Your immune system is a powerful network of hormones and special cells that fight infection.
Your lifestyle has positive and negative effects on how well your immune system functions. Bad habits could put you at risk of preventable diseases.
So how do you bulletproof your immune system? Here are our best suggestions to boost your health.
Get enough sleep
Getting enough good quality sleep is crucial for good health. Studies have proven that sleep is deeply connected to your immune system. As you sleep, your body produces inflammation-fighting proteins called cytokines. That means when you feel a cold coming on, or you’re feeling stressed and burned out, sleep can help reverse the negative effects on the body.
Experts have some other theories as to why sleep boosts your immune system. As your bodily processes slow down while you’re slumbering, more energy is available to your immune system. Additionally, melatonin, the sleep hormone, can counter the effects of inflammation.
Adults need around eight hours of sleep each night. Sleeping for too long can do more harm than good, potentially leading to poor quality sleep.
Manage stress and anxiety
Feeling irritable and worried isn’t just an unpleasant feeling. Stress and anxiety, whether short or long-term, have a profound effect on your immune system.
When you suffer chronic stress, it puts pressure on your immune system. Stress hormones suppress how effective your immune cells are at fighting infections. In turn, stressing out leads to getting sick more often.
Stress, depression, and anxiety affect your immunity in other indirect ways. If you’re finding it difficult to manage your feelings, you might turn to unhealthy behaviors like drinking more alcohol or smoking.
Get enough vitamin D
Did you know that most people in the Northern Hemisphere don’t get enough vitamin D from sunlight alone? Dubbed the ‘sunshine vitamin’, vitamin D plays a vital role in the strength of your immune system. You can take in this vitamin from sunlight, fortified foods such as eggs and dairy products, and supplements.
Studies have proven that taking enough vitamin D can lessen the severity of viral infections. It’s important to avoid deficiency by taking a daily supplement if you can, as staying within a safe level is crucial to maintaining good health.
Check prescription medications
Sometimes, our bodies need a little extra help in fighting diseases or chronic conditions with the help of prescription medications. While most medications have benefits and drawbacks, some may weaken the immune system.
Drugs to treat conditions such as cancer, autoimmune diseases, and other chronic illnesses may have side effects. You should discuss this with your doctor. If you’re concerned about your immune system becoming compromised, they may be able to help with alternative prescriptions, or changing the dosage is required.
Eat a balanced diet
“Let food be thy medicine” as Hippocrates famously said. And it’s true – the food you eat is a powerful ally in boosting your body’s ability to fight infection.
Fruits and veggies play a significant role in your overall health. Providing your body with essential nutrients keeps your immune system working correctly. Other whole foods such as shellfish, organ meats, dairy, and eggs can also offer vital vitamins and minerals.
Some popular foods for keeping your body in tip-top shape are blueberries, peppers, yogurt, mushrooms, and spinach.
We’re not suggesting cutting all unhealthy options out – but try limiting high fat and high sugar foods, which can contribute to inflammation.
Smoking is a leading cause of death in the US and the biggest cause of preventable disease. Why? Cigarettes contain thousands of chemicals that can harm the body. Your immune system is severely compromised by the effects of first and second-hand smoke, leading to diseases and infections ranging from bronchitis, rheumatoid arthritis, to heart disease and cancer.
Smoking lowers your immune system and puts it off balance, leading to a much higher risk of autoimmune disorders. If you get a disease caused by smoking, it can also affect how well your treatment works.
To drastically improve your overall health and the strength of your immune system, get help to quit smoking.
Reduce alcohol consumption
Most people enjoy the odd tipple, but excessive alcohol consumption can drastically impair your immune system’s ability to fight illness.
Alcohol can damage certain cells that protect your body, studies have shown. If your immune system can’t work as well as it should, it has a harder time attacking germs and pathogens. Sluggish defenses can lead to diseases and complications from illnesses.
Just as sleep can help fight inflammation, drinking too much can cause it. That’s why drinking responsibly is vital to your overall health.
Inflammation and cell damage are major factors in a compromised immune system. These are caused by poor sleep, too much alcohol, stress, anxiety, and smoking.
Getting enough vitamins and minerals will help boost your immune system. You can do this by eating a balanced diet full of fruits and vegetables.
Adopting healthy habits will have a positive effect on your overall health, keeping you healthier for longer.