Stop smoking. In addition to lung cancer, heart disease and the myriad of other smoking-related health problems, smoking also decreases the body’s immunity. Yet, the good news is that even after just 30 days of not smoking your immune system begins to improve. If you smoke, stop. If you need help, contact your health care provider. Quitting Smoking brochure
Exercise. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), regular exercise (walking for just 20 minutes three times a week) can improve the response of white blood cells and strengthen your immune system. Though there are no hard and fast reasons why people who exercise are more successful at fighting off disease and illness, the NIH gives credence to the four commonly held theories below.
- Exercise may flush out bacteria, cancer-causing cells, and other toxins through increased urine and sweat production.
- Exercise improves circulation, which also improves the distribution of antibodies and white blood cells throughout the body. As white blood cells course through the body, they may detect bacteria and other harmful germs earlier.
- The rise in body temperature during exercise may deter bacteria growth. Elevated body temperature may act in the same way as a fever to rid the body of the germs that make us sick.
- Exercise slows the release of stress hormones that impede the immune system and releases endorphins that promote a sense of well-being and relaxation, which often helps people to de-stress and sleep better.
Eat a proper diet. Poor nutrition makes the immune system less effective. To strengthen your immune system, avoid sugar, white flour, and other highly processed foods while eating nutrient-rich foods.
Add colorful vegetables like kale, broccoli, carrots, sweet potatoes, and dark leafy greens to your diet. Fresh fruit also helps strengthen your immunity. Eat brightly colored fruits and dark colorful berries, like blueberries and blackberries. They are especially high in antioxidants, which may help detoxify the body.
Add a healthy dose of Omega 3 fats. Healthy fats help the body absorb vitamins and minerals. A few good sources of Omega 3 fats include flax seed, sunflower seeds, walnuts, almonds, and salmon.
Eating good bacteria not only keeps your intestinal linings strong, but also stimulates the production of antibodies. Yogurt with live acidophilus cultures is the most common source of good bacteria.
Add foods like garlic and onions to your diet. These may have antiviral and antibiotic properties that may help you fend off disease or illness.
Don’t forget your protein. Meat, poultry, fish, legumes and nuts contain B vitamins (thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, and riboflavin) and the minerals, iron and zinc. These vitamins and minerals are important to the immune system and cognitive function.
Get enough rest. The body uses sleep to re-energize. Getting 7 to 8 hours of “good” sleep each night will ensure that your body can perform at its maximum level. Rest is also important when the immune system is in the process of fighting disease or illness.
If you get the cold or the flu, you tend to feel sleepy due to chemicals produced by your immune system. Sleep may be the body’s way of conserving energy and other resources while it fights disease.
Strengthen relationships. People with close friends and strong social support systems seem to have a more positive outlook and tend to be healthier.
Practice all things in moderation. While exercise and healthy eating habits give the body the tools it needs to make a stand against illness and disease, too much of a good thing can have the opposite effect.
Exercising too much or gaining weight can decrease the effectiveness of the immune system. Listen to your body. If you are fatigued, stressed, or gaining weight, reassess your activity level and eating habits; adjust them to a healthier level if necessary. If you need help with that assessment, contact your health care provider.
Alcohol should be mentioned as well. While there are reports that drinking moderate amounts (two drinks for a man; one for a woman) of alcohol can provide health benefits, drinking too much can lower the response of your immune system and make you more susceptible to infection.
Take care of your immune system and it will take care of you.