As we turn the corner of winter and head into spring, many of us are looking forward to the end of the constant cycle of winter illnesses. If you’re one of the unlucky ones who has had illness after illness this winter, you may be wondering what, if anything, you can do to boost your immune system and fight off the winter germs and viruses that plague so many of us. The good news is, there are a few things you can do that have been proven to boost your immune system. Read on for some tips to keep yourself healthy through the rest of the cold and flu season.
Get adequate sleep.
Adequate sleep is vital to avoiding illness. Most people need at least 7 hours of sleep per night to keep their immune systems operating at optimal levels, but some people may need more sleep.
Sleep has two primary benefits for your immune system: first, getting enough sleep gives your body the chance to heal and detoxify. Stress lowers your body’s ability to fight infection by releasing cortisol and adrenaline during the day. The adrenaline response temporarily allows your body to enter “fight or flight” mode by shifting energy away from the immune system and digestive system. Our ancestors relied on this feature to keep alive, but today it can greatly impact your healthy immune response due to poor diet and stress.
Secondly, when you sleep, your body produces a powerful hormone called melatonin, which is extremely important to your entire body. The benefits of melatonin include its ability to prevent certain diseases. Inadequate amounts of sleep or even sleeping with lights (including television) on will decrease your melatonin production, which in turn decreases your immune response.
Try to minimize stress.
Stress raises adrenaline and cortisol levels, which diverts energy away from your immune system. You can naturally reduce stress through exercise, getting adequate sleep, meditation/yoga, and reducing caffeine intake.
Eat a diet high in fruits and vegetables.
Fruits and veggies contain high amounts of antioxidants, fiber, and vitamins, all of which keep your immune system happy. Some foods are considered “superfoods” because they are extremely high in antioxidants and other nutrients that keep you healthy. If you want to learn more about superfoods, Healthline has a great article about them here.
It’s no secret that exercise has countless health benefits. Physical activity affects more than just your muscles and bones; It’s also an important aspect of your overall health and immune support.
In terms of immunity, moderate exercise helps move immune cells around the body via the bloodstream and into soft tissue. WHen immune cells are present throughout the body, they are more effective at identifying and fighting bacteria and viruses.
Exercise enhances immune cells’ ability to detect and respond to infections, which can be thought of as immune surveillance. This aspect of exercise is crucial for immune health.
Drink more water (and less alcohol).
In addition to keeping you hydrated, water helps carry oxygen to every cell in your body – including immune cells. Water also removes toxins from the body, so maintaining proper hydration is key to flushing toxins and staying healthy.
On the flip side, alcohol has many negative health impacts, including dehydration. Alcohol has a stimulant effect, which can lead to less (and poorer quality) sleep. Since both sleep and hydration are crucial to maintaining a strong immune system, avoiding or limiting alcohol is important to avoid illness.
This one seems fairly obvious; smoking or vaping tobacco introduces toxins into your lungs, which damages the lungs’ lining. Damaged lining is more susceptible to infection. Further, if you are sick and have a cough, smoking will exacerbate the cough and can make you feel worse. If you need help quitting smoking, check with your primary care provider to get info about smoking cessation programs.
Keep current with all recommended vaccines.
Vaccines prime your immune system to fight off infections before they take hold in your body, so this is an important step in preventing illness (or, if you do get sick, preventing severe illness). While the flu and covid vaccines don’t always stop you from contracting those viruses, there is ample evidence that they can help prevent severe cases of illness, prevent hospitalization, and prevent death. If you think you may be due for any vaccinations, contact us to see if we can help get you up-to-date.
Remember, while it might not be possible to avoid every illness, taking steps to keep your immune system strong will greatly reduce the chances of contracting illness – or if you do get sick, it will help you get better faster. If you do find yourself feeling ill, give us a call. We offer Covid and influenza testing and treatment, as well as treatment for strep throat and many other common illnesses.