Getting a better immune system is necessary, especially in times like this when there’s a virus taking lives.
While you may think you’re doing everything possible to stay healthy such as washing your hands and staying two feet away from people in crowded areas, there’s a lot more you can do to keep yourself safe.
Here, we’ll be looking at the lifestyle changes that will help you produce a near-perfect (or even perfect) immune response against harmful microorganisms.
Let’s take a look.
11 Things You Can Do To Boost Your Immune System.
1. Start eating healthy.
It’s time to get rid of the junk foods and get on a healthy diet that will improve your immune system function.
Healthy foods consist of lots of fruits and vegetables which contain vitamins and minerals that are proven to help you fight infectious microorganisms.
For instance, citrus fruits contain vitamins and antioxidants that prevent cellular damage by free radicals.
Vegetables like spinach, broccoli, and mushrooms, also give you vitamin A, B, D, and E. These vitamins have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immune-boosting properties. They satisfy your body requirements for macronutrients.
So, instead of eating a burger and fries for lunch every day, try some salads and new recipes using healthy foods.
2. Exercise regularly.
Do you know that exercising regularly keeps your immune system active and ready to fight infections anytime?
Now, we’re not talking about going to the gym to carry weights and run on treadmills.
Of course, you can do that if building your muscles is your goal.
However, the simplest of exercises will go a long way in boosting your immune system.
Physical activity like going out for a walk, jogging, or cycling, may help clear bacteria from your lung or airways. So, you’re less likely to catch a cold or get the flu.
Also, exercise causes your white blood cells to circulate your body more rapidly, so they can easily detect microorganisms that your body has come in contact with before.
During exercise, your body also experiences a slight rise in temperature which may prevent harmful bacteria from growing in your body. Temperature rise can also contribute to better defenses by the immune system, just like how your body fights infection when you have a fever.
So, get out of the house and engage in physical activities that will boost your immune system.
3. Quit smoking.
We are all aware that smoking harms your general health. It is always written on the packet of cigarettes that ‘smokers are liable to die young.’
Apart from causing heart disease, emphysema, and lung cancer, a study shows that smoking cigarettes can also weaken your immune system.
The lungs are more susceptible to viral diseases when they are weakened by cigarette smoke. Your immune system is now unable to defend you from viruses like coronavirus that attacks the respiratory system.
And since your lungs are already weak, you have become the perfect host.
To quit smoking and start a healthy lifestyle, you should talk to your doctor. And if possible, find a partner to quit smoking with.
4. If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation.
While many people just love taking alcohol once in a while, taking lots of it daily will have negative effects on your immune system.
The terrible thing here is there is a spike in alcohol sales in the United States (especially during the coronavirus pandemic).
This means more people are letting their bodies down, and giving way to infections. The more you drink, the higher the risk of contracting respiratory diseases like COVID-19.
When you don’t drink and you stay healthy, your immune system is quicker in attacking foreign pathogens and killing them before they cause any harm.
On the other hand, people who take alcohol experience have weak immune systems. So, it is difficult for them to fight these invaders.
Let’s give an example.
Taking alcohol damages the fine hairs and immune cells that line your airways. These are responsible for clearing out the pathogens before they get through.
But, since they are damaged, you are open to severe diseases.
Also, when alcohol gets to your intestines, it can trigger inflammation and destroy healthy microorganisms (gut bacteria) that help you maintain good immune and digestive health.
If you can avoid taking alcohol, don’t take it. But if not, take in small quantities.
5. Sleep well.
Sleep helps your immune system.
According to researchers, getting enough sleep increases your body’s fighting mechanisms by boosting T cell functions.
T cells are immune cells in your body that fight intracellular pathogens like the flu, cancer cells, and HIV.
A study in the Journal of Experimental medicine reveals new ways sleep can affect your immune system.
The study shows that when your body releases the stress hormones adrenaline and noradrenaline, molecules known as integrins cannot stick to your T-cells as they should.
However, when you’re asleep, the stress hormones reduce and the integrins have stronger stickiness to the T-cells.
T-cells need to stick well to integrins to kill cancer cells or virus-infected cells.
As an adult, you need at least seven hours of sleep daily to maintain healthy wellbeing. Sleeping for five hours every night for a long time has negative effects on your body.
That’s why many people fall ill and don’t even know why.
Your body wasn’t strong enough to fight infections anymore, and the pathogenic organisms took over.
Apart from reducing your immune system function, not sleeping properly also leads to problems like high blood pressure, inflammation, problems with blood sugar regulation, memory problems, moodiness, and poor judgment.
6. Minimize your stress levels.
Stress and immune system sound completely unrelated, right?
But, this isn’t true.
Your stress levels play a great role in how your immune system responds to antigens.
When stressed, our immune system becomes weakened. So, it cannot fight off antigens as it should and we end up getting infected.
Also, your body releases a stress hormone called corticosteroid which suppresses your immune system functions. It reduces the number of lymphocytes, allowing pathogens to thrive.
Asides these direct effects of stress on the immune system, it can also have indirect effects.
What do we mean?
A person who is stressed is more likely to opt for unhealthy coping mechanisms to reduce stress. For instance, they can consume more caffeine instead of resting, or even start drinking or smoking to feel better.
