Healthy Ways To Raise Up Your Immunity Against Diseases
We should all know that our immune system is our best form of defense against common infections, but ironically, it is something that most of us often take for granted. This is until, of course, when we are challenged with the next big threat like the Coronavirus, also known as the Covic19 pandemic right now.
While good personal hygiene such as washing our hands with soap more frequently are critical to being safer from infection, strengthening our immune system remains our best form defense against a variety of harmful pathogens. Thus here are some of the more effective ways to support and elevate your immune system.
1) Always Be Active - Regular exercise and physical activity is absolutely essential for a healthy immune system, so it’s best not skip workouts even though gyms can seem like hotbeds of infection. Exercise lowers stress levels and improves the circulation of antibodies in your body, reducing the risk of infection. These benefits aren’t just theoretical and studies show that following an exercise routine can reduce infection rates and recovery time.
If you’re squeamish about working out in a gym, you can also exercise at home or indulge in activities like walking, jogging, or cycling outdoors. Any form of exercise is better than no exercise at all and the earlier you begin exercising, the better. As demonstrated in a study, amateur cyclists in the age group of 55 to 79 had the immune function of young adults. You can bet they’re feeling pretty good right about now.
2) Protect Your Gut Microbiome - When it comes to nutrition or a diet to support immunity, most of us simply think of vitamin C. While there’s no denying the importance of vitamin C, it is certainly not the only nutrient needed for healthy immunity. To increase your defense against infections, you need to follow a balanced and healthy diet year round. The Mediterranean Diet and DASH Diet are perhaps your best choices. In addition, you need to take steps to protect your gut microbiome, which is regarded as vital for immunity.
Older adults and those with inflammatory disorders like fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes, IBS, and asthma tend to have greater vulnerability to infection because of a less varied gut microbiome. For gut flora to thrive, you need a varied diet with high fiber foods, but probiotic foods can be particularly helpful. Yogurt, tempeh, and pickles like sauerkraut are good natural sources of probiotics. As with all nutrients, it’s better to get them from food, rather than supplements.
3) Dial Back on the Stress - Stress has long been regarded as a possible trigger for illness and infection, but we now have conclusive evidence of its impact on immunity. Research shows that individuals who are stressed are more vulnerable to common infections like the cold virus, among others. This is because stress hormones like cortisol impair immune function by reducing lymphocyte levels. The impact of stress can also be indirect, as it makes it harder to adhere to healthy routines and increases the likelihood of unhealthy coping behaviors.
For many of us, there’s no escaping stress, but stress reduction techniques can help significantly. While exercise is a powerful stress reliever, it is not the only stress reduction technique that you can turn to. Mindfulness meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and deep breathing exercises are proven to lower stress levels swiftly and don’t require much time or effort to practice.
4) Get Adequate Sleep - Sleep is another natural immune booster that we usually overlook. Sleep deprivation, whether caused by sleep disorders or inadequate sleep, has an adverse effect on immunity that makes you more susceptible to infection. The lack of sleep raises cortisol levels and impairs T cell function, which is vital for fighting infections. A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine found that getting less than 6 hours of sleep each night increased the risk of colds and respiratory infections.
Sleep quality can be significantly improved by adopting healthy habits and pre-sleep rituals. For example, hot baths, dimming all lights, avoiding digital screens, and avoiding stimulating activity for a couple of hours before sleep can help improve sleep quality. Early evening exercise and meditation routines before bedtime can also make a difference.
5) Cut Back on Alcohol & Nicotine Consumption - Smoking is most strongly associated with the risk of cancer, but any kind of nicotine intake impairs immune function. This means that whether you smoke traditional cigarettes or e-cigarettes, you’re increasing your risk of infection. Nicotine raises cortisol levels, reduces the formation of antibodies and T cell responses. In addition, both types of nicotine consumption have been linked to lung damage, increasing the risk of respiratory infections.
While moderate alcohol intake is non-threatening, excessive alcohol consumption is believed to lower lymphocyte levels and weaken the response of macrophages. Acetaldehyde, the main alcohol metabolite, may also impair the lungs’ ciliary function, increasing vulnerability to airborne and respiratory infections.
Boosting your immunity may take on a new urgency at this moment, but these healthy habits should be adopted for life. The health benefits that they offer, including strengthened immunity, are accumulative. This means that the earlier you make healthy changes to your lifestyle, the better the outcome will be as you age.