Five Ways To Boost Your Immune System
Your immune system does an amazing job of defending you against disease-causing microorganisms. When it comes to improving your immune system, you have to remember your immune system is precisely that—a system. To function well, it requires balance and harmony. Researchers have spent years exploring the effects of lifestyle, diet and exercise on the immune system. All the best research keeps pointing to one thing, your best line of defense is to choose and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Here are the top five things we feel you need to focus on to be as healthy as possible.
Maintain Your Normal Routine
According to the Director of Integrative Medicine at Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City, “the most important thing you can do for your immune system is to achieve lifestyle balance and adopt the fundamentals of healthy living.” This will give your immune system what it needs to function at optimal capacity. In other words, get into a healthy routine of sleep, work, good eating, play, physical activity and exercise. During stressful times, do as much as you can to keep your day as normal as possible. Changing your normal routine introduces new stressors to your body which can cause all sorts of problems. Check out this study published a couple of months ago showing that, over the past 20 years, the annual switch to daylight savings time is associated with a 6% increase in fatal car crashes during the week after we all lose an hour of sleep.
Our bodies like normal. During difficult times, do everything you can to keep your daily routine as normal as possible.
A pleasant event offers a small boost to your immune system that can last for as long as two days, while negative stressful events take their toll on your immune system for only a day. While stresses like a conflict with your spouse can make you more vulnerable to infectious diseases, so can missing customary pleasures like getting together with friends or playing with your kids.
Dr. Arthur Stone, a psychologist at the medical school of the State University of New York at Stony Brook, tracked the effects of daily activities of 100 men for three months. He found that stresses like being criticized at work weakened immune function on the day they occurred. But events like a pleasant family celebration or having friends over enhanced the immune system for the next two days.
Make sure you are intentionally taking time every day to have fun. Play with your kids. Call you friends on the phone. Watch a few clips of Parks and Recreation. Or, go fishing.
Stop Eating Sugar
Eating sugar can actually put your white blood cells into a temporary coma. When you eat a big dose of sugar like a soda or a candy bar, you temporarily suppress your immune system’s ability to respond to challenges. The effect lasts for several hours, so if you eat sweets several times a day, your immune system may always be operating at a disadvantage. This belief is based on a study done in the 1970s in which subjects donated blood before and after consuming large doses of sugar. The blood was placed in a petri dish, and bacteria was introduced to both samples. Under a microscope, researchers could see that after a dose of sugar, neutrophils, your immune system’s first line of defense, were less aggressive at gobbling up bacteria. If you want a healthier immune system, limit or completely eliminate added sugar from your diet.
Eat as Many Colorful Edible Plants as You Can
We all know fruits and vegetables are full of vitamins—especially the antioxidant vitamins A, C, and E. All of these vitamins should be obtained from real whole foods. Taking antioxidant vitamins has been shown to increase the risk of colon cancer and lung cancer. There is no magic pill. If you eat two to three servings of fruit and four or more servings of vegetables every day, you will get all the vitamins you need.
It’s also important to get as much variety as you can. All fruits and vegetables contain phytochemicals, which are plant (phyto) chemical compounds that have the ability to interact with compounds of other living organisms. Phytochemicals give plants their color, aroma and flavor. In humans they have been shown to stimulate the immune system, slow the growth rate of cancer cells, and prevent DNA damage that can lead to cancer and other diseases. Scientists have currently identified over 5,000 different phytochemicals in fruits and vegetables, and they speculate that there are thousands more that have not be discovered.
Eat a wide variety of colorful fruits and vegetables to get as many different phytochemicals as you can.
Regular exercise is one of the pillars of healthy living. It improves cardiovascular health, lowers blood pressure, helps control body weight, and protects against just about every type of disease known to man.
But too much of a good thing can hurt you. Athletes who over-train end up getting sick, a lot. Don’t over-do it. Thirty-minutes of moderate physical activity a day is enough to make very positive changes in anyone’s health and mental attitude. Going for a 30-minute walk outside in fresh air is probably the most beneficial thing you can do for your overall health.
Don’t forget the strength training. Strength training of any kind has been show to increase white blood cell count, particularly neutrophils (your body’s first line of defense). Again, don’t overdo it. Our experience has been that 20 Minutes A Week will give most folks the immune boost they need to say healthy.
Combining physical activity and strength training, as we recommend, has been shown to greatly reduce chronic inflammation in cancer patients. This is extremely important because anti-cancer therapies lead to non-resolving inflammation, which greatly reduces immune function. By all means, make sure exercise continues to be part of your regular routine.
We want you to know that we are here to support you. Don’t hesitate to contact us for advice or support. We want to continue to help you change your life. During the next few weeks we plan to give you as much information as we can to help you be healthy.