Can you strengthen your immune system with healthy lifestyle choices? The answer is yes.
A healthy immune system is your first line of defense against viruses and bacteria. Flu season is approaching and COVID-19 is still a risk. If you’re concerned your immune system isn’t quite as strong as it could be, consider making some lifestyle changes. Our immune systems function better when we practice healthy lifestyle strategies.
The sun’s UV rays help you produce Vitamin D. Vitamin D is typically known to be important for healthy bones, but it’s also quite beneficial when it comes to immune health as well. Vitamin D helps mobilize your T cells, the “killer cells” that seek out and destroy disease causing agents like viruses. It can be difficult to get enough Vitamin D through food sources since it isn’t naturally occuring in many foods, so sunshine is a great option.
You can also supplement, but this is a fat soluable vitamin, so before you do that, check with your doctor. Over supplementation can have negative affects on your health.
Most of us are know that exercise can reduce our risk of cardiovascular disease, while improving our mood, reducing stress levels and helping us to sleep better. But did you also know that exercise helps keep your immune system strong?
Consistent, moderate exercise can strengthen your immune system and help it fight off infections. It increases blood flow, reduces inflammation, and lowers the levels of stress hormones. Stress can weaken the immune system, leaving you more vulnerable to viruses and disease.
EAT A HEALTHY DIET
A healthy diet is important to a strong immune system. That means eating “the rainbow”… a diet high in colorful fruits and vegetables, which are full of antioxidants like beta-carotene, Vitamin C, and Vitamin E. To get the most benefits from these types of antioxidants, eat them raw or lightly steamed.
Other important foods to a healthy diet are legumes, whole grains, lean protein and healthy fats. Many people mistakenly assume that all fat is bad. In reality though, healthy fats are actually beneficial to your immune system. Try incorporating healthy fats like nuts and seeds, avocados and olives, and fish into your diet.
If you are making good food choices most of the time, your body will feel the difference and it will be more equipped to fight off viruses and infections.
Water regulates our temperature, transports nutrients to cells, and flushes waste and toxins from our organs that could cause illness. Those toxins, if allowed linger on in the body, can weaken the immune system. On average, an adult woman should be consuming about 11 cups and an adult male 16 cups of water a day. That may sound like a lot, but it also includes water that is in other food sources.
GET ENOUGH SLEEP
It’s recommended that adults get seven to eight hours of sleep a night. The quantity and quality of our sleep affects mental and physical health, and emotional balance, as well as the ability to fight off infections. Studies show that a lack of sleep can increase of the probability of getting sick when exposed to a virus, and it may also affect how long it takes you to recuperate.
Stress can weaken your immune system, leaving you more susceptible to viruses and disease. When you are stressed, the cortisol hormone increases and your white blood cell count decreases, leaving your body more vulnerable to infection.
As you can see, these are interconnected. Exercise helps us sleep better. Quality sleep and exercise improve stress and mood. In reality, a strong immune system is the result of many factors. Making good lifestyle choices, while not foolproof, is likely to give you a healthier immune response.
Michelle is a long time runner, fitness enthusiast, former healthy food blogger, and she’s one of the owners at New Milford Fitness & Aquatics Club. She ran cross country and track for the University of Colorado and still runs as well as hikes to stay healthy and avoid injury.