Now, more than ever, it is important to have a strong immune system.
A healthy immune system will fight off illnesses, such as the novel coronavirus, the flu, or the common cold, so you don’t become sick. So, how do you boost and take care of your immune system? Getting plenty of vitamin C and washing your hands are great ways to start protecting yourself against foreign antigens; however, there are many other ways to keep your body healthy and safe.
Consider and follow the simple steps below to help keep your body healthy!
Drink plenty of water and other hydrating liquids to keep all systems in your body functioning properly. Drinking adequate amounts of water helps aid the digestive system and prevents possible pathogens from getting into your eyes, nose, and mouth (UnityPoint Health, 2020).
Use Hand Hygiene
Wash your hands! A lot! This is one of the best ways to stay healthy and protect against germs that could compromise your immune system. Hand washing is vital to immune health because the slightest traces of germs, including bacteria and viruses, can be transferred through hand contact, such as touching your eyes, mouth, or nose or by consuming food that has not been handled properly (CDC, 2018a).
According to the CDC (2018b), washing your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds removes germs from hands and offers protection to you and others with whom you may have contact.
- Wet your hands with clean, running water (warm or cold), turn off the tap, and apply soap.
- Lather your hands by rubbing them together with the soap. Be sure to lather the backs of your hands, between your fingers, and under your nails.
- Scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds. Need a timer? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song or “Row, row, row your boat” from beginning to end twice.
- Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
- Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.
Eat a Balanced Diet
Eating foods that support gut health is important in maintaining a healthy immune system. Below are some immune boosting foods to keep around the house as snacks or to add to fun recipes (Castaneda, 2020).
- Almonds are rich in vitamin E, which is an antioxidant that helps our immune system function efficiently.
- Bell Peppers are a great source of vitamin C, which is vital in creating antibodies that help the immune system fight illness.
- Red Peppers contain twice as much vitamin C as citrus fruits.
- Broccoli is rich in antioxidants; vitamins A, C, and E; and in potassium.
- Citrus Fruits have anti-inflammatory components and are rich in antioxidants.
- Dark, Leafy Greens are a good source of vitamin A and beta carotene, which is associated with reducing inflammation and increasing disease-fighting cells.
- Garlic contains compounds that naturally act to destroy bacteria and infection.
Exercising regularly generates many health benefits, including building and maintaining a healthy immune system. Being active causes the body’s antibodies and white blood cells to circulate more rapidly, which may result in your body’s ability to detect and attack germs and harmful foreign substances more quickly (Levine, 2020).
According to the American Heart Association (2018), the recommended amount of moderate to vigorous exercise for adults and children is as follows:
- Adults: 150 minutes per week, which breaks down to about 21 minutes per day.
- Children and Adolescents: 60 minutes per day.
Get Your Sleep On!
Sleep is your body’s way of resetting, so it can function properly to keep you healthy. Giving your immune system a break by sleeping allows it to recharge, so it can come back ready to protect you day after day. Getting enough sleep is also important in helping to lower stress, which is a big factor in suppressing the immune system (Levine, 2020).
A 2015 sleep study (Prather et al, 2015) showed that people who get at least 7 hours of sleep per night are four times less likely to come down with a cold or other illness. When your body is deprived of sleep, it produces stress hormones that can suppress the immune system.
So – wash your hands, try adding some foods listed above to your daily diet, get moving, and sleep well! Stay healthy!!
American Heart Association. (2018). American Heart Association recommendations for physical activity in adults and kids. Retrieved from https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/aha-recs-for-physical-activity-in-adults
Castaneda, R. (2020). 8 foods that can support your immunity. Retrieved from https://health.usnews.com/wellness/food/slideshows/foods-that-can-support-your-immunity?slide=10
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018a). Show me the science. How to wash your hands. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/show-me-the-science-handwashing.html
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2018b). Show me the science. Why wash your hands? Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/handwashing/why-handwashing.html
Levine, H. (2020). 5 ways to boost your immune system. Retrieved from https://www.aarp.org/health/healthy-living/info-2020/boosting-immune-response.html
Prather, A., Janicki-Devertes, D., Hall, M. H., & Cohen, S. (2015) Behaviorally assessed sleep and susceptibility to the common cold. National Center for Biotechnology Information. 38(9), 1353-9. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26118561
UnityPoint Health. (2020). 5 easy ways to boost your immune system. Retrieved from https://www.unitypoint.org/livewell/article.aspx?id=7ed35a9b-7295-4619-a0c1-f9e729cbb11d