Your immune system does a remarkable job of protecting your body from invading pathogens (including bacteria and viruses), toxins and even cancer cells. It is made up of a network of cells, tissues, and organs that all work together to function as the body’s natural defense mechanism. Although the immune system generally does a great job of defending you against disease, sometimes it fails and we can get sick. So, what are some healthy ways to strengthen your immune system and boost its function? Let’s take a look.
- Exercise regularly
According to research studies, as little as 20 minutes of regular aerobic exercise (such as jogging or riding a bicycle) can improve immune system function. Moreover, exercise has many other proven benefits, such as improved cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure, helping to maintain a healthy weight. Since exercise can improve circulation throughout the body, it can help the cells of the immune system to be transported throughout the body more efficiently. Importantly, aerobic exercise can help to prevent and even treat depression, which has been previously linked with reduced immune system function. Therefore, getting regular exercise is a great way to give your immune system a natural boost and stay healthy.
- Manage your stress levels
For many years, scientists have been studying the connection between psychological stress and immune system function. Studies show that chronic stress can weaken the immune system and make it more susceptible to disease-causing pathogens. In addition to depressed immune system function, chronic stress is linked to many other serious health conditions, including heart disease, depression, diabetes and gastrointestinal problems. Therefore, it is important to be aware of your stress levels and effectively manage them to keep your mind and body healthy. Some of the best stress management strategies include relaxation techniques, positive thinking, cultivating a strong support network, meditation and behavioural modification techniques.
- Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables
As it turns out, eating more fruits and vegetables can keep us healthy by improving our immune system function. Specifically, the nutrients in them can help the immune system fight viruses and bacteria more effectively. Although scientists are still trying to find the mechanism of how exactly eating fruits and vegetables can boost the immune system, research studies have shown that eating them can reduce inflammation. In addition, medical research has already shown that eating a diet rich in plant foods is also linked with a decreased risk of chronic diseases, including stroke, diabetes, coronary heart disease, and even certain types of cancer.
- Don’t smoke
Smoke from tobacco contains numerous harmful chemicals, including carbon monoxide, and cadmium, and nitrogen oxides. Cigarette smoking is linked with numerous life-threatening diseases, and also weakens the body’s innate immune system. Specifically, scientific studies show that smoking interferes with the function of the cells of immune system, making the body more susceptible to disease. As a consequence, long-term cigarette smoking and progressive weakening of the immune system can make you more susceptible to autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis.
- Get enough sleep
Chronic lack of sleep can wreak havoc not only on our physical and psychological health, but it can also interfere with immune system function. According to research studies, people who have poor quality sleep or don’t sleep enough are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, such as a common cold virus. This is likely because during sleep, the immune system releases proteins called cytokines, which are necessary for regulation of inflammation and fighting infection. Not getting enough sleep results in reduced production of these protective messengers. Moreover, sleep deprivation can cause a reduction in certain antibodies important for fighting infection. Typically, the recommended amount of sleep for adults is 7-8 hours a night to keep the body and immune system functioning at their best.
- Maintain a healthy weight
Obesity is a medical condition resulting from having excess body fat. This condition is diagnosed by a healthcare provider and is determined by calculating the body mass index (BMI), where a BMI of 30 or greater indicates obesity. This health condition poses numerous risks to health, including increased risk for diabetes, heart disease, and even certain cancers. Research studies have demonstrated that obese individuals also have an impaired immune response, leading to increased risks of bacterial, viral and fungal infections. In addition to its negative effects on immune system function, obesity is also associated with chronic inflammation, which can contribute to immune system dysfunction.
Your immune system is your body’s defense system, protecting you from many diseases and keeping you healthy. The best way to keep your immune system functioning optimally is to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Taking simple steps such as getting regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, not smoking, getting enough sleep and staying at a healthy weight can go a long way in naturally strengthening your immune system.