Getting sick and sitting back at home with all your work piled up is a scenario no one wants to be a part of. Cold and flu are certainly not on top of your priority list and can hamper your productivity and social presence. Incessant microbial invasions can render your immune system weak and debilitate its functioning.
You encounter countless germs daily when you commute, share a hug with a family member, work on your office desk, or even lounge in your living room. These microorganisms are unavoidable and are a massive inconvenience to your well-being.
You can minimize your chances of succumbing to possible infections by introducing changes in your diet and lifestyle. Marching towards a healthier regimen can bolster your immune system and multiply your chances of staying healthy all year around.
Understanding the Need for a Strong Immune System
The immune system is a multifaceted network of organs, cells, and proteins that act as barriers between your body and the pathogenic microbial invaders that can make you sick. The immune system works on a mechanism that is innate and naturally present in all animals. An immune response is generated when the body encounters any foreign agent that can be potentially harmful to the body.
The key players in this system are the following:
- The first line of defense is the skin and the mucous membranes in the gastrointestinal tract, nose, and throat.
- T cells and B cells produce antibodies to fight against foreign substances such as viruses and bacteria.
- White blood cells are responsible for countering any infection that takes place.
- The lymphatic system is composed of lymph vessels filled with a fluid called lymph. This fluid traps foreign substances and destroys them in the lymph nodes.
- Bone marrow is actively involved in the production of white blood cells.
A functional immune system is a cornerstone of a healthy life. An immunocompetent individual can dodge off a range of infections and thrive well even in conditions where the body has had exposure to infections.
When your immunity levels are below optimum, your immune system is compromised and you are prone to infections and illnesses.
Supporting Your Immunity the Healthy Way
A functional immune system acts as the guardian angel of the body. The chances to cave in to infections are minimal when the immune system is able to annihilate any impending microbial invasion. Fostering the immunity levels may sound challenging but it is not very difficult to achieve.
Every food that we eat acts as a building block to maintain and support the structure and function of the human body. Biomolecules such as proteins, antioxidants, minerals, and phytochemicals can contribute to help and sustain the essential components of the immune system.
Along with diet, specific lifestyle strategies can strengthen your immune system either directly or indirectly.
By implementing such changes, you support your system immensely and obliterate the possibility of an infection crossing the boundaries of immune surveillance.
14 Habits to Boost Your Immunity
Having a robust immune system is of primordial importance in the quest to stay fit and fine. Your ability to resist infections, fight off possible microbial invasions, and even respond to treatments for serious diseases comes from your immune system.
Because the need to keep optimum immunity levels is enormous, it is best to tend to it from all angles including diet and lifestyle.
With this thought in mind, it is important to get acquainted with habits that can have significant effects on your overall health. The habits outlined below may help you largely in bolstering your immune system:
1. Maintaining Body Hygiene
The first and foremost habit that you need to adapt is practicing good personal hygiene. Good hygiene practices help keep germs at bay and stop an infection before it begins. At the same time, you avoid spreading germs to others.
Germs are ubiquitous; hence, maintaining body hygiene prevents you from transferring them to your body.
- Take a bath daily.
- Wash your hands frequently, especially after touching anyone or anything that may have germs.
- Use an herbal hand sanitizer when washing your hands is not possible.
- Always wash your wet towels in warm water and replace damp towels with dry ones often.
- Brush your teeth twice daily and floss once. Replace your toothbrush every 3 months.
- Use a mouthwash to kill the germs inside your mouth.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you sneeze.
- When coughing, cover your mouth with your elbow rather than your hand to prevent spreading germs to others.
- Do not pick on healing wounds, as doing so allows the germs to enter your skin and body.
2. Getting Vaccinated
Immunization is a way to induce adaptive immunity into your system against certain diseases. The body produces antibodies in response to vaccines.
By getting vaccinated, you boost your immunity levels and significantly reduce the risk of infection.
- Children should be vaccinated according to their vaccination schedule recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).
- Adults should get the appropriate doses of booster vaccines.
- People with a weakened immune system should get in touch with their doctor regarding vaccines for influenza, human papillomavirus, pneumococcus, and Tdap.
3. Keeping Yourself Hydrated
Drinking adequate water, which is known as the “elixir of life,’’ spikes up your immunity levels by flushing out toxins from your body.
Additionally, adequate water intake keeps the fluid level in your body at optimum and prevents the body from any infectious attacks. Water also contributes to the proper transport of nutrients and oxygen via the blood. Water is necessary for the continuous flow of lymph, which brings bacteria towards the lymph nodes for destruction.
When it comes to water, ensure that you drink clean and filtered water. When traveling, do not drink tap water to avoid the risk of water-borne diseases. Stick to bottled drinks only.
4. Popping Up the Laughter Medicine
Laughter can perk up your immunity levels, which in turn can provide your body better resistance to disease and illness.
A hearty laugh can give a boost to the levels of white blood cells, anti-infection antibodies, and T-cells in the blood.
Additionally, laughter can lower your stress levels.
So, try to reap these health benefits with a regular dose of laughter.
5. Watching Your Sugar Intake
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that the maximum amount of added sugars you should eat in a day are:
- Men: 37.5 grams or 9 teaspoons
- Women: 25 grams or 6 teaspoons
Sugar derails your immune system by impairing the ability of your white blood cells to fight infectious agents. Excess sugar intake can result in weakened immunity and can make you more vulnerable to the common cold, flu, and other infections.
6. Soaking in Some Sunlight
Basking in the sun every now and then can help your body synthesize vitamin D.
Vitamin D supports the proper functioning of T cells required to fight microbial invasions.
