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Health and Fitness News

Defending Yourself from Invaders

Support the work of your immune system with these diet and lifestyle changes.

Your immune system has the important job of keeping you healthy. When it’s working properly, it fights off infection and germs that threaten to make you sick. A complex system of cells with individualized jobs, your immune system searches out and kills foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses. To make sure the body is stronger the next time around, your immune system remembers past foreign invaders. When those recognized invaders catch the attention of your immune system in the future, your immune system destroys them immediately.

But your immune system can’t do its job without a little help. For optimal function of each part of the immune system, you’ve got to do your part. You’ve got to take care of yourself.

Here are a few ways to support the work of your immune system through healthy living.

Eat a Variety of Foods

Fueling your body with a variety of healthy foods is the best way to strengthen immunity. Your diet should consist of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, dairy, and lean protein. There are also a few foods known to give an extra boost to your immune system, so eating these gives you even more immunity against attacks on your body.

These foods include citrus fruits such as oranges, grapefruit, lemons, and limes, which are all high in vitamin C; broccoli, which is rich in vitamins A, C, and E; garlic, which has been known for centuries to fight infection; turmeric and ginger, two ingredients known to reduce inflammation; live active cultures in yogurt that help replenish your gut bacteria that play a role in health; and green tea, which is full of powerful antioxidants.

Manage Stress

Long-term stress can wreak havoc on the immune system and increase your chances of getting sick. An influx of stress hormones suppresses the immune response and increases inflammation. Learn healthy ways of managing the stress in your life and you’ll find yourself fighting fewer illnesses. Great ways to relieve stress include exercise, deep-breathing, and practicing relaxation techniques.

Move Your Body

An active lifestyle goes a long way in protecting you from disease and illness. On top of lowering stress levels, exercise increases your circulation. This increased circulation leads to an increased circulation of immune cells, making it easier for them to do their job. An increase in body temperature may also give your body a boost in fighting infection. Additionally, exercise helps clear bacteria out of your airways and lungs. Do your best to get at least half an hour of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week. If this is a struggle, ask your trainer for tips and tricks to move more.

Get Enough Sleep

During sleep, your immune system produces proteins that are necessary to fight illness. People who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to get sick more often. Ideally, adults should aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night, teens 9 to 10, and kids more than 10. Healthy sleep habits mean more than sleeping a lot. You should also go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends.

Quit Smoking

Nicotine may make you feel good at the moment, but it is an immunosuppressive drug, meaning it hinders the immune system from doing its job. In other words, every time you take a drag off a cigarette, you’re damaging your immune system. Hence why if you smoke, you’re at a much greater risk of developing all sorts of diseases and health conditions. Talk with your doctor about available strategies for quitting.

Drink Only in Moderation

Excessive amounts of alcohol are also harmful to your immune system. When you drink too much, your immune system can’t work at its full potential and you’re more likely to get sick. Men should limit their number of alcoholic drinks to no more than two a day and women no more than one a day.