A strong immune system lays the foundation for strong overall health; you will get sick less often and you will reduce your risk of developing diseases such as cancer, which thrives when our bodies cannot fight off the damaged cells and keep them from multiplying. If you are interested in improving your health and well-being, boosting your body’s ability to fight off harmful invaders should be a top priority. Here are some tips to help you do just that.
Get Enough Sun
While excess sun exposure poses danger in terms of skin cancer, it plays a vital role in good health since our bodies use it to synthesize vitamin D, a deficiency of which has been implicated in increasing the risk of many serious diseases. Of its many important functions, one of its most is strengthening the immune system. Aim for 20 to 30 minutes of exposure a day; if the season or your location makes it difficult to get sufficient vitamin D, talk to your doctor about supplementing, which is the next best thing.
Eat an Immune-Boosting Diet
It should not come as any surprise that your diet plays a central role in the health of your immune system. Food is designed to provide our body with the nutrients it needs to function properly, fend off disease and heal damage already done. This is why a healthy diet is always a top recommendation for promoting general health as well as a key tool in managing illness. When it comes to immunity, certain nutrients appear to play a major role and include selenium, vitamin A, vitamin B2, vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin E and zinc. Do not let the list overwhelm you; simply eating a diet rich in a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and lean proteins will ensure adequate intake of all of them.
Certain herbs and spices may also benefit the immune system and will also make a tasty addition to your meals; particularly good choices include cinnamon, chilli and garlic. Garlic, for example, helps boost production of infection-fighting white blood cells; cinnamon helps kill bacteria and fungus while chili peppers contain a substance called capsaicin, which can keep sickness in check. Tomatoes are also a good choice—they are rich in lycopene, a powerful substance that boosts immunity and helps fight infections.
Get Regular Exercise
Along with eating a healthy diet, recommendations for regular physical activity have been made ad nauseum…there is a reason, however; exercise provides numerous benefits for all parts of the body and the immune system is no exception. Your activity need not be rigorous to get the benefits. Research has shown that simply walking briskly for 20 to 30 minutes, at least several days a week, may be all that you need; one study found that adults who did this were 25 percent less likely to get colds compared to people who never or rarely exercised. Exercise prompts the production of immune system cells, which travel throughout the whole body, killing viruses and bacteria as well as giving your immune system an overall boost.
It can be difficult to pinpoint the relationship between stress and immune function in people because of a variety of factors, such as subjective perceptions of stress and whether or not people actually feel as stressed as they may report. But, despite this, studies in both animals and humans have uncovered results that suggest stress may impair immune function in many ways, such as delaying production of antibodies that fight off illness and foreign invaders and lowering T-cell count. It appears that stress may disrupt the normal communication between the nervous system, endocrine system and the immune system.
Stress is a part of life but we do not have to let it consume us like so many people do. Sure, you may not be able to avoid feeling it, but you have a lot of power in managing it and reducing its effects. Meditate, do yoga, punch a punching bag…do whatever it is that makes you feel good. Commit to making changes in your life that will reduce stress levels, such as learning to say no or distancing yourself from people who cause you stress.
Kelli Cooper is a freelance writer who specializes in health and wellness content; she has a particular interest in Eastern medicine, such as Chinese remedies; follow the links to learn more about immune-boosting herbs and Chinese medicine cold remedies.