a mechanism separate from vitamin D production, energizes T cells that play a central role in human immunity. Apart from that, when your skin is exposed to sunlight, it makes vitamin D from cholesterol, strengthening your immunity system. Exposure to sunlight also improves your sleeping cycle.
Consider getting yourself some sun exposure regularly, preferably early in the morning when the UV index is low, and only about 20 minutes.
- Exercise Regularly
Maintaining an active lifestyle can do more for you other than keeping you fit and trim. According to a study published in the journal Neurologic Clinicians, regular exercise also reduces inflammation and risks of chronic disease, reduces stress and the release of stress-related hormones, and accelerates the circulation of disease-fighting white blood cells (WBCs), which help the body fight the common cold. Going to the gym 3-4 times per week or even going for a walk or run regularly can give your body a better fighting chance against illnesses.
To benefit most from exercising, create a routine that best suits your lifestyle and stick to it. Consistency is key when it comes to exercising.
- Reduce Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol consumption can weaken your immune system by damaging the body's dendritic cells, a vital immune system component. Moreover, increased alcohol consumption can also increase a person's exposure to bacteria and viruses. Alcohol consumption has also been linked to poor quality sleep.
Limiting your alcohol consumption can improve your physical and mental health in many ways. Learn more about ways to cut back on drinking.
- Follow a Rainbow Diet
A rainbow diet should comprise green vegetables, ginger, garlic, red bells, citrus fruits, papaya, dry fruits like almonds, sunflower seeds, turmeric, fish, and dairy products like yogurt. Studies have proved that all the elements of a balanced diet are rich in vitamin C, E, B6, A, K, and other essential elements like zinc, selenium, copper, iron, magnesium, and many others boost your immune system.
- Keep Your Stress at Bay
For years, doctors suspected there was a connection between chronic mental stress and physical illness. According to a 2012 study published by the National Academy of Sciences, finding an effective way to regulate personal stress may go a long way toward better overall health,
Cortisol helps the body fight inflammation and disease. The constant release of the hormone in people who are chronically stressed lessens its overall effectiveness. This can result in increased inflammation and infection, as well as a less effective immune system. Let's move through some tips to manage your stress:
∙ Exercise and morning walk
∙ Consulting a counselor or therapist
- Consider Supplements
Some evidence and data suggest that consuming supplements of vitamins C, D, A, zinc, selenium, and garlic in the proper dosage will help establish resistance against different bacterial and viral infections like colds, cough, etc. Similarly, many human trials were conducted to check the activity of beta-glucan and various mushroom species. It was concluded that they decrease the symptoms of the cold and flu in human beings.
- Maintain Good Hygiene
It's almost a given that staying away from bacteria and virus is the best way to defend your body. Some practices to maintain good hygiene are:
∙ Wash your hands often throughout the day for at least 20-30 seconds
∙ Cover your mouth and nose while coughing and sneezing
∙ Wash your hands before touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
∙ Shower daily
∙ Disinfectant frequent touched surfaces using an alcohol-based cleaner
∙ Wash your hands before handling food
Building healthy habits and sticking to them is the most effective way to improve your immune system.
Following these tips, even when healthy, will increase the fighting chance of your body against illnesses.
Let's face it, your body would be vulnerable without our immune system, and it works very hard to keep you strong and healthy.
So, make sure you're fueling your body correctly to stay in excellent shape.
Did you find any of these tips helpful? Comment below to let us know.