The season is turning, and it’s time for a health and wellness tuneup. You can build a stalwart immune system by cultivating lifestyle changes and embodying certain health-wellness routines. Remember when colds and flu felled your offices, schools, and dorms last year? There was always that one person who managed to escape without a sniffle. Current research shows that genetics plays a role in an ironclad immune system but so do lifestyle habits.
Before the season devours your time and energy with school and sports schedules, level up your germ-fighting power with four immunity-boosting practices to fight seasonal invaders and renegades.
Eat the Right Stuff
How you fill your plate has a direct effect on your overall health. Change the food on your plate and watch your health and quality of life significantly improve. Boost your immune system by using nutrient-dense foods as a weapon in your health-wellness arsenal.
Crisis-proof your health with anti-inflammatory, antioxidant foods like:
Avocados, blueberries, dark leafy greens, cacao, fresh herbs, and spices. Mushrooms, for example, help lessen the effects of inflammatory cytokines that suppress white blood cell function; they also directly stimulate macrophages, which are a type of white blood cell that destroys bacteria and viruses by engulfing them.
Bacteria-containing foods like kimchi, kefir, sauerkraut, unsweetened yogurt, and kombucha—evoke immune-fighting substances. Another feature of these inflammation-busting fermented foods, they provide a shot of gut-healthy probiotics.
To fortify your immune system, construct your meal plan with “a diet of foods mostly direct from nature and predominately plants,” according to a study conducted by D.L. Katz of Yale University School of Public Health and S. Meller of Yale University School of Medicine.
In addition, removing processed foods, refined sugar, and grain from your eating life can improve your gut microbiome. Scientists at Utrecht University in the Netherlands recently reported that gut microbiota directly influences immunity.
Turmeric Latte Recipe
Get Your ZZ’s
You can build a robust immune system while snoozing. You generate essential proteins and hormones to whack infection and stifle inflammation as you slumber. However, if sleep-deprived, inflammation sneaks in and weakens your body’s immune system.
Tracy Davenport, Ph.D., founder of Tracy’sHealthyLiving.com., health-wellness writer, and sleep expert, says, “The need for sleep for all animals (including humans) suggests that it’s very important to our survival. It turns out, sleep is intricately tied to our brains and many of our body systems, including our immune systems. We know the human immune system and sleep are influenced by each other. Unfortunately, sleep deprivation makes us more susceptible to many infections, and when we have an infection, healing time is slowed with sleep deprivation. Improved sleep can create a more efficient immune system, one that is ready to go to battle to keep you well.”
Studies indicate that most people require seven to eight hours of sleep. Getting enough sleep may call for a bedtime routine or protocol. Here are effective strategies to include in your sleep routine:
- Banish electronics from the bedroom. This practice aligns with research that “electronic device use in bed was found to reduce sleep duration and sleep quality in adults.”
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine consumption several hours before bedtime
- Establish a consistent bedtime
- Engage in relaxation practices before bed (read, pray, mindfulness exercises, journaling)
- Add white noise or a diffuser to your sleeping environment
Get restful sleep to bolster your immune system.
Exercising just 30 minutes a day not only helps you feel good and maintain health, but it builds resilience “as you move between states of relaxation and safe mobilization.”
“Exercise can support a strong immune system by several mechanisms, which include: improving blood flow and circulation of white blood cells and antibodies to all areas of the body to detect infections faster and deliver antibodies to fight those infections; raising body temperature which in itself can kill some viruses and bacteria.”
Movement/exercise not only serves the immune system but also helps manage stress.
Manage the Stress
A recent, widely circulated statistic found that “stress accounts for 75%-90% of all visits to the physician.”
When stress is a normal part of your day, it’s easy to ignore the signs. Routine pressure is constant, as opposed to traumatic stress.
With chronic stress, the body receives no clear signal to return to normal. Over time, chronic stress can cause serious health problems, including lowered immunity. Long-term stress can suppress your immune system. With a suppressed immune system, you become vulnerable to infectious diseases. So, an impaired immune system makes your body unable to recover from illness fully.
Managing the strain of routine stress requires strategy. Here are practical stress management methods:
If you feel your body reacting to stress, perhaps it triggers a headache, clenched jaw or fist, or heart palpitations. Try practicing relaxed breathing, also known as diaphragmatic breathing.
Relaxed breathing signals the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) to release calming chemicals into your bloodstream, which quiets the body.
“Breathing techniques and relaxing the body facilitates a greater calm and clear thinking.” Depending upon how severely your body reacts to the stressor, sometimes it’s best to regulate your breathing first.
Studies at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine found that mindfulness practices modulate the immune system. Along with reducing stress, mindfulness practices support the immune system.
Bolster Your Immune System This Fall
You can boost your immune system to withstand the siege of seasonal pathogens by building an impenetrable immune system. Fortify your immune defenses from viral and bacterial invaders by eating nutritious foods, getting sleep, exercising your body, and managing stress.
I know you are wondering why I didn’t include supplements in this list of ways to bolster your immune system. Honestly, you need to start with lifestyle changes and practices.
Vila, M. N. (2020). 7 Ways to Support a Strong Immune System. Massage Magazine, 293, 36–37.