Your immune system is your body’s most powerful line of defense against infection and illness. It comprises cells in many different areas of your body which must all work together in harmony. The immune system is affected by many different factors, including your diet and overall lifestyle. Here are some natural approaches to help you maintain strong immunity.
Eat a Nutritious Diet
Plant-based foods deliver nutrients your body needs to support strong immune function. For instance, key nutrients such as zinc, folate, selenium, iron, and B12, many of which can be found in fresh fruits and vegetables, help the immune system do its job. Certain herbs and spices, such as cumin, oregano, thyme, and cinnamon, also have antiviral and antimicrobial properties to help keep infections at bay. Of course, vitamin C is also a well-known agent for strengthening immunity, which can be found in citrus fruit, red bell pepper, and many cruciferous vegetables. You’ll also want to get plenty of protein to supply your body with amino acids that help the body resist infection.
When the body is consistently stressed, it releases the stress hormone cortisol. On a short-term basis, this phenomenon helps the body react to the issue causing the stress by putting the immune system on hold. Over a long-term basis, however, it prevents the immune system from doing its job effectively. To combat chronic stress, try calming exercises such as journaling, meditating, or finding an enjoyable hobby, such as reading.
Insufficient sleep prevents your body from producing and distributing the cells that regulate immunity. It also raises cortisol levels, further compromising the immune system. In one study, people who didn’t sleep enough were more susceptible to the flu virus, even if they’d been vaccinated. Aim to get seven hours of quality slumber each night, and use tactics such as sleeping in a cool room and turning off electronics an hour before bed to get rest.
Regular physical activity reduces the risk of both chronic illnesses and acute infections caused by viruses and bacteria. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week. Activities such as walking and cycling are ideal, but you can also mix in strength training to keep the muscles and bones strong.
Avoid Smoking & Alcohol
High alcohol consumption has been linked to diminished immunity and longer recovery times, while smoking also interferes with immune system function. If you do drink, do so in moderation, and avoid smoking or make a plan to quit.
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