Your immune system is what protects you from disease, parasites, and infection. When you’re healthy, germs and viruses parasites can be quickly sought out and removed. With a weakened immune system, you are more privy to illness.
Fortunately, there are plenty of natural ways to support and boost your immune system and keep your body (and mind) in tip-top shape. The following healthy lifestyle habits can make an enormous impact:
- Consistent exercise
- Dietary habits
- Sleep routine
- Managing stress
Exercise and the immune system go hand in hand. Staying active strengthens our immune system. When our body is immobile for extended periods of time, our immune system may weaken.
With a combination of daily workouts, you can support and improve your immune response. Whether this is cardio (biking, running, walking, etc.) or strength training (weights, HIIT, etc.)—the response seems to be clear:
Consistent exercise strengthens your body and your immune system.
Major progress has been made in the study of the gut biome over the last few years. Researchers have found connections between what you eat and what your mind is thinking, how stressed you are, energy level, and more importantly, how strong your immune system is.
This continual evolution in research adds a whole new meaning to the adage: You are what you eat.
Studies have shown that the majority of the immune system is in the gut. So, to improve your immune system, you must start by being mindful of what you eat every day and taking the proper care of your gut.
To lead you to the right path, leading experts in diet and nutrition have agreed on a few overall guidelines:
- Avoid processed foods and meats – The produce section in the grocery store is your best friend!
- Consume a variety of natural proteins, grains, legumes, colorful vegetables and fruits – By providing your gut biome with a variety of such, the chances of lacking specific nutrients and vitamins are decreased.
- Listen to Your Gut – We all have different genes that makeup who we are, and our gut biomes. Try new foods and try to eat as many different plants as you can. If it helps, write down the new foods you’re trying along with how they make you feel.
Our mental well-being can have a huge effect on our body’s ability to fight diseases. Studies have shown that long-term stress can lead to increased inflammation in the body and increased risk of contracting infections. By taking care of your mental wellness, you’ll be giving your immune system a fighting chance against illness.
The effect of stress on the immune system can be minimized with some of these stress-management techniques:
- Practice mindfulness – Mindfulness is the act of being present with yourself in the moment instead of focusing on past or future anxieties. Remember, the mind is designed to play tricks on you. Things like tai chai, taking peaceful walks, guided meditation, are a great ways to incorporate mindfulness into your stress management.
- Go Outside and Get Some Sunny D – Scientists have reported that spending time in nature can lower blood pressure, reduce stress levels, and even improve your memory functions. Whether you decide to go for a walk or go for a hike, make some time enjoy nature.
Getting a good night's rest is beneficial for good health. Your immune system does its best work while you’re resting and sleeping. When our body is sleep mode, our immune system releases a kind of protein called cytokines. Different cytokines have different functions. Some cytokines help our body relax and sleep and some help fight infections and harmful inflammation. But when we don't get a full night's rest, the immune system has a harder time creating these proteins and building our immune system.
The less sleep you get, the more likely you are to get sick. Your immune system relies on healthy sleep habits to keep you well, and adult bodies typically need between six to eight hours of sleep. Sleep deprivation is one of the leading causes of heart disease, obesity, and interruptions in cognitive function
Here are some tips to help get a good night's sleep.
- Get on a sleep schedule – Set a strict bedtime and wake-up time for yourself that works with your daily schedule.
- Cool down your sleeping area – Open a window or turn your thermostat down to 65°F. The cool air will encourage your mind and body into sleep mode.
- Reduce blue screen time – Your smartphone, TV and laptop all produce blue light that tells our brain’s to be active and alert. Turn off your devices and use the hour before bed to relax your mind in preparation for a good night’s rest.
To keep your immune system strong and healthy, preventative care is important. To achieve optimal health, you’ll want to regularly practice these four guidelines for a healthy immune system:
- Eat healthy and eat a diverse range of plants
- Exercise 4 or more times a week to improve your immune response
- Get a good night's sleep on a regular basis
- Meditate, be mindful and spend time in the sun