Finally, it’s the Friday before your vacation and you’re really looking forward to a well deserved break. On your way home from work is when you first notice it. There’s a little tickle in your throat, then your nose starts to get a little stuffed up. You think “Not now, I don’t want to get sick just before vacation” but that’s what happens. It could be that you haven’t been taking care of your immune system like you should. Too many long hours and vending machine lunches have finally caught up to you.
Your immune system is your, always present, invisible shield helping to protect you from various disease-causing microorganisms. It’s a complex system and while strengthening it or boosting it sounds like a smart idea the ability to do that has been difficult for researchers to nail down. However, there are simple lifestyle changes you can make to support your immune system. Here are five:
Wash Your Hands
Keeping your hands clean is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of germs that may attack your immune system. Washing your hands before eating, after blowing your nose, going to the bathroom, petting an animal or visiting with someone who is sick will help remove germs you may have picked up. The CDC says that…
“Many diseases and conditions are spread by not washing hands with soap and clean, running water.” – http://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/when-how-handwashing.html
Wash your hands thoroughly by wetting your hands, lathering with soap, scrubbing, rinsing and drying them. The entire process should take about 20 seconds which is the equivalent to one verse of “Happy Birthday”. Washing your hands with soap and hot water is the best method for good hygiene and can help support your immune system.
Get Enough, Quality Sleep
Sleep deprivation suppresses immune system function. According to Web MD, studies have shown that T-Cells go down when you’re sleep deprived and inflammatory cytokines go up which can leave you more susceptible to colds and flu. If you’re having difficulty getting a good night’s sleep we recently posted an article titled “Seven Things that Can Keep You Up at Night” with some simple changes you can make to rest easy.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Excess belly fat can tip the scale and can disrupt the balance of your immune system. Fat (especially belly fat) triggers the production of “pro-inflammatory” immune cells which promote inflammation throughout the body. Additionally, studies have shown that overweight or obese people’s immune cells don’t respond adequately to foreign invaders. Two key factors involved in maintaining a healthy weight are diet and exercise, and both are also helpful in supporting your immune system.
Eat a Healthy Diet
If you’re diet currently consists of sodas or other sugary foods and drinks you’re not doing all you can to support your immune system. In fact, sugar can suppress your immune system and impair your defenses against infectious disease. To keep your immune system healthy eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains and avoid processed and sugary foods.
“Eating the right foods and getting the proper nutrition are the keys to a healthy immune system. Vitamins E and C, probiotics, beta-glucans, catechins, and soluble fiber all help build up immune cells that help boost the immune system.” – https://www.thecandidadiet.com/healthy-diet-lifestyle-for-immune-system/
Exercising daily helps keep your body moving. It gets your heart and blood pumping so your white blood cells and other immune cells get where they are needed to support your immune system.  Exercise can also help reduce your stress which is another factor which can negatively impact your immune system.
While there are no guarantees, making simple lifestyle changes can help support your immune system and help protect your good health.
- Lack of Sleep and the Immune System. (n.d.). Retrieved August 30, 2016, from http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/immune-system-lack-of-sleep#1
- Losing Weight Helps Immune System. (n.d.). Retrieved August 30, 2016, from http://www.livescience.com/9877-losing-weight-helps-immune-system.html
- Maintain A Healthy Weight And Support Your Immune System. (n.d.). Retrieved August 30, 2016, from http://www.drmikediet.com/health/healthy-weight-immune-system-mucous-membrane/
- Sanchez, A., et al. Role of Sugars in Human Neutrophilic Phagocytosis, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Nov 1973;261:1180_1184. Bernstein, J., al. Depression of Lymphocyte Transformation Following Oral Glucose Ingestion. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.1997;30:613