The third in our series about the immune system focuses on lifestyle factors. Many factors can affect how well our immune system functions. The immune system can only work as it should if cared for properly. This means getting all the necessary nutrients, providing the right environment and avoiding those things that tend to depress immunity.
Here are four ways to improve your lifestyle which can improve your immune system.
While it is impossible to avoid stress in certain circumstances, there are ways to protect ourselves and our bodies from the detrimental effects it can have, particularly on the immune system. Vital stress-busting nutrients such as vitamin C and E can help protect us, as can the B vitamins, which allow the proper functioning of the nervous system. The B vitamins are essential as when we are stressed, B vitamins are rapidly depleted from the body. Whole grains, brown rice, fish, eggs, oats, nuts and seeds, lean white meat, and dark green leafy vegetables are all good sources and should be included in the diet daily. In addition, to keep stress levels low, it is recommended you make time for daily relaxation, perhaps practising meditation techniques, reading a book or listening to relaxing music, all of which will help you show signs of a strong immune system.
Exercise in moderation reduces stress and elevates mood, positively affecting the immune response. Exercise also boosts the immune system by stimulating the production of vital immune cells. In addition, it also stimulates the lymphatic system. Incorporating gentle walks or cycling into your daily routine is an excellent place to start. However, if you have an active infection, it is important to rest until you start to feel better.
A person’s mental state can significantly impact their immune system. For example, if we are constantly in a state of heightened anxiety and worry, this will harm our adrenal function, which can be highly detrimental to our immune health. For some, loneliness and isolation in these times may have had a severe impact on the way we feel and think. Taking up a social activity where you can be around others at a safe social distance may help overcome these feelings.
Regular, good quality sleep is crucial for optimal immune function as this is when the body repairs and heals itself. However, there are ways to improve your chances of getting a good night’s sleep. Firstly, including food sources of tryptophan, an amino acid that plays a role in producing the sleep hormone melatonin, may be helpful. Examples include oats, chicken or turkey, brown rice and cottage cheese. You can also help induce restful sleep by maintaining a regular sleep routine and avoiding stimulants close to bedtime (caffeine, smoking, alcohol, and electrical equipment such as the television and computers). Creating a calming bedtime environment by having a candlelit bath or playing calming and relaxing music are ways you could allow your body to wind down before bed. Also, chamomile tea has relaxing properties and so may be helpful.