Whether you’re treating patients on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic or enjoying a relaxing day off, you want your immune system to be healthy.
Strengthening your immune system is mostly a matter of developing good habits. If you are trying to strengthen your body’s ability to fight disease and illness, your daily routine, diet, and hygiene practices are a great place to start.
The tips below will help you begin improving your immune system today!
The Basics: Personal Hygiene & Social Distancing
You can start improving your immune system today by developing three basic habits – wash your hands for 20 seconds, don’t touch your face and practice social distancing.
If you do those three things every day, you have already taken a major step towards boosting your immune system
Studies show that sleep and immune function are intimately linked. According to the Mayo Clinic. According to the Mayo Clinic, sleep habits affect your body’s ability to fight off infection and how fast it recovers if you do get sick.
During sleep, your body releases proteins that help promote sleep. When you’re sick, your body needs more of these proteins to fight illness. People who are sleep deprived may have reduced levels of proteins and antibodies that are required to protect or heal your body.
An optimal amount of sleep for most adults is seven to eight hours every night.
Eat Foods that Boost Your Immune System
Your diet plays a major role in your immune health.
“Eighty percent of your immune system is in the gut, so when it’s healthy, we tend to be able to fight off infections faster and better,” says Yufang Lin, M.D., of the Center for Integrative Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic.
Lin also recommends following a Mediterranean diet, which means eating a lot of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy fats. Common foods containing healthy fats include fish, nuts and olive oil. These foods also contain high quantities of zinc, vitamin C and antioxidants that have been shown to reduce inflammation.
According to a 2018 study in the journal Frontiers in Physiology, people who ate foods similar to those found in the Mediterranean diet and took daily vitamin D supplements showed small increases in disease-fighting cells.
Obesity can increase your risk of getting sick, so limiting sugars and unhealthy fats is also important. See below for the amount of added sugars you should eat per day, according to the American Heart Association:
- Men: 150 calories per day (37.5 grams or 9 teaspoons)
- Women: 100 calories per day (25 grams or 6 teaspoons)
Exercise & Stay Active
Moderate physical activity and exercise is another way to boost your immune system. Physical activity increases blood flow, improving your body’s circulation of antibodies and white blood cells.
Exercise also causes your body to release endorphins, which relieves stress, another factor in your immune health.
Stress is a normal part of the life of most modern Americans, but high stress levels are related to poor immune health.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, stress causes your body to produce cortisol, a hormone meant to limit inflammation over short periods of time. If you are stressed often, your body’s tolerance of cortisol increases, making it more vulnerable to inflammation.
Stress also decreases your body’s production of white blood cells, which fight infection. Low white blood cell counts weaken your body’s defense against viruses, including the common cold and cold sores.
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