When viruses have been going around your community, country, or even the world, it can be nerve-wracking to try and avoid catching it. This is where your immune system comes into play. If your immunity is weak, your chances of contracting a virus and experiencing further complications from it increase.
But how can you ensure that your immune system is up to the task of defending you? Here’s how experts reveal four healthy ways to boost immunity, as well as lots of advice about how to go about upholding these methods.
Try these easy suggestions to boost your immunity.
When you exercise, you experience a burst of inflammation that causes the body’s process of homeostasis to become disrupted. This statement sounds like a negative thing, but this is good, according to the University of Pennsylvania’s Institute for Immunology director John Wherry, Ph.D. It’s positive inflammation – the kind that resets the body’s processes and gets it back up to shape.
Research has found that exercising is capable of increasing T cell production. T cells refer to white blood cells that destroy harmful components in the body and keep it safe. On top of that, exercising can reduce the production of cortisol, a stress hormone that boosts inflammation. But how can you exercise to gain these benefits? According to experts, here are a few ideas:
· Be Consistent
According to a certified practitioner and osteopathic physician Lisa Ballehr, DO, regular exercise on a moderate level allows for the faster building of immunity, as it teaches your body to recover quickly from exercise without the need to strain yourself. Get between 20 to 30 minutes of consistent movement per day!
· Move At Least A Little Every Hour
Set the alarm once per hour. When that alarm rings, get up and do a little movement, says registered dietitian Jenn Randazzo. This reminder can be as taxing as going for a run or as simple as doing a few yoga poses or pacing around the room.
· Go For Walks
Just going for a walk at a moderate pace can work wonders for your body and give it the exercise it needs, according to board-certified physical therapist Kristen Gasnick
· Try Using A Fitness Band
Royal London Hospital emergency physician Ian Braithwaite, MD, recommends the use of a fitness band or similar tracker if you’re trying to stay active. Based on the statistics the device collects, you can adjust your daily exercise routine accordingly.
· Sign Up For Events
It can often be more comfortable to feel motivated to follow a training regimen when you have a goal to strive for. Columbia University Medical Center critical care cardiologist Jennifer Haythe, MD, recommends giving yourself a challenge whenever you feel like you’re slipping out of your usual workouts.
· Don’t Overtrain
Overdoing exercise can lead to downsides for your immunity. It’s perfectly fine – and even healthy – to take rest days, to go easy on your routine when you still have muscle soreness, and to know when you need a break. If you just don’t feel like exercising, then yes, push yourself to do it. But if your body isn’t prepared to strain itself, then take it slow, says certified personal trainer Kym Niles.
2. Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is crucial to healthy bodily functions. It’s necessary to get at least seven hours of sleep per night, and a vast majority of experts agree that rest is the primary determinant of the body’s immunity, according to Wherry.
When you’re awake, all the normal bodily processes that you go through incur inflammation. They’re not bad on their own, but if you don’t sleep to allow your body to rest, the inflammation can be overwhelming. According to assistant professor and chief of the clinical immunology and allergy division at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine, Rita Kachru, MD, sleep allows the body to take a break from the inflammation and “reset”.
Research has seen these results proven. Those who sleep for six hours or fewer per night have a much higher risk of developing a cold. When exposed to a virus, they catch the virus at four times higher frequency than those who sleep for seven hours or more. Here are some ways to maintain a good, immunity-boosting sleep schedule, according to experts:
· Have Consistent Wake And Sleep Times
According to Barnard College of Columbia University’s assistant professor of neuroscience and behavior and sleep researcher María de la Paz Fernández, Ph.D., committing to waking and sleeping at the same time each evening, including the weekends, helps your body get into the right groove with its circadian rhythm.
· Set A Good Temperature
Set the temperature in your bedroom to be a little cooler than average to promote better sleep, says Sleep for Success! Co-author and sleep researcher Rebecca Robbins, Ph.D. This is particularly true if you tend to sleep warm.
· Go Outside In The Mornings
The light from the morning sun can help your body correctly set its internal clock to the right time. Lighting Research Center director and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute architecture professor Mariana Figueiro, Ph.D., states that just 30 minutes spent outside in the morning can help your circadian rhythm.
· Eat Magnesium At Night
Foods rich in magnesium are great additions to your dinner, says registered dietitian and nutritionist Mikka Knapp. Magnesium promotes relaxation in your brain and throughout the body, allowing for more restful sleep. Nuts, spinach, and beans are good sources of magnesium.
