As the pandemic drags on and with cold and flu season on the horizon, many of us in Madison may be wondering: how can I boost my immune system? Fortunately, there are plenty of natural ways to strengthen and balance your body’s immune system that will benefit your mind, body, and spirit.
Getting enough quality sleep is essential for a healthy immune system. Sustained sleep deprivation puts our bodies in a state of chronic stress. Lack of sleep triggers the body’s inflammatory response and makes us more susceptible to illnesses like type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and even the common cold.
Stay proactive this season by prioritizing sleep. Set a regular bedtime and stick to it. Encourage your children to do the same to help them fend off illness. Most healthy adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep. Children need even more.
Moderate exercise is also thought to improve immunity, although research hasn’t conclusively proved how. Exercise helps remove bacteria from the lungs and airways. It also temporarily raises our body temperature, which may prevent bacteria from growing. Additionally, it lowers our stress levels which can help protect us from illness.
Add manageable periods of exercise into your day, such as walking for twenty or thirty minutes, playing at the park with your children, or going for a bike ride to help boost your mood and overall wellness.
Be on guard, though, not to overdo it. There can be too much of a good thing. Extremely vigorous exercise can actually weaken the immune system and make you more susceptible to illness.
While eating that cupcake might improve our mood immediately, long-term sugar consumption can have the opposite effect. Too much sugar in the diet can cause chronic inflammation which can lead to anxiety, fatigue, body pain and put us at risk for diabetes, depression, and dementia. Chronic inflammation suppresses the body’s ordinary immune response and makes us vulnerable to infection.
Avoid added sugars in your diet such as sweetened beverages, baked goods, and candy.
Maintaining a healthy weight is another way to keep your immune system strong. Obesity is thought to make us more susceptible to viral and bacterial infections, as it, too, creates chronic inflammation in the body. During the H1N1 pandemic, obesity was named as a risk factor for mortality.
If you are overweight, make small changes to your diet and exercise routine to start slowly losing weight in a healthy manner.
Finally, boost your immune system by managing your stress levels. When our stress levels are elevated, our body produces cortisol, a stress hormone that can suppress the effectiveness of our body’s immune system.
Of course, keeping our cool is easier said than done. But just a few small changes to your daily routine can help bring down your body’s cortisol levels. Praying, exercising, laughing with loved ones, and even creating art have all been shown to reduce your body’s level of cortisol. Making a habit of getting away from our to-do list to engage with others is crucial for keeping our body, mind, and heart healthy.
Our Lady of Hope Clinic
Our Lady of Hope Clinic provides direct primary care in Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more about the many benefits of being a member.
6425 Odana Rd
Madison, WI 53719
“Cast all your anxieties on him, for he cares about you.” 1 Peter 5:7
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