Your immune system is your body’s built-in defense system and its first line of defense. A healthy and properly functioning immune system protects you from viruses and bacteria. And now more than ever, keeping your immune system in good working order is so important.
There are several things that you can do to take control of your health and promote a strong line of defense (aka Your Immune System) to protect yourself from getting run down and becoming ill, including
- Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate! - Drinking water doesn’t protect you from viruses and bacteria, but preventing dehydration is essential for good health. Staying hydrated allows your body to properly function and assists in eliminating toxins and other bacteria.
- Maintain Vitamin D Levels - Vitamin D plays a very important role in the overall function of your immune system. Epidemiologic studies have found high vitamin D levels to be associated with a lower risk of infections in the upper respiratory tract.
- Eat Antioxidant-Rich Foods - Antioxidants found in foods help to protect your cells from damage from free radicals and help reduce inflammation in the body. Some antioxidant-rich foods include: Blueberries, Broccoli, Spinach, Turmeric, Olive Oil, Beets, Potatoes, Black Beans, Pinto Beans, and Dark Leafy Greens.
- Limit Sugar - Studies have found that sugar suppresses your cell's response or your immune system. When your immune system is comprised, you are more likely to get sick as it is not able to properly defend you.Sugar also triggers inflammation in the body.
- Exercise - Yes, exercise plays an important role in overall immune health. Moderate exercise helps to reduce inflammation, slow down the release of stress hormones, clear bacteria from the lungs, and increase the circulation of immune cells. In a nutshell, exercise improves your overall immune health.
- Manage Stress Levels - Stress weakens your immune system, so managing it is absolutely essential (and yes, easier said than done). Stress triggers your sympathetic nervous system or your fight or flight response. This in turn releases chemicals and hormones into the body that weaken the immune system. Breathwork techniques, mediation, and yoga are all great ways to reduce stress. Keep in mind you must stay consistent.
- Get Enough Sleep - When it comes to your health, sleep is your armor. If you are sleep deprived your body is not able to function as its supposed to. Your immune system is suppressed. Your stress levels tend to be higher, also suppressing your immune system. During sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines, some of which help promote sleep. Certain cytokines need to increase when you have an infection or inflammation, or when you're under stress. Sleep deprivation may decrease the production of these protective cytokines.* Lack of sleep leads to a reduction in cytokines, which help to fight off infection and inflammation, which leaves you more susceptible to illness.
Be mindful of what you put into your body, how you are feeling, and how you are impacted by stress. It’s never too late to start to develop habits to support a healthy immune system.
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*Mayo Clinic - https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/expert-answers/lack-of-sleep/faq-20057757#:~:text=During%20sleep%2C%20your%20immune%20system,production%20of%20these%20protective%20cytokines.