Healthy Habits To Boost Your Immune System
The immune system is a defence mechanism for the body. It is a hugely important system as you are continually inundated with organisms that you might swallow, inhale, or they may inhibit your skin and mucous membranes. There are two stipulations that dictate whether the organisms go on to cause disease or not. The first is the virulence factors available to the organism. Virulence factors are molecules created by the potentially disease-causing organism that allow it to fulfil its purpose of infecting the host. These virulence factors could include things like receptors that allow the organism to bind to its host’s cells among others – this is something outside of your control and comes down to which organisms you are exposed to.
The second stipulation as to whether the organisms can cause disease or not is the integrity of the host’s defence mechanism – your immune system! This is an area you do have some control over. By doing all you can to maintain and boost your immune system, you will be increasing your chances of fighting off these organisms before they have the chance to make you sick.
There are certain healthy habits you can incorporate into your life that can help boost your immune system, helping you to stay fit and healthy for longer.
Maintain Healthy Nutrition
It could be argued that the most important factor in maintaining and boosting your immune system is your nutrition. By avoiding nutrient deficiencies you can help to ensure all nutrients required for immune cell triggering, interaction, differentiation or functional expression are available when they are required. A healthy habit of maintaining an effective nutrition plan can boost your immune system.
Protein deficiency causes weakness in the immune system. This is because the immune system is dependent on rapid cell replication and the production of proteins with important biological activities, such as immunoglobulins, acute phase proteins and cytokines. In simple terms, this means that your immune system will not be able to produce the active cells it needs in order to defend you against the invading organism if you do not have enough protein in your diet.
While most people will assume that eating fewer calories will help keep you in shape and off the obesity train, you do still need to consume enough calories to allow your body to function to its full potential – including your immune system. Your immune system needs fuel in the same way your car does. You wouldn’t let your car’s fuel tank run completely empty and still expect it to start; your immune system works in a similar way. Calories are the fuel of the body and it needs regular replenishment to keep you fully functional.
Protein-energy malnutrition (PEM) can occur if protein and calories are not consumed in suitable quantities over an extended period of time. PEM has a big impact on how well your immune system functions so it is important to get your nutrition right.
Vitamins and Minerals
Vitamins and minerals also play an important role in the function of your immune system. Deficiencies of fat-soluble vitamins A and E and water-soluble vitamins folic acid, B6, B12 and C reduce the immune systems ability to function. Minerals such as zinc, iron, magnesium, manganese, selenium and copper are also thought to boost your immune system.
Another healthy habit to boost your immune system is taking supplements to ensure you are receiving the correct amounts of the above vitamins and minerals. These supplements are readily available so taking them daily (ensuring you follow the prescribed dosage) can be a healthy habit to boost your immune system.
Chronic stress has a detrimental impact on your body. Conditions as severe as heart disease are linked to prolonged emotional stress.
The body’s stress response is not always a bad thing. The term “fight or flight” is a way of describing the stress response. It is the body’s way of preparing to deal with a potentially dangerous or scary situation. The stress response is an evolutionary marvel in the way it helps us deal with these types of situations. However, it becomes detrimental when it is continuously called upon to deal with day to day stresses that start to take over our thoughts and actions.
The stress response suppresses the immune system and its ability to do its job. Therefore the more you call upon your stress response, the less effective your immune system will be. By reducing stress, you will be indirectly boosting your immune system.
One way you can help to reduce stress is through meditation. Reducing your levels of stress will have positive mental and physical effects so this is one healthy habit to boost the immune system you should definitely look to try today.
Regular moderate exercise is a simple healthy habit to boost your immune system. While this may not have a direct impact on your immune system, exercise plays a key role in maintaining health and your body’s ability to function with full efficiency.
Exercise is a double-edged sword when it comes to your immune system. It has been noted that moderate exercise (fast walking for thirty minutes once a day for example) enhances immunosurveillance and protection from upper respiratory tract infections. However, it has also been noted that high-intensity exercise with heavy exertion suppresses your immune system temporarily (for up to 72 hours).
Therefore a healthy habit to boost your immune system is to take part in regular moderate exercise such as walking, cycling or swimming several times per week.
As a society, people are tending to get less sleep than ever before. This is due to societal demands such as finances, workload, family and personal commitments. Lack of sleep can have a negative impact on your body as a whole and not just on your immune system.
Lack of sleep can lead to a wide range of health issues such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other life-changing/limiting conditions. Not only that but it can also limit the ability of your immune system to fight infection.
Past studies have shown that not getting enough sleep or not having good quality sleep increases your risk of becoming sick if exposed to a virus, like the common cold. Not getting enough sleep also has an impact on the amount of time it takes to recover from an illness i.e. it will take you longer to recover!
When you sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines. There are certain cytokines that have to be released in higher amounts during a period of infection. Lack of sleep or low sleep quality could reduce the production of these cytokines meaning your immune system is compromised in its ability to fight infection. As well as this, antibodies and cells that also help fight infection are reduced when you do not get enough sleep.
Don’t Smoke/Quit Smoking
The negative impact smoking has on your health is well documented and well accepted across the globe. However, one impact of smoking that may not be as commonly known is that it suppresses your immune system.
Smoking cigarettes is associated with a number of cellular and humoral alterations within the function of your immune system. These alterations include a reduction in the number of circulating immunoglobulins, a lowering of antibody responses and a reduction in infection-fighting cytokines.
If you don’t smoke….great, keep that up! If you do smoke, then now is the time to seriously consider stopping. The damage to your lungs caused by smoking can be on the way to being repaired within a few weeks so it is well worth giving up smoking for that reason alone as well as the benefits to your immune system.
Reduce your Caffeine Intake
Coffee, energy drinks and other caffeine-based beverages play a part in most people’s days. Whether it be to help get you through a long working day or as an excuse to be sociable and share a drink with your friends. However, too much caffeine can reduce the effectiveness of your immune system.
Too much caffeine has been shown to increase the level of the stress hormone cortisol in your body. As already mentioned, long term stress weakens your immune system so this side effect of high quantities of caffeine should be avoided.
Reducing your caffeine intake may seem like an easy healthy habit to boost your immune system, but if you have been used to high quantities for a long time then it might not be as simple as you think. You may decide the best way for you is to reduce your intake of caffeine gradually. Once you have reduced it to a reasonable level, it may be wise to give up all caffeine completely for at least a week to allow your mood and energy levels to stabilise. Once you have done this you can then look to have just one or two cups of coffee a day as a little treat rather than an essential lifeline.
Reduce your Alcohol Consumption
As well as causing damage to your liver and other health issues, consuming too much alcohol has a detrimental impact on your immune system.
Alcohol negatively impacts your immune system in a number of ways. Firstly, alcohol affects the way in which your gut bacteria interacts with your immune system. It also appears that alcohol damages the immune cells that line your intestines. These cells act as the first line of defence for your body against bacteria and viruses so damaging them is not a good idea as it makes it easier for harmful organisms to pass through into your bloodstream.
So how much is too much alcohol? If you are a healthy adult male then two alcoholic drinks per day is likely the healthy limit. If you are a healthy adult female then one alcoholic drink per day is enough.
Healthy Habits to Boost your Immune System
Your immune system may be a complex network of cells and proteins but that doesn’t make it invincible. Sometimes, it needs your help to keep it in prime infection-fighting condition!
By incorporating these healthy habits to boost your immune system into your day to day life, you will be helping to boost your immune system’s ability to prevent, fight and beat the multitude of organisms trying to infect you every day.