In the depths of a global pandemic–as well as cold and flu season–now is as good a time as ever to focus on supporting your immune system. While there is no magic pill or quick fix to achieving a robust immune system, there are a few, simple steps one can take to improve overall immune function. Here’s what you should know:
Prioritize sleep. Not only can sleep help the body heal and recover from illness, but it can protect you from getting sick as well. Studies reveal a lack of sleep over a prolonged period can cause chronic, low-grade inflammation and produce immunodeficiency.
The average adult person needs between seven and eight hours of sleep per night. (Teenagers need eight to 10 hours of sleep and children need 10 or more). If you struggle prioritizing sleep, try implementing a sleep schedule–going to bed and waking at the same time every day. Staying hydrated, morning sunlight, keeping your room cool, avoiding caffeine late in the day, and not eating within three hours of bedtime can also help improve sleep quality.
Exercise regularly. Exercise is a powerful way to stimulate immune function. In fact, studies show moderate exercise improves the immune response to respiratory viral infections. However, random bouts of exercise will not suffice to support immune health. Consistency is key.
To reap the benefits exercise provides, aim for 150 to 600 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week or 75 to 300 minutes of vigorous exercise.
Focus on nutrients. Malnutrition is the most common cause of immunodeficiency. Sadly, the standard American diet is deficient in a number of key nutrients (even with the help of supplements).
One should focus on eating an anti-inflammatory diet rich in fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and protein. Avoiding processed food, sugar, and inflammatory oils is necessary.
Stress Management. Chronically high stress levels can have a negative impact on a myriad of aspects of one’s health including metabolism, mood, and quality of sleep. The immune system is no different.
Many tools exist to help minimize stressors such as meditation, journaling, deep breathing exercises, and spending time in nature. If you suffer from high stress levels, it is imperative to be mindful of your state of mind.
Social and Emotional Health. Building and maintaining strong relationships and having social support are imperative for both your mental wellbeing and physical health. Harvard Health found that strong relationships help alleviate and manage stress and are equally as important as adequate sleep and proper nutrition.
Each of the aforementioned tips for improving immune function is dependent on the others. If stress is high, sleep will be affected. If sleep is affected, one will be less likely to make healthy choices in regards to nutrition and exercise. As such, in order to achieve robust immune health, one must strive to maintain healthy habits in each of the five areas.
If you need help strengthening your immune health or establishing the habits to do so, contact us at Total Body Health for a FREE consultation. We are available in person, over the phone, or by video.