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1. Start each day with a healthy meal.
Eating a nutrient-dense breakfast provides you with the energy you need for the first part of the day. It's important to remember that what you don't eat can impact you as much as what you do eat.
Even if you start your morning with a vegetable and sweet potato hash or a bowl of Greek yogurt with homemade granola, don't follow it up a few hours later with part of a sugary donut or a chocolate muffin you find in the break room. Consuming just a small amount of sugar can depress your immune system for four to six hours. So no matter what you have for breakfast, make sure it is low in sugar.
2. Increase your water intake.
Drinking water to stay hydrated has a huge impact on your immunity because fluids help the systems in your body function as best as they can. Drinking enough water throughout the day flushes out toxins, preventing their buildup in your immune system, which could otherwise have a negative impact on your health. The water you drink helps your kidneys flush away toxins and helps your digestive tract remove waste from your body.
One sign that you may be dehydrated is constipation, which means there is a build up of toxins in your body that is hurting your immune system. Proper digestion is an important factor for your health because it breaks down your food into nutrients, vitamins, and minerals that your body needs to stay healthy and maintain strong immunity.
Water also helps your blood deliver oxygen to your organs to help them function properly. Your muscle fibers and organs need water to function at an optimal level. And did you know that cancer cells hate oxygen? Water keeps you healthy in the long term by staving off cancer, as well as several other illnesses, including depression (your brain needs water to produce serotonin), insomnia, leukemia, and lymphoma.
Speaking of lymphoma, water helps your body produce lymph, which is a fluid that circulates in your lymphatic system. One of the things that lymph fluid does to help your immunity is pick up bacteria in your body and transport it to your lymph nodes to be destroyed.
3. Eat more plant-based foods.
Increasing your intake of vegetables and fruits helps boost your immune system the natural way. Fruits and vegetables can benefit your immune system in several ways other than just giving your body vitamins and minerals. These whole foods contain phytonutrients, antioxidants, fiber, healthy oils, and acids that give them their vibrant flavors, colors, and immune-regulating properties.
Your body uses the bioactive compounds found in fruits and vegetables to fight inflammation and harmful bacteria and support the function of your immune cells through a variety of processes.
As you may have heard before, it is important to “eat the rainbow” for optimal health. Many red berries are known for their antioxidant properties and their ability to increase immune cells and antibodies.
For example, lycopene—the well-known, powerful antioxidant in tomatoes—shares the pigment molecule that makes red bell peppers and watermelon red as well.
Orange citrus fruits contain vitamin C, which is integral to a healthy immune system. However, citrus also contains over 8,000 flavonoids, including quercetin, tangeretin, hesperidin, and apigenin, which have all been proven to target specific malfunctions of the immune system, such as inflammation and cancer development.
Blueberries contain potent antioxidants (called anthocyanin) that help increase anti-inflammatory compounds and immune cells that help fight infections. Purple grapes also contain these antioxidants, and drinking 100% grape juice on a regular basis can increase the circulation levels of gamma delta T-cells, which are important immune cells for your intestines and lungs.
4. Let probiotics be your ally.
Probiotics are known to help build up the immune system by fighting gut inflammation. The truth is, 70-80% of your immune system resides within your gut.
Probiotics keep the gut healthy by ensuring you have adequate gut flora to maintain a barrier against pathogenic microbes. Probiotics foster intestinal cell survival and strengthen the function of your cell barrier.
Probiotics also regulate the immune system by alleviating excessive inflammation in your gut, which boosts immune function. One double-blind study showed that consuming certain probiotics for 12 weeks can reduce the risk of catching a cold in healthy individuals. The frequency of catching one or more common colds, the number of days cold symptoms were experienced, and the symptoms themselves were all reduced.
The knowledge about intestinal flora is growing, and it is becoming clear that people need the protection of these bacteria for optimal health. Taking high-quality supplements and eating raw fermented and cultured foods will help you add probiotics to your diet. Now is a good time to take extra helpings of foods rich in probiotics.
In the 15-minute video below, Hank of Crash Course Biology discusses our bodies’ immune system. He identifies the different immune system responses to infections, and describes the functions of different cells that prevents us from getting sick or dying.
5. Get enough sleep.
Unhealthy sleeping habits take a toll on your body and weaken your immune system. When your body does not get enough sleep, your immune system jumps into action with the same kind of immediate response that it has to stress.
Sleep helps you maintain a healthy immune system in several ways, including keeping your white blood cell count within a normal range. Chronic sleep loss is a major risk factor for immune system impairment.
There is actually a reciprocal relationship between sleep and your immune system. While sleep loss impacts your immune response, your immune system can also change your sleep patterns. To stay healthy, make it a point to go to Health and hygiene go together.
6. Manage your stress.
We know that there’s Health and hygiene go together, but not knowing how to deal with any type of stress can weaken your immune system. And the longer you are stressed, the more your immune system is impacted.
When you’re stressed, your body produces stress hormones, which are helpful under normal circumstances. Your body recognizes stress as being an emergency situation, so it releases adrenaline and cortisol to help boost your energy and increase your blood sugar to help your brain manage the extra glucose.
However, cortisol also suppresses your immune system. When your body produces large amounts of cortisol, it lowers the production of lymphocytes, which in turn lowers the effectiveness of your immune system.
Because your body doesn't know the difference between stress from an emergency and the everyday stresses of modern society, it is likely under constant stress, which means your immune system is being weakened by its natural responses that are supposed to protect you.
Learn stress-management techniques to improve your response to stressful situations in your life.
7. Practice good personal hygiene.
Health and hygiene go together, so your first line of defense is to practice good hygiene habits. This can help stop infections before they start.
Wash your hands frequently with soap and water during the day, and especially before preparing food and after using the bathroom. Make sure that you get the soap in between each of your fingers and under your nails as best as you can, and dry your hands with a clean towel.
You also want to clean and cover any open wounds on your body. Make sure you tend to your wounds right away so they are not exposed to germs in the surrounding environment. Avoid picking at healing wounds, which can allow germs to enter your body.
When cooking food, make sure to do so thoroughly to avoid germ contamination. Although most cases of food-related illness aren't life-threatening, some may lead to a serious condition such as kidney failure or meningitis.
The best way to practice food safety at home aside from washing your hands is to prepare and store your food safely. Also, be sure to thoroughly rinse your fruits and vegetables before cooking or eating them. Separate your raw foods from your cooked foods, and avoid re-using utensils or cutting boards with cooked food that were already used with raw food.
Finally, make sure to cook foods thoroughly.