Having an immune system that is strong and efficient is something to be grateful for. It is also something to nurture and encourage. Here are some tips that can help you maintain or increase your body’s immunity to pathogens.
1. Reduce Stress
Stress can take a huge toll on our health. Although short-term stress may help boost immunity by causing the body to release cortisol, having chronically high levels of stress is not good for the immune system. The continued release of cortisol and adrenaline suppresses the body’s immunity to bacterial, fungal, and viral infections. Managing stress and negative emotions is a key skill for improving your health and enjoyment of life.
For some people, managing stress is more easily said than done. If stress and negative emotions are influencing your health in a noticeable way, it is worth it to address the issues with professional counseling, and/or medications, if needed. Finding a better balance of work and recreation may also help reduce stress. Redirecting negative thoughts to positive thoughts is another tool to help reduce stress.
2. Avoid Sugar
Sugar consumption inhibits the ability of the body’s white blood cells to fight foreign microbes, such as bacteria. This effect is poignant for several hours after consuming a high-sugar item, but with long-term sugar consumption, the effect will undoubtedly be more chronic.
3. Take Vitamins and Minerals
For years, it has been known that Vitamin C is important for immunity against pathogens. However, Vitamins A, B, D, and E have also been shown to be important for immunity. Zinc has also been shown to increase resistance to some contagious illnesses. To ensure that you are getting the vitamins and minerals you need, stick to a nutritious diet, and take a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement recommended by your doctor.
4. Get Some Sleep
Getting less-than-enough sleep is almost like holding a neon sign for invading microbes that says “free parking. The body does much of its maintenance and repairs while you are sleeping. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body’s tissues are not renewed and repaired. Tissues and cells that are not repaired and rejuvenated are more susceptible to being overtaken by pathogens.
5. Exercise Regularly
Exercise increases the number of certain types of disease-fighting cells in the body. The release of endorphins and other hormones also helps optimize the body’s sleep patterns and sense of well-being, both of which are needed for optimal immune function.
6. Try Alternative Medicine
Many people find that taking echinacea, astragalus, or elderberry, at the first sign of cold helps to decrease the duration and severity of the illness. Garlic is a food with natural anti-bacterial qualities, as well as immune system boosters. It has been used for centuries in many cultures. L-Lysine, Maitake, Reishi, and Shiitake mushrooms have antiviral characteristics.
Boneset, catnip tea, lobelia, cat’s claw, Chuan Xin Lian, eucalyptus oil, ginger, hyssop, mullein, red clover tea tree oil, and wild cherry bark have been used to ease the symptoms of the common cold, such as congestion and fever. These and other herbs can be very potent, and it is best to use them only with sufficient knowledge and competent supervision. Be especially aware of recommended dosages, and contraindications for pregnancy, nursing, or medical conditions.
7. Get A Massage
Research has shown that massage measurably decreases the levels of stress hormones in the body, and also increases the body’s production of immune-boosting cells. In addition, massage may help stimulate tissue activity and the delivery of nutrients to cells. It can also calm the body and mind and help you sleep more deeply and relaxed, thus more fully allowing the body to use sleep as a time for tissue repair, rejuvenation, and defense against pathogens.
8. Nurture Positive Relationships
Studies have also shown that people who feel alone or isolated statistically have weaker immune systems than people who feel connected to friends. One study on this topic found that college freshmen that felt lonely had a weaker antibody response to the flu vaccine than those freshmen that did not feel lonely. Other scientific findings suggest that feelings of loneliness influence the way certain genes that regulate the immune system are expressed. The take-home lesson here is to make nourishing positive friendships a high priority.
9. Avoid Trans Fats
Newer research is showing that trans fats increase inflammation, making it harder for the body to fight infection. A diet that is consistently high in trans-fatty acids results in cell membranes that consist of a large proportion of trans fats instead of the saturated fats our cell membranes are naturally made of. This change in cell membranes affects the way that nutrients, toxins, hormones, and pathogens enter, exit, or interact with the cell. This has direct implications for defense against disease. Sometimes cell membranes can be so altered by trans-fatty acids that other body cells do not recognize them, and mount a defense against them. On a large scale, this results in autoimmune diseases.
Your health is a treasure. Make it a priority to protect it.