Our blogs have described a lot of ways to boost your immune system, many of them discussing the many beneftis of specific foods, vitamins, or minerals. But what about general lifestyle guidelines? Are there ways to help our immune systems throughout the day, whether we’re eating or not? Well, you’ve come to the right place! Here’s a quick run-down of several immune boosting lifestyle habits you can start doing today!
+Eating a healthy diet
+Getting more sleep
+Decreasing stress levels
+Avoiding taking too many antibiotics
+Cutting down on alcohol consumption
Let’s look at each of these success strategies in turn.
Eating a Healthy Diet
We are what we eat, so a healthy diet can go a long way to preserving our health. Eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables offers a range of nutrients and antioxidants as well, powerful disease-fighting molecules found in certain foods such a berries, legumes and apples. Eating a rainbow every day will help you achieve a balanced diet, and the fiber and water in these foods will also help you feel fuller for longer, which in turn can help with weight loss.
If you are carrying extra weight, turn to more natural foods to help slim down. Don’t rely on supplements or packaged diet foods, but rather, fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and smaller portions. A simple rule of thumb when in the grocery store is to shop the perimeter of the store for 80% of your purchases. These outer sections are usually where whole-food is found; food that is minimally processed. Inner aisles of the store are strictly for items like, whole grains, frozen fruit and vegetables, simple tortilla chips or rice crackers, cooking oils and vinegar, nut butter and honey, granola, nuts, and some canned items like beans, tomatoes, olives, or green chiles. Sticking with this general rule, along with portion control, will go a long way towards accomplishing your weight loss goal.
Regular exercise can also help you achieve your weight loss goals, as well as boost your immunity. Exercise improves digestion and helps eliminate toxins from your body. It also stimulates circulation of your blood and lymph system, which helps the body ward off illness.
Get More Sleep
Getting more sleep will help boost your immune system, especially if it is high-quality, deep, restorative sleep. If you’re feeling stressed, it can be difficult to fall asleep and/or stay asleep. Stress reduction strategies such as meditation can help lower your stress levels and improve your quality of sleep.
You can also decrease your stress by making more time for yourself to do some of the things you enjoy. This can include hobbies or DIY projects, gardening, reading, or going for long walks. It should also include making time for the relationships that are important to you by spending quality time with friends and family. Loneliness and feelings of isolation can make you feel run down; surrounding yourself with positive people can help boost your immune system.
By now we all know about the negative effects of smoking on the body, especially the immune system. It scorches away our cilia, the little hairs that line our nostrils, for example, making it far easier for bacteria to get into your body. Furthermore, smoking compromises the balance of our immune system and increases the risk for developing autoimmune diseases, such as Rheumatoid Arthritis. Secondly, cigarettes contain over 7,000 chemical compounds. These chemicals harm our immune system thus lowering our defenses in the face of disease. Lastly, smoking causes cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, COPD, and lung diseases.
Avoid Unnecessary Antibiotics
Many people turn to a range of medications in an attempt to manage symptoms. When prescribed correctly, some medications can prove helpful. The flipside is that excessive use can cause harm, both to our gut and our immune system. In particular, antibiotics can damage your immune system as they kill off both helpful and harmful bacteria in your gut. Your gut is where 80% of your immune system cells reside! Furthermore, helpful gut bacteria maintain immune system balance. With antibiotics, remember that they only fight bacterial infections, not viral infections. This means they are not helpful against colds, the flu, or the COVID virus.
If you do have to take an antibiotic, take it EXACTLY as prescribed. Once you have finished the full course of treatment, try to get your system back in balance by consuming probiotics such as yogurt, cheese, miso or sauerkraut. You can also take probiotic supplements.
Since the COVID pandemic, the world has seen a spike in alcohol sales. This spike may not be surprising given the current state of affairs coupled a tendency towards poor coping mechanisms. If you consume a lot of alcohol, especially in an attempt to reduce stress, try cutting down. Alcohol weakens the immune system, making us more susceptible to infections. Increased alcohol consumption can raise the risk for various respiratory diseases, including COVID-19. Further, those with risk factors for COVID, such as heart disease or diabetes, should definitely limit alcohol intake.
These lifestyle guidelines are key habits to adopt and follow every day. Doing so will strengthen your immune system and give you an edge over infections, and now more than ever, we need all the help we can get!