10 Easy Ways to Boost Your Immune System from 10 Easy Ways to Boost Your Immune System
10 Easy Ways to Boost Your Immune System
10 Easy Ways to Boost Your Immune System
Almost everyone loves fall, but absolutely no one loves flu season. Unfortunately, the two tend to commence right around the same time. Anyone who’s ever suffered from the flu or even the common cold knows just how utterly unpleasant a viral sickness can be, especially because they can be challenging to treat.
Usually the most you can do is rest until the virus runs its course, which is why avoiding infection all together is a much more effective plan of attack. According to the Centers for Disease Control, between five to 20 percent of the U.S. population contracts the flu each year, and on average, flu complications land about 200,000 Americans in the hospital annually. Luckily, aside from getting a flu shot, there are several healthy habits you can follow (and a few things you can avoid) that will help decrease your risk of getting sick, both during flu season and all year round.
To find out the best tips and tricks, we turned to a few experts for advice about what you can do in order to improve your immune response.
Dr. Kathy Gruver, Ph.D. is a health and wellness expert and the author of Conquer your Stress with Mind/Body Technique; Kusha Karvandi is a nutrition expert, personal trainer, best-selling author, and host of the Exerscribe Radio podcast; and Dr. Kalpana DePasquale is a physician and Founder at St. Augustine Ear, Nose & Throat.
Continue reading to find out what they say you should do to ensure you stay healthy and flu-free all year long.
Wash your hands, but too much.
“Hand washing can improve your immune system by avoiding exposure to common viruses such as the flu and avoiding the spread of bacterial infections,” DePasquale said. “However, excessive hand washing can surprisingly be a detriment to your immune system. With minimal to no exposure to dirt and bacteria, your immune system suffers from a lack of stimulation to produce the right defenses, making you more susceptible to infections.”
Get enough sleep.
“Not getting enough sleep can lead to higher levels of a stress hormone and may also lead to more inflammation in your body,” DePasquale explained. “Get seven to nine hours of sleep to optimize the immune system function.”
DePasquale recommended getting at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise (such as walking) every day. “Exercise gets antibodies and white blood cells moving through the body faster,” she said. “They may detect illnesses sooner and trigger hormones that ‘warn’ immune cells of intruding pathogens.”
“Too much sugar curbs immune system cells that attack bacteria,” DePasquale said. “Eat more fruits and vegetables that are rich in nutrients like vitamins C and E, plus beta carotene and zinc. Shoot for five cups of fruits and veggies a day.”
“Smoking allows Hydrogen Cyanide into your lungs, which prevents cilia, the small hair cells that transport secretions and bacteria out of the lungs, from working properly,” DePasquale explained. “Decreased ciliary clearance increases the likelihood of toxic chemicals building up inside the lungs and predisposes smokers to pneumonia. The tar found in cigarette smoke also damages the immune cells that exist in in the lungs and prevents them from functioning properly.”
Avoid alcohol or drink in moderation.
“Excessive alcohol consumption inhibits the function of your white blood cells which can lower your resistance to infection,” DePasquale said. “Excessive consumption will impede the ability of the liver to store important vitamins and prevent the body from absorbing enough protein. Lastly, alcohol intake can also create changes in the cells and molecules that outline our immune response.”
“Chronic stress exposes your body to a steady stream of stress hormones that suppress the immune system,” DePasquale explained. Gruver adds, “Anything we can do to lower stress is going to help our immunity.” She recommends a technique that she refers to as “mini meditation.” “Concentrate on the breath and on the inhale think, ‘I am’ and on the exhale think, ‘at peace,’ and repeat.”
“Studies show that working with things like affirmations, visualizations and meditation can help our immune function,” Gruver said. “First saying things like ‘I am healthy and well’ is going to be better than, ‘I hope I don't get sick.’ Anything we do that adds stress depletes the immune system. So, using affirmations can help.”
Improve your gut health.
“Over 70 percent of your immune system lives in your gut,” Karvandi said. “This consists of not only helper T cells, but mainly good bacteria that helps fight off pathogenic (bad) bacteria and viruses. Most people have damaged gut flora (good bacteria) and a damaged gut wall—when the gut is damaged (from poor diet and too many stressors) many foods will not completely digest and the undigested particles will make their way into the bloodstream wreaking havoc on the brain, immune system, metabolism and more Drinking a fermented beverage like kombucha tea helps repair the gut wall by feeding the good bacteria so that it can flourish in the gut ecosystem again.”