Caring For Your Immune System
September 20, 2017
Our immune system does a remarkable job of defending us against microorganisms. But sometimes it fails, a germ invades successfully and makes us sick. So we need to boost our immune system. These 8 steps can help support your immune system so it’s ready to fight those viruses.
1. Eat Healthy
Like any fighting force, the immune system army marches on its stomach. Healthy immune system warriors need good, regular nourishment. Oily fish such as sardines, herring, and mackerel contain protein—essential for building the cells that fight off invaders—and the fatty acids called omega-3s, which regulate immune system function.
Garlic and onions in soup, stews, and other dishes are both sources of potent antiviral substances that can boost your resistance to infection. Plenty of other vegetables can add to your infection-fighting armory, including carrots and sweet potatoes. They are rich in beta carotene, which has an anti-inflammatory action and raises the rate at which white blood cells are produced. Chili peppers, which thin nasal mucus; Shiitake mushrooms, which aid white blood cell production; and Ginger, which helps in cleansing the lymphatic system, our network of tissues and organs that help rid the body of toxins, waste and other unwanted materials.
Vitamin C, found in high concentrations in oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit, boosts the activity of phagocytes (cells that engulf and digest bacteria) in the blood. The body can’t store vitamin C, so you need to consume some every day.
Get at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week. Regular exercise is one of the pillars of healthy living. Just like a healthy diet, exercise can contribute to to a healthy immune system. It may contribute even more directly by promoting good circulation, experts say that it takes a 30 minutes of aerobic exercise—a brisk walk counts—to sweep white blood cells back into circulation, making your immune system run more smoothly.
3. Get Enough Sleep
Poor sleep is associated with lower immune system function and reduced numbers of killer cells that fight germs.
4. Good Hygiene
Wash your hands. Stop infection before it begins and avoid spreading it to others.
5. Drink In Moderation
Alcohol abuse can also cause lead to immunodeficiency. But the moderate use of alcohol (one drink daily for women, and two for men) has not been associated with negative effects on the immune system. In fact, according to a 2007 article in the British Journal of Nutrition, there is an increasing body of evidence linking health benefits linked with moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages, like wine or beer. The article states that, while heavy alcohol use can suppress the immune response, “moderate alcohol consumption seems to have a beneficial impact on the immune system compared to alcohol abuse or abstinence.” So for the time being, the advice remains: everything in moderation.
6. Don’t Smoke
Puffing cigarettes is terrible for the entire body. But the secondhand kind is almost as harmful. Avoid secondhand smoke as much as you can—including spending time with people while they smoke.
7. Manage Your Stress
Everyone gets stressed. But lasting stress is a problem. Stress triggers the overproduction of neurochemicals in the brain that can lower immune function. You can take action to tame stress. Learn and use relaxation techniques. Take time for yourself. Build your support network of people you can talk to. Consider counseling, especially when you’re going through a very stressful time. The important thing is that you unwind and recover from stress, since it’s often hard to avoid in the first place.
8. Avoid Unnecessary Antibiotics
Taking antibiotics at the first sign of a sniffle can make you resistant to these drugs over time, causing more serious infections. Researchers found that certain patients taking antibiotics had reduced levels of cytokines, the hormone messengers of the immune system. Take antibiotics only for bacterial infections, use them right away, and take the entire course. Don’t use antibiotics preventively unless prescribed by your doctor.
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