4 healthy habits to boost your immunity

Your immune system hums with activity. Cells, tissues, and organs work together all through your body to coordinate attacks against invading pathogens. You can help to keep this system running smoothly and efficiently when responding to threats.

Give your immune system some quiet time to do its work. Ever wonder why doctors always advise rest, rest, and more rest when you're ailing? It's because immunity and sleep are intricately linked. When you don't get enough sleep, you become more vulnerable to illnesses like the common cold. And once you become sick and your immune response kicks into gear, you will tend to doze off as your body seeks the restorative benefits of sleep.

Some experts even believe that sleep evolved mainly as a way for the body to defend against illness and infection. Backing up this theory is the research showing that animals that sleep the longest also tend to have the highest count of white blood cells – and are less likely to fall prey to parasitic infections.

Give your immune system a workout. Doesn't exercise seem to be the prescription for just about every health problem these days? Your immune system certainly benefits from physical activity, though the reasons remain a bit uncertain. Could all the huff-and-puff and sweating of activity flush illness-causing bacteria from your body via skin and airways? Also, your body temperature spikes when you workout, which, like a fever, could help fight infection, too.

Research has managed to show that moderate exercise can help to prevent colds in postmenopausal women. But you can't just go for a quick jog anytime you feel a scratchy throat; you need to do consistent workouts, since immunity improves gradually over time. Taking brisk 30-minute walks regularly could be enough effort to see results. Don't go overboard, though: really heavy-duty exercise actually weakens the immune system.

Indulge your immune system with relaxation. A positive attitude and a proactive approach to dealing with stress can protect you more than you might think! People with chronic high stress levels are more vulnerable to infection. Chronic stress wears you down – in mind and in body. When you allow anxieties to accumulate, you constantly flood your body with stress hormones that undermine your immune system's efforts to protect you from illness.

Find ways to deal with negative emotions like anger and frustration, so your body can stay focused on combating contagions. Relaxation, massage, meditation, tai chi, prayer or other religious practices, laughter, spending time with friends – all of these pleasurable, proactive, stress-relieving remedies support your immune system's efforts.

Help out with good hygiene habits. Your body has lots of ways to keep out offending bacteria and viruses. Take your nose, for instance. The hairs lining the insides of your nostrils act as barriers to airborne invaders you might inhale. You can help your nose do its job by using a neti pot or spray bottle to flush out trapped bacteria. Make sure to use distilled or sterile water.

And then there's your skin. When germs get on your skin (e.g., by touching a contaminated doorknob), they can end up in your eyes, nose, and mouth and make you sick. That's where good hand-washing hygiene comes in. Also refrain from touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Your skin is one of your body's biggest immune defences of all – it acts as a physical barrier against germs. Cuts and scrapes may allow germs into the body, so be diligent about covering wounds.

You should protect other people's immune systems, too. Remember: A sneeze can travel through the air at speeds of up to 100 miles per hour. A cough may be a bit slower, but either way, you need to shield your mouth with a tissue or the inside of your elbow.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2020. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/How-to-Boost-Your-Immune-System

The bad habits that can hinder immunity

We don't always take the best care of ourselves – skipping out on sleep, indulging in junk food, letting stress get the better of us. Still... even if we let healthy habits slide, our immune systems keep plugging away and working hard to save us from ourselves!

But over time, all of this work can wear down and weaken our body's immune response. And there are some bad habits that can really undermine our immunity:

  • Smoking: Lighting up and puffing away on cigarettes and other tobacco products damages the blood vessels and decreases blood circulation. Wounds heal more slowly, and smokers tend to get sick more often than those who stay clear of smoke. Smoking also harms some of our body's natural barriers to infection, especially the tissues of the mouth and throat. When these barriers are compromised, agents of infection can get into our bodies more easily and make us sick.
  • Drinking: Drink too much alcohol, and your immune system gets drunk right along with the rest of you. A bout of binge drinking slows down special immune cells called cytokines that usually act as messengers to tell the body when to mount a defence against an infection. Chronic abuse of alcohol wreaks its own havoc on immunity, putting alcoholics at heightened susceptibility to some cancers, bacterial infections such as pneumonia and tuberculosis, and other diseases.
  • Overloading on sugar: As mentioned above, your cytokines can suffer a hangover. Turns out, other types of immune cells can experience sugar-shock. Neutrophils go right to the source of infection and illness to gobble up offending pathogens. But some research has shown that after you down a couple of sugary pops or juices, these immune cells quickly lose their power – and might not get back to work defending your body for another 5 hours. Keep this in mind next time you're tempted to indulge your sweet tooth – especially during cold and flu season!

