Healthy Ways To Strengthen Your Immune System
Thankfully, it’s no rocket science to naturally improve immunity. All it takes is simple tweaks to your lifestyle—eat nutritious food, combat stress, stay active, and more. Read on to learn more about how to boost immunity.
Our immune system is like a tough soldier standing guard. It is made up of a network of cells, chemicals and tissues, that constantly watch out for invaders. A defence action is mounted as soon as a threat is spotted. Immunity preserves the integrity of the body by detecting and responding to a wide variety of pathogens, preventing various illnesses and diseases in an efficient manner. If you are wondering about how to increase your immunity, here are some research-backed tips to boosting it.
Ways to increase your immunity and fight off illness
1. Eat healthy: A good diet will boost immunity by promoting immune cells and antibodies. The journal Nutrients finds that the bioactive compounds found in fruits and vegetables have a protective effect on the body. “Having five or more portions of fruits and vegetables daily significantly increases the antibody response,” quotes the study. Another research by Oregon State University lists the benefits of green tea for the immune system. It says that the flavonoids in green tea increase the count of T cells (which help fight infection) that play an important role in immune function.
Whole grains and nuts also boost immune system. These are packed with a range of essential vitamins and minerals such fibre, B vitamins, protein, iron, zinc, copper and magnesium.
2. Manage stress: Stress produces cortisol, a hormone that suppresses the effectiveness of the immune system. When we undergo stress, cortisol interferes with normal white blood cell communication and also lowers the number of lymphocytes (white blood cells) present in the blood—making it difficult for the body to fight infections. Chronic stress suppresses innate and adaptive immune response to stress according to a study titled, Effects of stress on immune function. If you are looking for how to strengthen immune system, it is important to reduce chronic stress, and Journal Healthcare recommends the following ways. Here are some tips cited by Journal Healthcare to help reduce chronic stress.
- Emotional regulation by means of yoga and mindfulness helps reduce stress. Studies find that just 15 minutes of yoga a day can help relax the brain.
- Spend some time in, nature-rich environment to manage your stress and improve well-being.
- Seek social support by connecting with friends and family.
3. Sleep enough: Sleep is one of the most important factors if you are working on how to boost immunity. Sleep supports the production of protective cytokines—a protein that is important for a healthy immune system. A paper titled Sleep and Immune Function finds that sleep increases the number of T cells in the body, that help fight infection. Ideally, you should have seven to nine hours of quality sleep to recharge yourself. To sleep better at night:
- Do not drink alcohol, coffee or tea and avoid other stimulants, four to six hours before going to bed.
- Avoid exercise right before going to bed.
- Keep your bedroom quiet, dark. Maintain an optimal temperature that is neither too hot nor cold.
4. Exercise every day: A study by the Journal of Sport and Health Science finds that moderate-and vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise bouts of less than 60 min duration enhance the performance of immunoglobulins, anti-inflammatory cytokines, neutrophils, NK cells, cytotoxic T cells, and immature B cells, all of which play critical roles in immune defense activity. It also finds that regular exercise reduces inflammation and enhances immunosurveillance (a process by which cells of the immune system look for and recognise foreign pathogens). Here are some tips that can aid your exercise session.
- Don’t skip warmup and cool-down to prevent injuries.
- Drink enough water during your workout. Drink half a cup of water every 15-20 minutes.
5. Moderate the use of alcohol: A paper titled ‘Alcohol and the immune system’ finds that chronic consumption of alcohol disrupts the pathways of the immune system, and impairs the body’s ability to defend against infection. Alcohol decreases the frequency of lymphocytes—a type of white blood cell which is required for a healthy immune system.
6. Drink more water: To boost immunity, you require nutrients in the bloodstream to work properly, and a healthy bloodstream is mostly made of water. Water helps carry oxygen to the blood cells thereby helping every system of the bodywork well. Water is also known for its ability to flush out toxins—thereby warding off illness. Here are some tips to help you stay hydrated.
- Have a glass of water first thing in the morning.
- Use a smartphone app or a timer for water.
- You can add a slice of lime to add a mild flavour to your drinking water.
- Always keep a bottle of water within reach.
7. Have probiotics: Probiotics boost immune system by inhibiting the growth of harmful gut bacteria and helping maintain a healthy gastrointestinal tract. Probiotics also promote the growth of natural antibodies required for a healthy immune system. A study published in Annals of Nutrition and Metabolism finds that probiotic bacteria induce the production of different cytokines (cytokines help the immune system respond to diseases). Include probiotic beverages such as kefir or kombucha in your diet.
8. Control blood sugar spike: A recent 2021 study titled the Harmful effects of high amounts of glucose on the immune system finds that sugar spikes suppress the immune system and increases the likelihood of getting sick. “Although glucose is vital for the proper function of immune cells, their proliferation, and a high amount of glucose may lead to excessive proinflammatory cytokines production–thereby impairing the function of the immune system,” quotes the study.
- Replace table sugar with natural honey, powdered dates or jaggery.
- Craving for a snack? Swap canned sugary foods with nuts or fruits.
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