Immunity plays a crucial part in dictating your overall health as well as the quality of your life. The immune system of your body is responsible for defending it against numerous diseases and illnesses. It is a very complex system which is made up of specific cells in your blood, skin, tissues, and organ that protect you from harmful pathogens. The immune system can also limit the damage caused by non-infectious agents (such as sunburn or cancer) .
For best performance, your immune system needs to work as an orchestra. This example signifies the importance of cohesiveness and delicate coordination. Each musician and every instrument in the orchestra needs to be in perfect harmony to perform at its best. A musician performing on double speed or an instrument playing out of order would spoil the whole performance. The same goes for your immune system!
An optimal immune system ensures the best possible protection for your body against any harm. For this, every component of your immune system needs to work exactly according to the plan. Here are some of the natural practices that help in keeping your immune system up-and-running:
1. Get Plenty Of Good Quality Sleep
Sleep and immunity are very closely associated. It allows your body to heal and regenerate. Inadequate or poor sleep quality may cause higher susceptibility to illnesses.
During sleep, your body synthesizes key immune cells such as T-cells (white blood cells that regulate immune response), cytokines (a type of protein responsible for fighting or promoting inflammation), and interleukin-12 (a pro-inflammatory cytokine) .
Inadequate sleep disables your immune system, disturbs its normal functioning, making it harder to defend your body against harmful pathogens. A study found that people who slept for less than six hours a day were more likely to catch a cold compared to those who slept longer than six hours . Another study found that healthy adults with insomnia who were otherwise healthy were more susceptible to the flu even after vaccination .
Getting enough rest and adequate sleep helps to strengthen your immunity naturally. Moreover, you may sleep more when sick to allow your body to effectively fight off the sickness . Sleep deprivation can elevate your cortisol levels. It can wear down your immunity and adversely impact the ability to recover from diseases or fight them off.
It is recommended to get seven or more hours of sleep for adults each night. Teens need 8-10 hours of sleep while younger children and infants up to 14 hours  . Practice sleep hygiene to ensure you get quality sleep time:
- Avoid screen time (TV, tablets, smartphones, etc.) at least an hour before bed.
- Sleep in a dark room or use sleep masks
- Go to bed at the same time each night
- Exercise regularly.
2. Eat A Healthy Diet
Your dietary habits have a significant impact on your immunity. Whole plant foods such as vegetables, fruits, seeds, legumes, and nuts are densely packed with essential nutrients and antioxidants.
The antioxidants are chemicals that are capable of decreasing inflammation and combat free radicles in your body. Free radicles are highly unstable compounds that are toxic to your body and can cause inflammation when they accumulate in large quantities . Some of the medical conditions associated with chronic inflammation include Alzheimer’s, heart disease, and some cancers.
Moreover, research shows that a lack of vitamin C can increase the likelihood of infection
. We can not produce vitamin C naturally in our bodies, so we need to get it through diet. Foods that offer high vitamin C content include citrus fruits, numerous cruciferous vegetables, and kiwis. Vitamin C rich foods can help to reduce the symptom of common cold .
According to the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, an adequate quantity of iron, folate, zinc, copper, selenium, vitamin A, B6, B12, E is essential for an optimal immune system. Each one plays a crucial part in supporting the immune function of your body.
In addition, a fiber-rich diet help to feed your gut microbiome. Robust gut flora can significantly enhance your immune system and prevent harmful pathogens from entering your body via gut .
3. Exercise Regularly
Exercising regularly can boost your immune system. Studies show that a single session of moderate exercise can offer a boost to the effectiveness of vaccines in people who have compromised immune systems . Regular exercise can help to lower the risk of chronic diseases such as diabetes type 2, obesity, and heart disease. Exercising helps reduce inflammation in your body and aid in the regeneration of immune cells .
Your body releases a chemical called endorphins when you exercise. Endorphins are a group of hormones that reduce pain and facilitate the sensation of pleasure. It offers a great way to manage stress, which negatively impacts your immunity.
For most people, 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week is recommended. Some of the exercises include bicycling, brisk walking, jogging, and swimming.
4. Keep Stress Levels Under Control
Managing stress and anxiety is very crucial for your immune system. Long-term stress can lead to increased inflammation and chronically elevated steroid hormones, such as cortisol. It disrupt the functioning of immune cells   .
Your body releases cortisol during short-term bouts of stress (in “fight-or-flight” response). Cortisol can prevent the body’s immune system from responding before the stressful event is over. This enables your body to react to the immediate stressor. However, if your cortisol levels are consistently elevated, it blocks the immune system from doing its job. Your immune system can no longer offer protection against potential threats like bacteria and viruses.
There are several activities that can help you manage your stress. Some of them include exercise, meditation, yoga, and journaling. You can also opt for professionals like a licensed counselor or therapist to alleviate your stress levels.
One Last Word
It is very important to acknowledge the fact that no supplement, dietary routine, or lifestyle modification can protect you from COVID-19. These practices will not help to prevent coronavirus infection. These may reinforce your body’s defense mechanism against other harmful pathogens and illnesses, but not COVID-19.
You need to practice standard safety protocols recommended by the CDC. Follow social distancing and practice proper hygiene to protect yourself from developing COVID-19.
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