Your immune system protects you against disease and infection and even helps you recover after an injury. And it is complex, made up of cells, processes, and chemicals, and fights off viruses, toxins, and bacteria. But what you can do to protect your immune system can be done in these eight simple steps.
STRESS affects your immune system
We want to consciously manage stress and our emotional health so knowing the techniques that work for you is essential. One size does not fit all, so don’t be discouraged if yoga is not your groove. Explore what takes you from anxious to calm. Breathing, stretching at your workstation…all good for your immunity. In fact, taking three conscious breaths is something that can help everyone. In through your nose and out through your mouth, breathing is also good for digestion and general immunity, both of which are impaired by stress. And, people who meditate (just a few minutes is required) may have healthier immune system responses than those who never do.
FOODS for your immune system
These are the fruits and vegetables, rich in nutrients like lots of vitamins C and E, plus beta-carotene and zinc to add or augment to your diet. Go for a wide variety of brightly colored fruits and vegetables, such as berries, citrus fruits, kiwi, apples, red grapes, kale, onions, spinach, sweet potatoes and carrots. Did you know fresh garlic is a natural anti-biotic, and mushrooms may help fight viruses and bacteria? Consider adding walnuts, hot peppers, extra virgin olive oil and Omega 3s like fish, to boost immune cell activity. And finally, you may have heard about the benefits of Vitamin D and immunity. Consult with your medical professional if a supplement is right for you – a good way naturally to get your Vitamin D is 10 minutes outside daily, and use your sunscreen!
MOVE for a stronger immune system.
Move – ideally outside for 20 minutes a day. If you make it fun, and better yet, find a friend (four-legged ones count) to keep you accountable, studies show you are more apt to stick to it.
SLEEP helps the immune system fight off infection
Important tips include a consistent wake-up and bedtime; an ideal room temperature of 68 degrees; screens off 60 minutes before going to sleep; comfortable bedding and a supportive pillow (if you can bend it, time to replace); a ritual to signal your brain it’s time for sleep that can include essential oils, a shower, dimming the lights, writing down anxious thoughts earlier in the day so that you avoid thought-racing once in bed; and finally, if you do lie awake, physically move to another room and occupy yourself with a book or music until you are sleepy.
SOCIAL Those that have a good social network have stronger immunity than those who feel alone
If an in-person opportunity is not available, then connecting with intention using social technology reaps the benefits to your immune system. That circle of support, especially if you are laughing when you connect, releases natural happy hormones that will give you a mood lift, which boosts your immune system!
Research shows that even a 15-minute conversation is beneficial.
SUGAR Eating or drinking too much sugar curbs immune system cells that attack bacteria
This effect lasts for at least a few hours after downing a couple of sugary drinks. Good drinks instead are green tea, which is an anti-viral and anti-inflammatory agent, and of course, water. If you are tired of water, add a few pieces of fruit, or try it sparkling with zero sugar. Put it in a fun container (BPA-free) for more motivation but stay hydrated.
HYGIENE Clean hands and face for life
Connect the act of washing your hands and avoiding touching your face with slowing down! Finding that it takes a few seconds to develop muscle memory for this important health habit will protect your immune system for decades.
Being present and mindful will help you make the connection as you wash your hands thoroughly. Checking yourself does take some practice, but you will eventually reduce the number of times your hands come close to your face.
SMOKE-FREE Protect your immune system by keeping toxins away
You have more susceptibility to infections and lower levels of protective antioxidants (such as vitamin C) in the blood if you smoke, vape or inhale anything into your lungs.
So, what steps will you take to fight off viruses, toxins, and bacteria? I hope you will incorporate a few of these to stay healthy and safe.