5 Lifestyle Changes to Boost Your Immune System
A healthy immune system is a powerful defense against sickness and disease. It operates in a very delicate balance, and overreaction to infections can result in severe problems such as allergies and autoimmune disorders. There are hundreds of supplements and products designed to boost the immune system, but a natural approach is better in the long term.
The following lifestyle changes are proven to improve the body’s protection against viruses, bacteria and toxins.
Eat a balanced diet.
Many leading health bodies including The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics confirm that diet is a key factor in maintaining a strong immune system. Foods rich in natural antioxidants, such as fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds help to reduce inflammation within the body. Over time inflammation can suppress the immune system and trigger a range of illnesses.
Increasing the amount of whole plant foods in your diet is an effective way to fuel your body with nutrients. This a different approach to eating rather than a short-term fix. It doesn’t mean becoming vegan or vegetarian, but the focus should be on minimally processed foods with a limit on added sugars, white flour and animal products. An emphasis on locally sourced and organic foods can also bring health benefits.
Get plenty of sleep.
Sleeping may not feel like a very proactive way to build your immune system, but the body creates infection-fighting molecules and builds its defenses while you rest. Adults should have at least seven hours of sleep each night, and seniors may need as many as nine. Cytokines, a type of protein that targets infections within the body, are both produced and released during sleep. Maintaining a regular bedtime and waking time is a good habit to develop to ensure your immune system gets the full benefit of natural healing and defense processes.
Manage stress levels.
Stress is a part of modern life for most people, but it can drain your energy levels and immune system if it’s not managed. Long periods of stress trigger a series of reactions within the body and these can affect your ability to deal with infections. Meditation, breathing exercises and physical exercise are simple ways to calm your mind. Spending time enjoying social activities or a hobby you enjoy can also help to reduce the stress response.
Get regular exercise.
Regular physical exercise is one of the foundations of health. It helps to control body weight, improves cardiovascular health and lowers blood pressure. Exercise can also contribute to a healthy immune system. It’s important to consider your general fitness levels and age before undertaking exercise for immunity boosting as excessive strain on the body can have the opposite effect. Choose an activity you enjoy and will find it easy to incorporate into your lifestyle and other commitments. Any physical activity, including walking, promotes good circulation that can help chemical substances of the immune system move freely through the body.
Don’t smoke and drink alcohol only in moderation.
The damage caused by smoking and drinking alcohol has been known for decades. Smoking can cause cancer, coronary heart disease, strokes and more than fifty other chronic illnesses. It also affects the immune system and reduces the body’s ability to regulate pathogens. Drinking excessive alcohol damages immune cells and fine hairs in the respiratory system that help to filter harmful substances. Gut bacteria that help to reduce the risk of inflammation and infections in the body can also be destroyed by alcohol.
Adopting these positive lifestyle changes can add years to your life and give your immune system the best chance of fighting viruses and other invaders.