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Your immune system is your main defense against a multitude of bacteria and viruses that would love to make your body their home.
Every day your immune system protects you from millions of tiny organisms that left unchallenged, would at best leave you feeling run down and at worst, prove fatal. For this reason, it makes sense to do everything that you can to strengthen your defenses and encourage your immune system to function as well as possible.
Here are nine ways that you can improve your immune system.
9 Ways To Improve Your Immune System
Have a Consistently Healthy Diet
As with any health related topic, the importance of a well-balanced diet cannot be stressed enough. Your immune system needs to receive adequate nourishment in order to be able to function properly. A healthy diet should include a variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains including nuts and seeds, dairy products such as milk and cheese, and protein such as poultry and meat.
Try to reduce your intake of refined sugar which is found in many processed foods such as sweets and fizzy drinks, as sugar weakens the immune system and reduces the effectiveness of vitamin C in the body, which is vital for a healthy immune system. Also, avoid extreme dieting which will stress your body and weaken your immune system.
Boost Your Vitamin Intake
If you have to follow a restricted diet or feel that you are unable to include enough variety of foods in your diet, you can boost your immune system by taking a vitamin supplement. This can be in the form of a multivitamin which will contain a hundred per cent of the daily recommended intake of each vitamin included, or you can choose to take specific vitamins individually.
Vitamin C is the most obvious one and the vitamin that everyone rushes out for at the first sign of a cold. Vitamin C supports your immune system by increasing the levels of white blood cells which are important for fighting infection.
Vitamin E works by stimulating the production of cells that attack bacteria and is also a powerful anti-oxidant.
Zinc helps the white blood cells fight infections as well as helping them to release antibodies.
Take Regular Exercise
Taking regular exercise improves your immune system and overall well-being. Regular moderate exercise strengthens your cardiovascular system which is responsible for transporting oxygen and nutrients to cells throughout the body. So the easier your white blood cells can move around, the more efficient they will be at tracking down germs. Also, during exercise your body produces fewer stress related hormones, which are damaging to the immune system.
Get Enough Sleep
A lack of sleep can have an adverse effect on your immune system and make you more susceptible to catching a virus such as a cold. A good night’s sleep is important because while you are sleeping, immune cells in your body produce proteins called cytokines, which interact with other cells to co-ordinate immune responses. The amount of sleep each person needs will vary, but as a general rule 8-9 hours is recommended.
Reduce Stress & Find Ways to Relax
Stress causes the body to have raised levels of cortisol, a hormone produced by the adrenal glands. Cortisol prevents the release of the aforementioned cytokines, and prevents the white blood cells from producing antibodies.
Everybody suffers from bouts of stress from time to time, but prolonged, severe stress suppresses your immune system. You can help to improve your immune system by finding ways to reduce your stress levels. Taking part in yoga can help you to relax through stretching and relieving muscle tension. It is also an opportunity to meditate or have some quiet time without the noisy intrusions of technology.
It is also worth learning to say ‘no’ when you feel you have too much in your schedule and other people are making too many demands on your time.
Practice Good Hygiene
Your immune system has to deal with coming into contact with millions of bacteria and viruses every day, and although your immune system becomes strengthened through exposure to some germs, overloading your immune system with bugs is never a good idea.
The most obvious example of good hygiene is hand washing. Always wash your hands after going to the bathroom and again before you eat anything. High traffic areas such as door handles and bannisters, not to mention the hand rails aboard public transport, are constantly being touched throughout the day and not everybody is as health and hygiene conscious as you are.
We’ve looked at the bad bacteria, now lets look at the good. Your digestive tract naturally contains good bacteria, which help your immune system by destroying harmful bacteria in the intestines and preventing the overgrowth of yeast. The good bacteria also stimulate the gut to make antibodies. Sometimes due to illness or the use of antibiotics, good bacteria are destroyed, leaving the immune system vulnerable to stomach complaints such as gastroenteritis.
You can boost your natural levels of good bacteria by taking pro-biotics. These can be taken in capsule form from a pharmacy or by eating yoghurt containing good bacteria, such as lactobacillus.
Reduce Your Alcohol Intake
Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol can affect your immune system by lowering the numbers of infection fighting white blood cells in the body, and reducing your body’s ability to absorb nutrients which are essential for a healthy immune system.
Everybody knows that smoking is harmful to your health and is associated with cancer and lung diseases, but even before the more dangerous ailments begin to appear, your immune system will be suffering from the effects of nicotine. Your body’s immune response can be damaged by the toxins contained in cigarettes and the excess mucus in the lungs that is caused by smoking, can lead to lung infections. Smokers are also at a greater risk of sinus infections and colds.
Quitting smoking will not only improve your immune system, it will benefit every system in your body.
The idea of improving your immunity is enticing, but the ability to do so has proved elusive for millions of people. Remember, the immune system is just that — a system, not a single entity. To function well, it requires balance and harmony. There’s still much that scientists don’t understand about the intricacies and interconnectedness of the immune response. Give yourself the greatest chance for superb health by following a few healthy lifestyle choices.