How To Keep Your Immune System Healthy
With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the upcoming cold and flu season, consider the following tips on keeping your immune system naturally healthy by making your defenses as strong as possible.
The foods you eat play a role in the health of your immune system. A diet high in added sugar, salt and fat will not provide the nutrition your body needs to function at its best. Make meals balanced with lean protein, whole grains, heart healthy fats, low-fat dairy, fruits and vegetables. Aim for 5-7 servings of fruits and vegetables per day to get the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants your body needs to support immune health. Also consider the use of probiotics which are “good bacteria” that promote health. They can be found in products such as yogurt, kefir, and kombucha or by taking a supplement.
When your body is under stress, you produce more of the stress hormone, cortisol, which increases your inflammatory response. Over time, a higher level of inflammation causes an overworked immune system that won’t be able to protect you. Stress reduction strategies, such as meditation or mindfulness and yoga, listening to music or writing, give your body a break and decrease pressure on your immune system.
Not getting enough sleep on a consistent basis can lead to a lowered immune system and increased risk for illness. Adults should aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night. For good sleep habits, try going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. To allow your brain to wind down, avoid bright lights as you get ready for bed to help with the body’s production of melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep. Turn off electronic devices, smartphones, TVs, computers 30 to 60 minutes before going to bed.
Not only does exercise contribute to your general health and well-being but also contributes to improved circulation which allows the cells and substance of the immune system to do their job more efficiently. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity per week. Try going for a walk, joining an online fitness class or HIIT workout.
The National Institutes of Health reports there is no scientific evidence that any alternative remedies such as herbal therapies or essential oils will prevent or cure COVID-19. While the tips above may not prevent an illness from occurring, a healthy immune system provides extra protection to your body.