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2020. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/How-to-Boost-Your-Immune-System

Feed your immune system the right foods

One can never say too much about the health advantages of eating a balanced, nutritious diet. Most of us can keep our immunity on an even keel by simply filling our daily plates with plenty of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and nutrient-rich dairy and protein. Adding in beneficial fats from foods like nuts, fish, and oils helps, too.

Eat a variety of wholesome foods, but keep an eye out for a few nutrients that your immune system especially depends upon. Though taking supplements to get these nutrients is an option, it is always tastier to get them in food form!

Vitamin A: This antioxidant vitamin plays an integral role in maintaining our physical barriers to infection – skin, mucous membranes, intestinal linings.
Food sources: The beta-carotene abundant in colourful fruits and vegetables converts to vitamin A in your body. Look out for A in carrots, kale, chard, collard greens, cantaloupe, tomatoes, and basil, among many other produce section choices.

B vitamins: The family of B vitamins are close friends of the immune system. These nutrients are involved in cellular energy production, so they support the immune cells in general.
Food sources: The B complex of vitamins spring up in a variety of foods. Cremini mushrooms – plain white mushrooms – are a great source of several of the B's (B1, B5, B6, and folate). Almost all types of green vegetables contain plenty of B vitamins. But to fit in much B6 and B12, you'll have to venture away from the produce section and head to the meat, fish, and dairy aisles.

Vitamin C: Known as a top immune booster, good old vitamin C still does the job. It increases the production of infection-fighting white blood cells and boosts antibody levels to keep out viruses and bacteria.
Food sources: Citrus fruits are just one source of C; there are a bevy of options to suit almost any palate. Other brightly-hued fruits and vegetables also supply vitamin C: red bell peppers, broccoli, romaine lettuce, kale, cranberries, watermelon, and fennel are all excellent sources.

Vitamin D: Vitamin D is sometimes called the "sunshine vitamin" because it can be produced by our body when our skin absorbs the sun's UV rays. Our bodies depend on D mostly for calcium absorption and bone strength, but it also assists our immune and inflammatory responses.
Food sources: Vitamin D can be tricky to find in the foods you eat. Two grocery-list staples – milk and eggs – are the go-to D suppliers for most people. If you like seafood, you get a good dose of D from salmon, cod, and shrimp.

Vitamin E: This antioxidant vitamin doesn't get much mention, but as we age we need its potent power to protect our arsenal of immune cells. Vitamin E also supports healthy skin, one of our immune system's largest protective barriers.
Food sources: Yet another reason to eat your greens! Vitamin E can be gobbled up in the form of mustard, turnip, collard greens, and chard, as well as eaten by the handful of sunflower seeds or almonds. Sweeter sources include papaya, kiwifruit, and blueberries.

Selenium: We need this antioxidant mineral to stay healthy – but only a very small amount of it. A modest selenium boost helps our immune system to send out quick, first-responder immune cells to areas of infection.
Food sources: To get your daily fill of selenium, you need only eat one lone Brazil nut. Any more than that and you'll have consumed more than the recommended daily amount. Another option is to vary your selenium sources: mushrooms, cod, snapper, tuna, halibut, salmon, shrimp, eggs, turkey, oats, or barley.

Zinc: Zinc supports and helps regulate the immune system by maintaining an ample supply of white blood cells to respond to pathogens. This mineral is added to many over-the-counter cold-fighting formulas, and some tout its abilities to shorten duration of colds. Research has so far been inconclusive, but that hasn't stopped cold sufferers from buying lozenges and nose sprays infused with zinc acetate.
Food sources: Beef, lamb, and calf's liver supply meaty options for zinc. If you're vegetarian or vegan you can scoop up a handful of pumpkin seeds for a zap of zinc – or sprinkle recipes with basil, thyme, or sesame seeds. Other food sources of zinc include a variety of greens as well as squash, asparagus, miso, maple syrup, and mushrooms.

Probiotics: Your gastrointestinal tract is a breeding ground for bacteria, both bad and good. Good bacteria help your immune system in the battle against micro-organisms that might cause disease. These bacteria also support healthy digestion of the vitamins and minerals you need for general health. Probiotics are good bacteria, and though they are not necessary to stay healthy, eating foods with probiotics may help to support your immune system's efforts.
Food sources: Probiotic foods include fermented items like yogurt, miso, some cheeses, kimchi, sauerkraut, and pickles.

All material copyright MediResource Inc. 1996 – 2020. Terms and conditions of use. The contents herein are for informational purposes only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Source: www.medbroadcast.com/healthfeature/gethealthfeature/How-to-Boost-Your-Immune-System

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