Immunity means the ability to resist disease or medical condition; while the immune system is what defends our body against bacteria, viruses, parasites etc. The immune system is an intricate network made up of different organs, cells and molecules. Boosting your immune system means to help it function well.
And the key to a stronger immune system is to choose a healthy lifestyle.
Getting enough sleep can help strengthen your immunity. Research has shown that sound sleep can improve the immune cells, known as T-cell, that fights infection. An adult needs at least 7 hours of sleep per day, while lacking enough sleep for 3 days in a row equals to lacking a full night sleep. Lack of sleep can weaken your immune system and response to vaccines. So, go to bed at a time which you know you can sleep for at least 7 hours.
Regular and moderate exercise is essential in maintaining good health and a healthy immune system. Although there is no evidence on how exercises exactly strengthen our immune system, studies have shown that:
- Regular exercise help mobilise mucus in the lungs so that mucus can be brought up more easily. The build-up of excess mucus can make the lungs more vulnerable to infection.
- Moderate to high-intensity exercise stimulates the immune system by increasing blood circulation, allowing immune cells to move through your body freely and work efficiently.
- The body temperature rises during and shortly after exercise may prevent bacteria from growing and may help the body fight infection better. The mechanism is similar to what happens during fever.
- It is widely believed that stress suppresses the body’s immunity. Exercise slows down the release of stress hormones and thus modulate the immune system function.
However, too much intense exercise can weaken your immune system and make your body vulnerable to infection. It is recommended to accumulate 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, or 75 to 150 minutes of high-intensity physical activity, or an equivalent combination of both per week.
Eat the “rainbow”
For the optimal functioning of the immune system, your body needs all sorts of nutrients including vitamins, minerals, fats, proteins etc. Vitamin A, B6, C, D, E, beta-carotene and zinc can help increase the strength of the immune system. Eating a rainbow, i.e. vegetables and fruits of various colours a day, can ensure your consumption of a good variety of antioxidants, phytochemicals and plant-based nutrients. A good rule to abide is to eat 2 or 3 different colours of produce for each meal.
Taking vitamins or supplements could help fill the nutritional gaps in your diets. But the body absorbs and uses vitamins and nutrients from a dietary source. Consult your healthcare provider before using any dietary supplements or vitamins.
It is widely known that smoking is harmful to our health, causing higher risks of heart disease, lung cancer and stroke. But there are also other health consequences that you may not be aware of, including the compromise of the balance of the immune system. Studies have suggested that smoking:
- Damages antibodies, which may cause a decrease in the body’s ability to fight off infection, as well as prolonged illness for smokers than non-smokers.
- Generate more free radicals and more antioxidants in the body are used to neutralise the effects of the free radicals. Free radicals are associated with various diseases, such as cancer, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, autoimmune and inflammatory disorders, diabetes etc.
Drink alcohol only in moderation
It is observed that excessive drinking may weaken your immune system and make you more vulnerable to viruses. It may also impair the function of immune cells in the lungs and upper respiratory system.
Keep a positive attitude
The immune system is closely related to our stress level. Being stressed can lower your immunity, making you more susceptible to infections– when you are stressed, your body’s stress-response system perceive that you are facing threats. The adrenaline and cortisol levels, and the heart rate and blood pressure rise. The body’s activities should return to regular when the threat has passed, but if you are constantly stressed, these reactions continue. In such a case, the body is constantly over-exposed to cortisol and other stress hormones. The immune system is therefore unable to respond normally, increasing the risk of various health conditions. So, try to stay positive to defend against stress.
Staying hydrated is crucial for the proper functioning of the body, including the cells, organs and tissues. When dehydrated, the way that your body performs is affected because there is an imbalance between the salt and sugar in the body. Besides, water also helps remove toxins from the body naturally. So drinking water can prevent toxins from building up in the body and having negative effects in your immune system.