It is a good time to focus on supporting your immune system. While there's no magic pill or quick fix for a strong immune system, there are a few simple steps you can take to improve overall immune function. Here's what you should know:1. Prioritize sleep
Sleep can not only help the body heal and recover from illness, but it can also protect you from getting sick. Studies show that lack of sleep over a long period of time can lead to chronic, low inflammation and immune deficiency.
An average adult needs between seven and eight hours of sleep a night. (Teens need eight to 10 hours of sleep, and children 10 or more). If you find it difficult to prioritize sleep, try setting a sleep schedule – go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. Adequate hydration, morning sunlight, a cool room, avoiding caffeine in the late evening, and avoiding meals within three hours of bedtime can also help improve sleep quality.
2. Exercise regularly
Exercise is an effective way to stimulate immune function. Studies have shown that moderate exercise improves the immune response to viral respiratory infections. However, indiscriminate exercise is not enough to support immune health. Consistency is key.
To reap the benefits of exercise, aim for 150 to 600 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 to 300 minutes of intense exercise per week.
3. Focus on nutrients
Malnutrition is the most common cause of the immune deficiency. Unfortunately, the standard American diet is deficient in a number of important nutrients (even with the help of supplements).
One should focus on an anti-inflammatory diet rich in fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and protein. Avoiding processed foods, sugar and pro-inflammatory oils is necessary.
4. Stress management
Chronically high-stress levels can negatively impact a variety of health aspects, including metabolism, mood, and sleep quality. The immune system is no different.
There are many tools to minimize stressors, such as meditation, journaling, deep breathing exercises, and spending time in nature. If you suffer from high stress, be sure to pay attention to your state of mind.
5. Social and emotional health
Building and maintaining close relationships and social support are critical to both your mental well-being and physical health. Harvard Health has found that strong relationships help reduce and manage stress, and are just as important as adequate sleep and proper nutrition.
The bottom line
Each of the above tips for improving immune function is dependent on the others. When stress is high, sleep is impaired. When sleep is compromised, one is less likely to make healthy choices in diet and exercise. So, to achieve a healthy immune system, one must strive to maintain healthy habits in each of the five areas.