5 Ways to Strengthen Your Immune System
Your immune system is pretty amazing. The collection of organs, proteins and cells works overtime to protect the rest of your body from germs, illnesses and a whole slew of other nasty stuff.
Think of the immune system as your body’s insurance policy. When it’s working, you don’t really notice it. But when your immune system breaks down and doesn’t provide the coverage it’s supposed to, that’s when things start to go wrong—and you get sick.
Currently, immune systems around the world are fighting a major battle against COVID-19. While there isn’t a vaccine for this virus yet, there are still things you can do right now to ensure your body’s immune system is healthy and ready for the challenge.
Seriously, Wash Your Hands
I know, I know. You’ve heard how important washing your hands is a million times in the last few weeks. The CDC has told you, Arnold Schwarzenegger has shown you, and even a hamster on TikTok knows how to wash its hands properly.
Handwashing with soap for 20 seconds kills germs—germs that would end up on door handles, in your food, on your kids’ toys, on your exercise equipment, and most importantly, your face!
It’s crucial to wash your hands as often as possible now, and it will be just as important once we’re through the coronavirus outbreak: Washing your hands reduces respiratory illnesses, like colds, in the general population by 16-21 percent. So, get in the habit now and stick with it.
Get Moving Every Day
There are innumerable benefits to exercising, but the most important benefit may be the effect that daily, moderate exercise has on your immune system.
According to a study from the University of Bath, researchers found exercise can help the immune system find and confront pathogens in the short term. In the long term, regular exercise slows down changes that happen to the immune system with aging, thereby reducing the risk of infections.
Researchers from the University of Illinois found encouraging correlations between exercise and respiratory health. In their study, they provide evidence to “support the hypothesis that moderate intensity exercise reduces inflammation and improves the immune response to respiratory viral infections.”
Until you can get back to your Manduu studio, exercise you can do at home (or going for a walk/run around your neighborhood) is good for your immune system, as long as you are staying safe.
Eat the Right Foods
Foods that are high in vitamins and nutrients, such as beta-carotene, vitamin C, vitamin D and vitamin E, work wonders in boosting immune function. Here are just a few examples of foods that should have a prominent place in your diet:
- Green, leafy vegetables and carrots are packed with beta-Carotene
- Oranges, red peppers and strawberries are loaded with vitamin C
- Oily fish (e.g., salmon and herring), mushrooms and egg yolks contain vitamin D
- Spinach, broccoli and seeds are great sources of vitamin E
You can also take vitamins and supplements to improve your nutrition.
Enjoy Some Sunlight
Georgetown University Medical Center researchers have found that sunlight, through a mechanism separate from vitamin D production, energizes T cells that play a central role in human immunity. Specifically, researchers found that low levels of blue light, found in sun rays, makes T cells move faster.
“T cells … need to move to do their work, which is to get to the site of an infection and orchestrate a response,” says Gerard Ahern, PhD, associate professor in Georgetown’s Department of Pharmacology and Physiology.
Set aside a bit of time to walk or unwind outside for at least 20 minutes every day. You won’t regret it.
Get Plenty of Sleep
Simply put, if you don’t get enough sleep, you’re increasing your chances of getting sick. Not only that, but lack of sleep can also affect how long it takes for you to recover from illness. Here’s why:
During sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines. Cytokines are important, because they do everything from promoting restful sleep to fighting off infection, inflammation and stress. Sleep deprivation may decrease production of these crucial cytokines. In addition, infection-fighting antibodies and cells are also reduced during periods when you don’t get enough sleep.
According to a study from the National Sleep Foundation, adults between 26-64 years of age need seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Teenagers need 8-10 hours, and kids that are 6-13 years old need 9-11 hours a night.
Doing these five things every day will go a long way toward setting your immune system up for success and keeping you healthy.