What are the best healthy ways to strengthen your immune system?
A need to stay healthy and keep our functioning at an optimum level is universal. Unfortunately, there is no way around it and no magic pill – a healthy lifestyle is a way to a healthier life and a more efficient immune system. If you want to keep your body’s first line of defense strong naturally, start with following the general good-health guidelines. Avoid alcohol and cigarettes, limit your sugar intake, and take care of your body and mind well.
It is never too late to start practicing smart health strategies and live your best life. And don’t worry – it is not rocket science. There are some simple ways and small changes you can make to strengthen your immune system and elevate your health.
Improve your sleeping patterns
Many experts agree that a good night’s rest plays an important role in boosting your body’s natural defenses. And the great thing is you can influence the quality of your sleep significantly.
Chronic loss of sleep reduces your body’s natural immune response. Inadequate or poor sleep makes you more susceptible to the flu, cold, and other illnesses.
On the other hand, after good quality sleep, your body produces a type of protein that fights off inflammation and infections.
So, how can you strengthen your immune system through sleep?
First, aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night. When you get your sleeping schedule on track, you will not only improve your body’s immune response, but it will also protect your body from chronic illnesses like diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.
Work on your diet
You have probably heard this too many times, but only because it is true – including more plant foods in your diet is the way to go. Fruits and veggies, legumes, nuts, and seeds are rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber.
These micronutrients are vital in keeping your health and immune system in check. They help your body fight off free radicals and decrease inflammation. Also, they feed the healthy bacteria in your gut, which strengthens your immunity. Whenever possible, opt for whole, unprocessed food and fresh and organic produce. Make sure to include healthy fats in your nutrition. For instance, olive oil is highly anti-inflammatory. Also, having well-balanced, nourishing meals at regular times every day is great for your body’s first line of defense.
If you are not sure whether your diet is providing you with all of the essential nutrients your body needs, taking vitamin supplements has multiple health benefits besides supporting your immune system.
Learn how to cope with stress
Chronic stress affects your immune system negatively. Prolonged periods of stress increase your cortisol levels. This hormone blocks your immune system from reacting, as a part of the “fight or flight” response system to stressors.
The trick is your body is tuned to work this way to better deal with short-time health threats.
The problem is when you are constantly under stress and your cortisol levels are elevated for an extended period. In that case, your immune system will not be as effective in warding off potential threats like bacteria or viruses. There are a lot of techniques that can help you in better coping with stress. Meditation, autogenic training, and other relaxation techniques such as breathing exercises can help you combat stress more effectively.
And since we live in a technological era, why not use its advantages? Many apps like Calm and Headspace can help you ease into a meditation practice. Also, a simple practice like journaling can help you better cope with stress and manage your emotions.
Include regular exercise in your schedule
Although workouts can be physically exhausting, they stimulate the secretion of the so-called “feel good” hormones. Endorphins, serotonin, and dopamine regulate your mood and create feelings of pleasure, helping you manage stress in your life.
Studies have confirmed that being more active overall is associated with lower illness rates, both chronic (like type 2 diabetes) and acute ones (like various infections). Even a single bout of moderate-intensity exercise may decrease inflammation and help immune cells regenerate.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) guidelines, you should aim at a minimum of two and a half hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise or 75 minutes of high-intensity aerobic exercise a week.
The former includes activities like brisk walking, jogging, or cycling, while the latter refers to more intensive physical activities like running.
Spend more time in nature
Staying in a natural environment has healing effects. Our fast-paced modern life demands and all our screen-time are taking a toll on our well-being. The healing effects of nature-based activities are not to be underestimated.
Fresh air, sunlight, tranquil scenery, and exposure to green spaces have a calming effect on our brains. Spending time outdoors has multiple health benefits, like mood enhancement, reduced inflammation and stress, and improved sleep.
Exposure to green space is linked to overall health and well-being, as well as reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and premature death.
A few lifestyle changes can go a long way in terms of your body’s natural defense mechanisms. Remember: it takes time to build a new habit, so be patient and persistent, and you will be on the right path to a stronger immune system and healthier life.