How to strengthen your immune system
Yes, the whole coronavirus thing is totally scary. We get that. But there's a lot you can do to keep healthy and safe during this time. Your immune system is your primary line of defense against illness, so it's essential that you keep it in tiptop shape as much as possible. Luckily, there are certain science-backed actions you can take to boost your immune system:
1. Cut back on alcohol
You might feel tempted to drink during stressful times, but high alcohol intake has been shown to suppress immune function. Alcohol also dehydrates the body, and hydration is needed to prevent yourself from getting sick. If you aren't ready to give up booze entirely, it's okay to drink in moderation. Women can have one drink a day, and men are encouraged to limit it to two drinks daily.
2. Reduce stress as much as possible
This is easier said than done, right? Studies show that stress can really compromise immune function, making people more susceptible to infection. Why? Because stress triggers the release of cortisol, which leads to increased inflammation, a catalyst for many diseases. Not only that, but chronic stress can interfere with your body's ability to fight off infections.
3. Load up on fresh fruits and vegetables
This one's a no brainer. Eating all of the colors of the rainbow in the form of fruits and vegetables keeps your immune system running as efficiently and effectively as possible. Fruits and vegetables, like kale and blackberries, contain a ton of antioxidants, which helps your body fight oxidative stress,
4. Get enough vitamin D
Vitamin D helps your body produce antibodies, which fight illness. But most people don't get enough vitamin D. While your body's primary source of vitamin D comes from the sun's rays, you can also load up on vitamin D rich foods, like mushrooms, eggs, and seafood.
5. Sleep more
It might be harder for you to sleep soundly when everything feels so uncertain, but sleep is crucial to help your immune system run smoothly. Specifically, sleep helps the body recover from everyday stress, both physical and mental, which promotes better functioning of your immune system. When you don't get enough sleep, your body produces fewer cytokines, which your body uses to fight off infections and illnesses. Aim to get between seven and nine hours of sleep a night to feel your best.
6. Wash your hands...A LOT!
Washing your hands often is essential because it keeps viruses and bacteria away from your eyes, nose, and mouth. Not only does this reduce the variety and number of germs your body is exposed to, but it also keeps your immune system from getting overwhelmed. Be sure to wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. If a sink isn't available, use hand sanitizer instead.
7. Exercise regularly
Did you know that being physically active can help keep pathogens out of your lungs and airways? This can reduce your chances of getting a cold, the flu, or another illness. What's more, exercise helps boost antibodies and white blood cells, helping your body to better detect and defend against illnesses.
8. Quit smoking for good
If you're a smoker, you already know that smoking is bad for your health. But it can also cause direct damage to parts of your immune system. Smoking, in particular, immobilizes cilia, which are hair-like structures in your lungs that keep out bacteria. When they're immobilized, germs have easier access to your lungs, leading to infections.
You CAN boost your immune system with certain lifestyle changes
During this challenging and uncertain time, you can stay safe and healthy by making small but impactful lifestyle changes. Doing your best to bolster your immune system now will help your body be much more prepared for tackling germs later on.