Practice these easy and healthy habits to ensure a strong immune system, and a sane mind.
We’re on the third week of MCO, and our worries have yet to still be put at rest. Concerns over our wellbeing and health are being threatened, and the only thing we can do now is stay home and nurture our immune system.
Also known as the body’s natural defence system, our immune system helps protect us against pathogens while promoting cellular repair. If it’s compromised, we’d be vulnerable to invading bacteria, viruses and microorganisms that carry and cause diseases. The soldiers part of this natural army are white blood cells – lymphocytes that protect us by fighting off infections. It is now our job to take good care of our body’s defence system, so that we can pull through these anxious times victorious. Here are 6 habits that you can (and should) practice to help boost and maintain your immunity – so you won’t have to worry about stocking up and reaching for your nearest bottle of Blackmore’s.
Don’t stop moving
Engaging in light exercise of stretching is more than just helping to prevent muscle aches in the body while keeping you limber. According to a study by the Medicine & Science in Spots & Exercuse journal, regular brisk walking helps to increase the circulation of white blood cells. These immune cells work mainly to kill any sickness-causing pathogens – meaning they’re crucial when it comes to keeping your immune system well and working.
You can also reap the same benefits from regular weight training, which increases the heart rate and body temperature – with the latter being another bacteria-fighting factor. However, keep in mind that any exercise done for 75 minutes or longer at a high intensity can cause a spike in hormones that can compromise the immune system. So, it’s important to maintain a balance of low and high intensity workouts. For example, try mixing up yoga and HIIT to get the best of both worlds.
Enhance your diet with antioxidants
You’ve seen countless of beauty articles tout the benefits of antioxidants for the skin, but it’s also just as good for your immune system. Powerful antioxidants such as the humble Vitamin C is crucial in helping to stave off pesky colds and viruses, as well as reducing cell death and promoting the development of white blood cells – all needed to destroy harmful bacteria.
Antioxidants are also needed to help repair damaged DNA while helping your body’s natural ability to repair itself. They work to neutralise and reduce free radicals – which prompt an inflammatory response in the cells. Foods that are rich in antioxidants are berries, lemons, dark chocolate, green tea, apples, tomatoes, green leafy vegetables, and oily fish such as salmon.
If you’re looking to cook up something simple yet nourishing for your body, give one these recipes that you can easily whip up at home a go.
Go easy on the booze and cigarettes
It goes without saying that one should keep alcohol consumption at a minimum or moderate practice and give up smoking altogether – but everyone has their vices. If you were to break down the macros in alcohol, you’re looking at just pure sugar. Excess consumption of sugar and alcohol is a recipe for greatly reducing your body’s ability to produce white blood cells – which can make you more vulnerable to viruses and nasty bugs. In the longterm, alcohol can also compromise your immune cell function, which in turn makes your body more susceptible to disease.
On the other hand, constantly exposing your body to tobacco smoke can also do a number on your immune system. It especially can cause low levels of protective antioxidants in the blood, which as explained in the aforementioned point, is crucial in maintaining your body’s natural defenses.
Manage your stress
Though it may not be visible, copious amounts of stress of anxiety and not handling it healthily can have negative effect on your immune system. When our bodies are stressed, the immune system’s ability to fight off antigens is greatly reduced, thus making us more susceptible to infections. For example, a stress hormone called corticosteroid lowers the number of lymphocytes, which are cells that help defend the body against invading viruses and bacteria. This in turn suppresses the effectiveness of our immune system.
Stress can also have an indirect effect on the immune system, by prompting us to resort to unhealthy coping mechanisms such as drinking or smoking – which are also detrimental to our health. In order to maintain a healthy body and sound sanity, it’s worth trying to practise healthy ways of keeping your stress and anxieties at bay.
Take care of your gut
Did you know that more than 70% of your body’s immune cells are located in your guts walls? It’s not often discussed in general how having good gut health is linked to optimum bodily function. Aside from helping our bodies break down food and absorbing nutrients, the digestive system plays a key role in metabolising toxins in our body as part of our own natural detoxifying system. Incorporating foods high in fibre, roughage, pre- and probiotics can help keep your gut health in top condition.
Fibre works to help keep toxins moving swiftly through your gut, while helping to improve microbiomes that’s within the digestive walls. Meanwhile, beneficial probiotic bacteria can help improve digestion and enhance immune function, and prebiotics are the dietary fibres to help feed the former.
Prioritise a good night’s sleep
Getting in your 7 hours isn’t just for staying awake through Zoom meetings or keeping your skin healthy, it’s also key in maintaining a healthy immune system. Based on research by the Pflügers Archiv – European Journal of Physiology, a balanced circadian system (your body and brain’s sleep/wake cycle) that comes from getting enough sleep can help improve the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines and killer cells. These substances work as your body’s natural self defence system by strengthening your body’s ability to fight off infections.