Low levels of vitamin D are associated with an increased risk of suffering from infections and chronic conditions such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases.
A 2011 study published in the Journal of Investigative Medicine highlights the role of vitamin D in modulating the innate and adaptive immune responses. The study also reflects on vitamin D deficiency and its association with increased autoimmunity and increased susceptibility to infections.
Ten to fifteen minutes of exposure to the sun is enough to aid in the synthesis of vitamin D.
Meditation, in its many forms, can tweak the immune system in some beneficial ways.
The immune system is rightly known as the floating brain because of its ability to scan the chemical messages that the brain sends to the entire body. Meditation can boost antibodies and bolster your immune system.
According to a study published in 2016 in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, mindfulness meditation can have a possible synergistic impact on specific markers of inflammation, biological aging, and cell-mediated immunity.
However, the results are tentative and require further research.
Practice meditation in a quiet and peaceful place for at least 10–15 minutes daily.
8. Following an Exercise Regimen
Exercise is one of the ways to promote good immunity.
A 2013 study by the Loyola University Health System reports that taking a walk at the end of a stressful day can revitalize your body.
Introduce a 30-minute exercise regimen in your daily schedule. Walking or jogging is the most accessible form of physical activity and is suitable for people of all ages.
A total of 150 minutes/week (to maintain the health) or 300 minutes/week (to lose weight) of exercise (walking/jogging) with mild to moderate muscle strengthening training is very helpful to prevent and improve several disorders such as obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, stroke, myocardial infarction, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Alternatively, you can go to the gym, run, swim, jump rope, or do outdoor sports to promote your immunity levels and overall health.
9. Feasting on Immune-Boosting Foods
Stating the obvious, nutrition plays a critical role in bolstering your immune system. Eating fruits and vegetables abundant in vitamins, phytonutrients such as lycopene and beta-carotene, and minerals such as zinc and iron can boost your immune system to fight pathogenic invasions. These foods include:
- Oats and barley
- Shellfish and oily fish
- Green leafy vegetables
- Red bell peppers
- Reishi and shiitake mushrooms
- Citrus fruits such as tangerines, limes, oranges, and grapefruit
- Berries such as raspberry, strawberry, elderberry, and blueberry
10. Listening to Relaxing or Uplifting Music
Another habit that can make you healthy and keep your immunity strong is listening to music.
Not only that, but listening to music can reduce the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in your body, helping you to uplift your mood and to fight anxiety and depression.
You do not even have to take out time from your busy schedule to listen to music. Enjoy your favorite tunes on the go.
11. Cutting Back on Alcohol and Smoking
Excessive consumption of alcohol can have an adverse effect on your immune system by weakening your white blood cells, disrupting your sleep pattern, and making you vulnerable to infections.
These habits can harm your immune system by creating an imbalance in the body, which can result in a nutritional deficiency or increased toxicity in your body.
Also, overindulging in the habit of smoking is related to an increased incidence of diseases of the heart and lungs.
Don’t smoke and also avoid heavy consumption of alcohol.
12. Getting Enough Sleep
It might seem to be a daunting task, but investing 7 hours in your everyday schedule to sleeping can work wonders.
Sleeping restores your immunity and prepares your body to fight infections. Although the relation between sleep and a better immune system is not very clear, a sound rest of 7–9 hours (for adults), 8–10 hours (for teens aged 14–17 years), 9–11 hours (for preschoolers aged 3–5 years), and 11–14 hours (for toddlers aged 1–2 years) can benefit your overall health.
13. Staying Positive
Being optimistic can keep your stress hormones in control. Those with a positive personality are also at a lower risk of having a stroke or heart attack.
The immune system takes many of its cues from our thoughts and feelings. A positive attitude has been shown to improve immune cell functioning.
A 2010 study published in Psychological Science highlights that feeling optimistic about the future might help you feel better for real. Staying positive can reduce stress levels and can positively affect your health and immunity.
14. Starting Your Day with a Smoothie
Eating a healthy breakfast is vital to your health, although preparing a healthy breakfast is not possible for all. However, anyone can make a smoothie to get your day off to a good start.
Vegetables and fruits can multiply your immune system’s ability to fight disease. The antioxidant vitamins C, E, and A, and selenium are just some of the nutrients that can increase your declining immunity levels.
However, cooking vegetables and fruits can destroy their nutritional efficacy. It is best to eat vegetables in raw form, which you can do by blending a few vegetables or fruits to make a healthy smoothie.
To make a tasty smoothie, all you need is a food processor or blender, some fresh vegetables and fruits, nuts or seeds, and just a few minutes in the morning for preparation.
- Reduce your caffeine intake. Opt for the healthier ginger tea or green tea.
- Get enough sleep and manage stress.
- Avoid smoking as well as secondhand smoke.
- Eat 1 to 2 raw garlic cloves a day.
- Include immune-boosting herbs and spices such as rosemary, oregano, ginger, and turmeric in your cooking.
- Take probiotics – foods or supplements containing cultures of bacteria that are good for your health, such as tempeh, sauerkraut, miso, kefir, and yogurt.
- Supplement your diet with foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as flaxseeds, fatty fish, and olive oil.
- Ensure you indulge in social interaction to reduce your stress levels.
The human body protects itself from impending infections by way of its immune system. An empowered immune system is a prerequisite to a healthy life. On the other hand, a weakened immune system entails huge risks and can sabotage your health at lengths.
Long story short: Implementing healthy habits like loading up your plate with immune-boosting foods, getting enough sleep, regular meditation, and exercise will augment your immunity levels and keep you hale and hearty through the years.
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