Want to make your immune system strong enough to fight off illnesses? Some simple lifestyle changes can make all the difference
The coronavirus pandemic has put our lives on hold, and with the cases increasing rapidly, staying healthy and boosting our immune systems has never been so important. The immune system is incredibly complex; it has to be strong enough to fight off a variety of illnesses and infections. Though physical or social distancing and practicing proper hygiene are the only ways that we can protect ourselves from developing Covid-19, boosting immunity can do wonders in helping our body fight off this contagion.
According to health experts, when we give our bodies what it needs, it will repair and fight. It works for you and is your friend, and hence it is essential to make a few dietary and lifestyle changes to strengthen your body’s natural defenses.
Here are a few guidelines to tuck into your daily routine in order to make your immunity strong.
The first thing to do is consume at least one litre of water daily. Though staying hydrated doesn’t necessarily protect you from germs and viruses, preventing dehydration is important for your overall health. Dehydration can cause headaches and hinder your physical performance, focus, mood, digestion, and heart and kidney functions. These complications can increase your susceptibility to illness. A fluid in your circulatory system called lymph, which carries important infection-fighting immune cells around your body, is largely made up of water. Being dehydrated slows down the movement of lymph. Make sure to drink one litre of water or you can try to drink juices like celery and cucumber juice, or eat a good plateful of greens each day.
When the immune system is active, inflammation is natural. If you break an arm and your arm swells, that swelling is the immune response, if you cut your hand, it goes red and slightly swells, that’s the immune system responding. The problem arises when the inflammatory response does not switch off and stays inflamed. Whole plant foods like fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes are rich in nutrients and antioxidants that may give you an upper hand against harmful pathogens. The antioxidants in these foods help decrease inflammation by combating unstable compounds called free radicals, which can cause inflammation when they build up in your body in high levels. Remember, colourful fruits and vegetables are your friend.
Get enough sleep
Did you know that sleep and immunity are closely tied? Experts say that your immune system is like your computer; it needs moments of rest so it doesn’t become overheated. Sleep reboots the system. Getting adequate rest may strengthen your natural immunity. When you’re sleep-deprived, your body churns out stress hormones like cortisol to keep you awake and alert, which can suppress your immune system. Adults should aim to get 7 or more hours of sleep each night, while teens need 8–10 hours and younger children and infants up to 14 hours. If you’re having trouble sleeping, try limiting screen time for an hour before bed, as the blue light emitted from your phone, TV, and computer may disrupt your circadian rhythm, or your body’s natural wake-sleep cycle.
Exercising is a powerful way to make your immune system strong. It causes the antibodies and white blood cells to circulate more rapidly, which means they may be able to detect and zero in on bugs more quickly. Being active and engaging in some sort of work out like walking or cycling also lowers stress hormones, reducing your chances of getting sick.
Research suggests that exercise also helps build one’s immunity. However, the key to exercise is to do it in moderation as exercising too much can also put stress on your body and depress your immune system. Health experts recommend performing 30 to 60 minutes of exercise (either vigorous or moderate) everyday.
Ninety per cent of your mood is in your gut, so look out for it. Serotonin is the happy hormone manufactured in your gut. This is the second reason to eat well and ensure your digestion is working properly. Not only is your gut your immune defence, it keeps your mood up and steady, thereby supporting you and dampening down those thoughts which can lead you down the road to despair.
Vitamin hit list
Vitamins and minerals that can boost your immunity include zinc, vitamins E, D and C, and you will be happy to know that most of these are in colourful fruits and vegetables. Some of the herbs you should have in your household to fight infection are thyme, oregano, garlic, ginger, turmeric, cayenne pepper and cloves.
All have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, and some, like garlic, have even been shown to be protective against colds. These are all very powerful so make sure you include them in your daily diet.