You’ll notice that you fall ill whenever you’re stressed. That’s when you get the flu, headaches, and even more serious illnesses like asthma, ulcers, and diabetes.
So, instead of burning yourself out, take deep breaths, go for yoga practice, and sleep as long as you need to.
7. Maintain good personal hygiene.
If you never cared for your hygiene, one of the best lifestyle changes you can make now is improving your hygiene.
Why is this so important?
By following good personal hygiene, you can successfully keep infection at bay. You can stop the infection from getting to you, and if you already have it, you can avoid spreading it to others by following simple processes that keep you free from external pathogens.
Here are some of the personal hygiene measures you can take from today:
- Wash your hands properly immediately you get back from an outing. Before you touch or prepare food, make sure your hands are clean.
- Use a hand sanitizer to kill all harmful organisms after touching contaminated surfaces outdoors.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. You can also cover it with your elbow to keep the organisms trapped in your sleeve instead of in your hands where they can be easily passed to others.
- Don’t squeeze pimples or pick on any injuries you have on your body to prevent germs from getting in.
- Always wash your cuts and keep them covered with a bandage.
- Don’t spit on the road, as saliva may land on surfaces and may be carried by other people.
8. Keep your weight in check.
When you don’t eat foods containing the nutrients we’ve listed above in the right proportion, you risk decreasing your body’s immune function
As you keep eating junk food and pay no attention to your body, you stand a chance of becoming obese faster. In some studies, obesity has been shown to harm your immune system. Here are some of the things it causes:
- Decreases macrophage and dendritic cell function.
- Affects the natural killer cells, preventing them from fighting cancer cells.
- Decreases cytokine production.
- Lowers your immune response to antigen stimulation.
- Changes your lymphocyte and monocyte function.
Seems like big grammar, right?
It all means that getting fatter without caution puts a big block on your immune system. It impairs your immune response.
This is why obese people are more prone to diseases. That’s why many have wound and catheter infections, pneumonia, bacteremia, and other complications that could have been avoided with a stronger immune system.
Obesity may increase your risk of bacterial and viral infections (like coronavirus).
So, you have to take charge of your diet, exercise, and do everything healthy to keep your weight in check.
9. Increase fermented food and supplements intake.
Fermented foods contain a high amount of probiotics – beneficial bacteria that improve your digestive system and immune function.
These probiotics improve the health of your gut microbiota. You will find them in foods like kimchi, kefir, natto, sauerkraut, and yogurt.
A study published in the Gut Microbes journal suggests that healthy gut bacteria contribute greatly to a healthy immune system. So, when you take enough fermented foods, your immune system will be able to differentiate better between healthy cells and invading microorganisms. There’ll be lesser chances of developing autoimmune diseases.
Apart from eating foods containing probiotics, you should also increase your supplement intake.
Taking the right supplements will provide extra nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, and probiotics that help improve your immune system.
A study performed on 152 people infected with rhinovirus showed that people who took a probiotic supplement containing Bifidobacterium animals finished the 28-day study with a stronger immune response and the viral levels had reduced when compared to those who didn’t take the supplement (control group).
So, eat the right foods and use supplements in the right quantities to keep your immune system strong and able to target all the invading pathogenic organisms.
10. Limit sugar intake.
We’ve talked about weight loss above. According to this study published in Advances in Nutrition journal, when you take refined sugar and carbs, it increases your chances of becoming obese.
Obesity puts you right in the path of falling ill.
A research was carried out on 1,000 people, and it was observed that people with obesity who were given the flu vaccine were twice more likely to still get that flu than people who are not obese.
However, if you reduce your sugar levels, this will not be a problem.
Another illness caused by high sugar levels is type 2 diabetes. This type of diabetes has resulted in many deaths and is caused by excessive sugar. Your body stops producing insulin and the sugar just keeps building up.
Getting diabetes, heart disease, and other illnesses due to high sugar intake leads to a weakened immune system.
Limit your sugar intake to less than 5% of your daily calories. So, if you’re on a 2000-calorie diet, you should only consume 25g of sugar (about two tablespoons). This will help to decrease inflammation, reduce body weight, and keep your immune system on the right track.
11. Stay hydrated.
You may be wondering that how does staying hydrated get your immune system to function better?
It shouldn’t, right?
However, when you are dehydrated, you’re putting your health at risk.
Dehydration affects your mood, focus, and digestion. When you remain dehydrated for long, you may even develop some problems with organs like your heart and kidney, and you’ll experience severe headaches.
Leaving these complications untreated just leaves you open to many illnesses.
The best way to hydrate is by drinking water.
While you will also find water content in tea and juices, you have to limit your sugar intake as mentioned above. Water is completely free of calories, sugar, and other additives that are dangerous to your health.
According to Mayo Clinic, men should drink about 3.7 liters of water daily while women should drink 2.7 liters. When the weather is hot or after you work out, you’ll need to drink even more water.
Older people may not feel the need to drink water regularly, because they get thirsty less. However, irrespective of your age, you have to take enough water daily.
Although none of these will prevent you from contracting viruses like Coronavirus, they give your immune system a fighting chance. They strengthen your body’s defenses against these invaders.
So, when you make healthy lifestyle changes like improving your diet, exercising, staying hydrated, and supplementing, your immune system will be able to ward off and withstand microbial attack, and you may not see symptoms or will be relieved of infections faster than others with weak immune systems.