How to keep your immune system healthy

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The immune system has the important job of protecting your body from illness, but it needs help to function well. Learn how to keep it running smoothly.

There’s no way to actually boost your immune system because you can’t change the natural immune processes of your body. But, fortunately, you can help it to function optimally. Use these tips:

Don’t skimp on quality sleep

Getting enough shut-eye is important for your overall health. Without sufficient sleep, the body makes fewer cytokines, a protein which helps to fight infection. The more you sleep, the more cytokines are produced and released.

Tip: Get at least 8 hours of quality sleep each night and try to follow the same sleep schedule. If you are struggling with insomnia, see your doctor, who can refer you to a specialist. A 20-minute nap in the afternoon or before supper can also help when you’re sleep-deprived.

Stick to your workouts

Regular exercise helps to improve your overall health, including blood pressure, heart health and weight. Working out regularly also improves circulation, which allows the cells and other substances in the immune system to do their job better. As a result, the immune system functions optimally.

Tip: Get moving for at least 30 minutes per day (150 minutes per week). Choose something that you enjoy so that you’re more likely to stick with it.

Choose your food wisely

Follow a diet filled with whole foods, including plenty of green vegetables, lean meat and fruit. Some foods that you should consider include:

  • Garlic – it contains a compound called allicin, a substance that enhances the response of the white blood cells in your body. This helps your immune system to fight any viruses your body encounters. It’s most beneficial when eaten raw and whole, but if you can’t stomach it, try roasting it or using it to season food.
  • Vitamin C-rich foods – vitamin C helps your white blood cells function better and protects them from free radicals, which can harm them. Choose foods such as broccoli, spinach, red bell peppers and kiwis, which pack a stronger punch than citrus fruit.
  • Foods containing prebiotics, healthy gut bacteria that help protect you from infection. Good options include green bananas, asparagus, onions and leeks.
  • Almonds – they’re packed with antioxidants and vitamin E, which help to keep the immune system healthy. Have a handful for a satisfying afternoon snack as they also contain good fats.

Axe your stress

When you’re stressed, corticosteroids (the stress hormone) are released into the bloodstream and this can impact how effectively the immune system functions. If you choose unhealthy coping strategies to ease your stress, such as smoking and drinking alcohol, the immune system’s function could be further impacted.

Tip: Ease your stress with healthy coping techniques such as meditation, journalling, speaking to someone you trust or walking in nature. Remember to take a proper break if you are at work and wind down in the evenings.

For more health advice, read these helpful articles:

The information is shared on condition that readers will make their own determination, including seeking advice from a professional. E&OE.


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