Five Ways to Care for Your Immune System
Staying healthy is even more critical nowadays. In fact, it’s essential to do everything we can to keep our immune system in prime condition.
But it’s not a simple solution. The immune system is a complex, robust, physiological machine. The good news is that there ARE some tools to help it perform at its best!
Here are five ways to keep your system at its fighting best:
1. Sleep it off
One of the easiest ways to boost your immune system is just laying down. Not getting enough shut-eye doesn’t just make you bleary (and grumpy!) – it impairs your immune function. If you regularly skip the sheets, it can make you particularly susceptible to unwanted intruders.
Sleep is the time your body uses to recharge and recuperate. When our eyes are closed, our brains and bodies are hard at work, regenerating vital proteins which target infection and inflammation.
If you just can’t manage to squeeze in the Centers for Disease Control recommended 7 to 9 hours (for adults) each night[i], try takings short naps during the day. According to the Sleep Foundation, naps can offer benefits for certain individuals when taken at the right time and can could even allow your body extra energy for other important functions, like supporting your immune system[ii]. What about a 20-minute siesta during lunch and a refreshing catnap right before dinner?
2. Eat (and drink) your way to health
Speaking of dinner, did you know that highly processed foods can also negatively influence your sleep quality? But the good news is that the right diet can help support your immune system.
That’s because approximately 70 percent of the cells that do that work make themselves at home in your gut. But it’s more than what’s on the menu that counts – it’s how you digest and absorb the nutrients and vitamins in that smorgasbord that play into your ability to fight off infection. When it comes to your body’s digestive health and its relationship to boosting immunity, it’s not so much “you are what you eat” as “you feel what you eat.”
And don’t forget what you drink. The immune system needs plenty of fluid to keep itself moving. Lots of water keeps cells and your digestive system in tip-top shape, which is good for gut health! And gut health can be the key to good health.
For best results, remember to add leafy veggies, fruits and high-fiber foods to your diet. The leafy greens are full of amino acids, which trigger the production of infection-fighting proteins.
Worried about digesting the extra fiber? Try incorporating a digestive enzyme supplement or probiotic to help you break down the food. The right ones may help you absorb more of the vitamins and minerals inside.
3. Outrun (or walk) it
We don’t actually picture you outrunning illness (but if you figure out a way to do that, let us know!). But it IS a good idea to get moving.
A 2019 review in the Journal of Sport and Health Science[iii] found that exercise has a three-fold benefit: improving immune response, reducing inflammation, and lowering illness risk. Why? Because movement gets the blood flowing, and that does two things. It helps the body produce more white blood cells, and it gets those cells circulating throughout your body where they can work to fight off foreign intruders that try to attack healthy cells.
4. Boost it up
We don’t encourage cheating, but every athlete looks for the best tools to win the game. Why not give yourself an edge in this fight with a specifically targeted supplement to support a healthy immune system? Studies offer reasons to look for products with ingredients like Vitamin C[iv], Elderberry[v] and Zinc[vi]. These superheroes of immune fighting don’t prevent illness, but it seems as though they may help reducing your risk in getting sick.
5. Wash it off
Finally, we have to say it. Wash Your Hands. Use soap and water for at least 20 seconds or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol.
Find more tips here from the CDC on the best ways to keep those hands clean.
Staying healthy this year will take cooperation from everyone to practice healthy habits. So be sure to wash your hands and take great care of yourself.
[i] Centers for Disease Control. Basics About Sleep - How Much Sleep Do I Need. Retrieved November 24, 2020 from www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/how_much_sleep.html
[ii] SleepFoundation.org. Napping. Retrieved November 24, 2020 from sleepfoundaiton.org/articles/napping
[iii] Luan X, Tian X, Zhang H, Huang R, Li N, Chen P, Wang R. Exercise as a prescription for patients with various diseases. J Sport Health Sci. 2019 Sep;8(5):422-441. doe: 10.1016/j.jshs.2019.04.002. Epub 2019 Apr 18. PMID: 31534817; PMCID: PMC6742679.
[iv] Pullar, Juliet M et al. “The Roles of Vitamin C in Skin Health.” Nutrients vol. 9,8 866. 12 Aug. 2017, doi:10.3390/nu9080866
[v] Zakay-Rones Z, Thom E, Wollan T, Wadstein J. Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections. J Int Med Res. 2004 Mar-Apr;32(2):132-40. doi: 10.1177/147323000403200205. PMID: 15080016.
[vi] Ohio State University. "Zinc helps against infection by tapping brakes in immune response." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 7 February 2013. Retrieved November 24, 2020 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130207131344.htm