3. Eat A Better Diet
What you eat can wind up largely, determining your body’s overall health. For a strong immunity, you’ll want to eat foods that bolster that strength. Here are some examples:
· Eat More Plant Foods
Plant-based and whole plant foods, such as legumes, vegetables, fruits, seeds, and nuts, are packed with nutrients that help the body fight harmful microorganisms. They’re also packed with antioxidants, which mostly bring down levels of inflammation and fight free radicals for overall positive effects. On top of all of that, plant-based meals are packed with fiber that fosters good gut bacteria, further boosting your immunity by protecting your digestive tract from pathogens.
· Reduce Sugar Intake
Added sugars in food can be linked to higher rates of obesity or general overweight stature. In turn, obesity can lead to lowered immunity. A study conducted on a thousand individuals found that obese people were two times more likely to develop influenza after receiving a flu vaccine. Besides, added sugars worsen inflammation in the body, increasing the risk of multiple diseases. It’s an excellent idea to keep your sugar intake below 5% of your daily intake of total calories.
· Eat More Vitamin C
Studies have found that consuming between 1,000 to 2,000 mg of this vitamin per day can reduce the risk of developing colds by up to 8% in adults.
· Get More Vitamin D
If you’re deficient in this vitamin, you could be worsening your risk of getting sick. Do note, though, that if you already get enough of the vitamin, further supplementing your consumption won’t offer much help, say studies.
· Eat More Healthy Fats
It’s common knowledge that healthy fats, specifically omega-3 fatty acids, are godsends when it comes to fighting inflammation. But that’s not where their positive effects end; they’re also known for reducing chronic disease risk, fighting viruses, and more. You can get healthy fats from salmon, olive oil, and other omega-3s.
· Eat More Zinc
Research has found that, when experiencing the common cold, consuming more zinc can lead to a remarkable reduction in the duration of the illness, cutting the duration by a third.
· Eat More Probiotics
Probiotics, usually present in fermented foods such as kimchi, yogurt, natto, sauerkraut, and natto, fill your digestive tract with positive bacteria. According to many studies, when gut bacteria is healthy and abundant, the immune system can better differentiate between beneficial bacteria and the bad ones, allowing for better immunity.
4. Manage Your Stress
Whenever your body experiences stress, your body releases a hormone called cortisol, which is primarily responsible for the body’s fight-or-flight responses. When produced in a balanced amount, it’s a useful and helpful mechanism. When produced on a prolonged or chronic level, however, it will harm you more than help you.
High cortisol production leads to a depleted immune system, according to the University of Manchester’s professor of immunology Daniel M. Davis, Ph.D. This is because your body focuses on keeping the body safe and can’t devote all its positive resources to immunity. This is fine in emergencies but very bad on a long-term basis.
Struggling to find ways to cope with your stress better, so your cortisol levels balance out? Here are some ideas from experts:
· Focus On Goals
If you start to feel stressed out, it’s time to take things one step at a time. Focus on your daily goals or tasks for the day and go about them one by one instead of worrying about the full scale of the work you have to do. Basically, keep your sights trained on winning the day, says Innovation360 executive director and clinical psychologist Kevin Gilliland, PsyD.
· Stay Grateful
Psychologist Joy Lere is a proponent of the idea that gratitude can provide impressive effects on positive thinking, and she’s right; being grateful can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, according to studies.
· Stay In The Present
If worrying about the future increases your stress levels, it’s time to take a deep breath, stop, and focus on positivity. Do not let yourself get suckered into an endless cycle of fear and anxiety, warns clinical psychologist Beatrice Tauber Prior, PsyD. Focus on the good events happening in the present and pay attention to fixing the bad things in the present, too.
· Tell Someone Your Secrets
If there are people you trust in your life, confess some of your secrets to them, or even speak to a therapist. If you can’t, use an anonymous confession website or application, or write about your secret somewhere that your identity is unknown. Secret-keeping can cause increased production of cortisol, says Dalhousie University psychiatry resident Patricia Celan, MD.
Maintaining a robust immune system can be as simple as exercising, eating well, sleeping well, and managing stress with positive thinking. In other words, if you lead a vigorous and healthy lifestyle, you stand a much higher chance of warding off viruses. So focus on keeping your body happy and healthy, and your immunity will do the rest of the work for you!