The immune system is the body’s first response in defending itself against microscopic threats, such as viruses and bacteria. Everyday precautions such as washing hands and avoiding the sick will always remain crucial, but there are other steps that one can take to boost the immune system from within.
Keeping active helps keep illness at bay by causing the body’s antibodies and white blood cells to increase their circulation around the body. This gives them more opportunities to detect and destroy anything harmful in the circulatory system.
Activity also lowers stress hormones, which in turn increases overall health. Studies have shown that regular exercise, at least five days a week, can cut the risk of catching a cold in half and reduce the severity of symptoms when it is contracted.
The majority of the body’s immune system is in the gut, so when it’s off balance everything else is as well. Consuming plenty of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy fats provides a large amount of vitamins and antioxidants to assist in fighting infections. Fermented foods, such as yogurt, miso, and sauerkraut help feed good bacteria in the gut and keep things running smoothly. On the other hand, too much meat or processed and fried foods can inflame the digestive system and reduce its ability to ward off bugs.
Cooking with herbs such as garlic, ginger, oregano, rosemary, and turmeric can help protect the immune system as they all have anti-inflammatory properties. Many Mediterranean and Indian recipes are full of nutritious vegetables and spices to inspire the palette and invigorate the immune system.
Chronic stress and anxiety are strongly linked to overall health, as the produced stress hormones wreak havoc on the immune system. Aside from a negative chemical response in the body, people who are stressed are less likely to maintain healthy habits.
Although it can be impossible to control what stressors appear throughout life, it is possible to control one’s reactions. Mindful meditation, exercise, journaling, and creating art are all activities that have been shown to reduce levels of stress hormones.
Getting plenty of quality sleep is crucial to maintaining a healthy immune system. When deprived of sleep, the body cranks out even more stress hormones and is unable to rest. Aim for at least seven hours of sleep every night to avoid falling ill due to exhaustion.
Eating a healthy, varied diet is enough for most people to get their necessary vitamins, but there are some supplements that can boost a body’s ability to prevent infection. For example, Vitamin D can aid the immune system, but some people don’t have enough in their systems. A doctor can order a blood test to best determine which vitamins or minerals may be deficient in one’s system, and will be able to follow up with recommendations for care.