With the pandemic and winter still in full swing, it’s important to focus on your immune system. Your immune system is your body’s built-in defense system that protects you against harmful bacteria and viruses. As you spend more time indoors during the cold winter, your immune system could weaken. The winter is a time many viruses, like the flu and the coronavirus, thrive. Viruses can spread more effectively when the air is dry and chilly.
Winter darkness can also take a toll on your health. Sunlight helps your skin produce vitamin D, which has many health benefits. During the winter, the days are shorter and there is less sunlight, meaning the levels of vitamin D in the body tend to drop. Living a healthy, balanced lifestyle is the best way you can help your immune system. However, there are also five simple ways you can boost that immunity.
Practice Good Hygiene
Infectious diseases are a leading cause of illness and death in the United States. Infections are caused by microscopic organisms known as pathogens. The best way to prevent infections, is to block those pathogens from entering your body. You can prevent getting sick, and spreading illness by practicing good hygiene. Make sure you wash your hands well and often. You should always wash your hands after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose. Be sure to clean your wrists, fingertips, under your nails and between your fingers. You should also dry your hands and wrists thoroughly. You should also always cover your cough. If you wear a face mask, make sure to change or clean it often.
Eat Fruits & Veggies
Another way to boost your immune system is to eat a balanced diet. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) there are significant health benefits of eating at least 5 portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables every day. Fruit and vegetables are packed full of vitamins and minerals and are usually low in fat and calories. They are also a good source of fiber, which can help prevent digestion problems. Eating fruit and vegetables can help reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke and certain cancers. They can also help you maintain a healthy weight and keep your heart strong and healthy.
It may be easier than you think to get in your recommended daily amount of fruits and vegetables. 80g of fresh, canned or frozen fruit and vegetables counts as one portion. Just one apple, banana, pear of similar-sized fruit counts as one portion. Three tablespoons of vegetables is another portion. Fruits and vegetables should make up just over a third of the food you eat every day.
Exercising regularly can help strengthen your immune system, helping your body fight off infections and viruses. Exercise helps decrease your chances of developing heart disease and helps keep your bones healthy and strong. Exercising increases your body’s blood flow. This increases your immune cells, which help fight off infections and diseases, making them travel through your body at a higher rate. A study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that those who did aerobic exercise five or more days of the week lowered the number of upper respiratory tract infections, like the common cold, by more than 40% over a 12-week period. Exercising can also decrease inflammation in the body, which can also improve your immunity.
A study in the Journal of Sport and Health Science finds aerobic activity to be the most effective in boosting your immunity. Aerobic activities include walking, running or cycling. While strength training likely helps your immune system, there is less research on its benefits. You should aim to exercise at least 30 minutes every day. However it is important to not overdo it when it comes to working out. Exercising too much too often can wear down the body and make you more likely to fall ill.
Get Good Sleep
Getting good sleep is crucial for a healthy immune system. Sleep deprivation can reduce the effectiveness of the immune system. Studies show that people who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus. Not getting enough sleep can also slow your recovery time if you do get sick. Sleep helps improve brain function, concentration and memory. Adults should try to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night. Teenagers need nine to 10 hours of sleep, while children may need 10 or more hours of sleep.
There are many ways you can help yourself fall asleep quicker and stay asleep longer. You should keep your cell phone away from where you sleep. Try to keep a similar bedtime routine, and avoid caffeine late in the day. Make sure your room is dark, quiet and cool. You will also want to make sure your bedroom’s air quality is healthy. Using a True HEPA air purifier can help by removing up to 99.97% of airborne particles. These particles can be as small as 0.3 microns including smoke, dust, pollen, pet hair and dander, mold spores and dust mite debris. These particles can cause congestion, causing you to not sleep soundly through the night. You can read more about air purifiers here.
One of the most effective ways to boost your immune system is to eliminate stress in your life. Chronic stress can weaken your immune system. When you are under stress your body produces the hormone cortisol. The hormone helps your body in stressful situations, but too much of it can be harmful to your immune system. Short-term stress does not harm the body but chronic stress does. Chronic stress lowers your immune system response, making you susceptible to viruses and illnesses.
Managing the stress in your life can help your body fight off germs. To help reduce your stress levels you should find relaxing activities you enjoy, like reading or gardening. It’s also important to set aside time for yourself, and avoid taking on too many commitments. It’s also important to talk to someone if you are feeling overwhelmed. Whether you talk to friends, family or a professional, airing out your feelings and talking can help reduce stress levels.
In a Nutshell
It’s important you take steps to strengthen your immune system to avoid getting sick this winter. Practicing good hygiene, eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, getting good sleep, and minimizing stress are all good places to start to improve your immunity. However, it’s important to note that not every illness or infection is preventable. If you develop any flu, cold or coronavirus symptoms, you should contact your doctor.