Contrary to popular belief, science doesn’t necessarily support the idea that people can “BOOST” their immune system. However, evidence does suggest you can “SUPPORT” your immune system by following general “good-health” guidelines such as: getting enough sleep, eating healthy, being physically active, reducing stress, not smoking and if you drink alcohol do so in moderation.
When your body can work efficiently, your immune system can better protect you from invasive bacteria and viruses. While there is still a lot scientists don’t know about the link between lifestyle and the immune system, here are some simple actions to get you started.
Sleep plays an important role in your health. While more sleep won’t necessarily prevent you from getting sick, not getting enough quality sleep could negatively affect the ability to fight infections and diseases.
When you sleep, your body produces cytokines, a protein that targets infection and inflammation. Without enough quality sleep you can’t produce enough cytokines, leaving you more susceptible to illnesses. Here are the recommended hours of sleep for various ages:
|Age Range||Recommended Hours of Sleep|
|Newborn||0-3 months old||14-17 hours|
|Infant||4-11 months old||12-15 hours|
|Toddler||1-2 years old||11-14 hours|
|Preschool||3-5 years old||10-13 hours|
|School-age||6-13 years old||9-11 hours|
|Teen||14-17 years old||8-10 hours|
|Young Adult||18-25 years old||7-9 hours|
|Adult||26-64 years old||7-9 hours|
|Older Adult||65 years and older||7-8 hours|
The stress response known as “fight or flight”, is the body’s way to prepare to confront or avoid danger – or in today’s world “challenges”. Some stress won’t significantly impact your health. However, when it becomes a constant due to situations such as a tension filled relationship, money worries or concerns with job performance, it can lead to a suppressed immune system and other health problems.
Try incorporating stress reducing practices into your day, such as meditating, mindfulness or controlled breathwork. A basic way to begin is to sit or lay quietly, bringing your full attention to your breath. Is it shallow, short, fast or slow? As you take a deep breath in through your nose, count to four, hold for a count of seven, and breathe out for a count of eight. Repeat 3-7 times until you feel relaxed.
Not into meditating or controlled breathing? That’s ok too! Find a hobby or activity you enjoy and aim to practice it most days of the week. If you like to move around, try going for a walk or run. If you are crafty or handy try painting, drawing or cooking.
Well Rounded & Whole-Foods
To help the body function optimally and fight disease and infection, we need to consume a variety of micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). In general, the best way to get vitamins and minerals is from eating whole-foods with a variety of colors. Think about including fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and lean sources of protein, along with healthy fats, such as nuts and olive oil into your diet.
Five micronutrients that directly support the immune system include vitamin B6, vitamin C, vitamin E, magnesium, and zinc. If you are concerned with not getting enough vitamins or minerals talk with your doctor prior to taking any kind of supplement. For a closer look into a colorful diet, check out our Eat the Rainbow post from October 2020 under the Archive side bar.
|Vitamin B6||Chicken, cereals, bananas, pork loin or potatoes with skin|
|Vitamin C||Tomatoes, citrus fruit, sweet peppers, broccoli or kiwi fruit|
|Vitamin E||Sunflower seeds and oil, almonds, safflower oil or peanut butter|
|Magnesium||Whole wheat, legumes, nuts or seeds|
|Zinc||Oysters, beef shank, Alaskan King Crab or turkey (dark meat)|
Regular exercise is one of the most well-known pillars of healthy living, yet one of the least practiced by the average American. Exercise can help improve cardiovascular health, lower blood pressure, control body weight, and protect against a variety of diseases. It may even contribute directly to the immune system by promoting good circulation, allowing cells and substances that directly affect the immune system to move through the body efficiently.
|Aerobic Activity – Anything that gets your heart beating faster|
At least 150 minutes of moderate activity per week
75 minutes of vigorous activity
|Muscle Strengthening Activities – Activities that make your muscles work harder than usual|
At least two days per week
|Ages 6 – 17 years old – At least 60 minutes per day of physical activity|
– Moderate to vigorous physical activity (3 days per week)
– Muscle strengthening (3 days per week)
– Bone strengthening (3 days per week)
|Children under age 6 – Younger kids love to be active naturally!|
– Aim to keep them moving 3 hours a day – and more is better
– Limit time when they’re just sitting around (like screen time)
Are you ready to make a health change? Start by setting a SMART goal, something that is Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and has a Timeline (click here for SMART goal worksheet).
Remember, no one is perfect. It can take a lot of repetition to form or adjust a habit. Stick with it, and if a day does not go as planned, DON’T GIVE UP! Try again.
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