These days it’s more important than ever to protect yourself, and by doing so, protect others around you. Some of these tips might seem obvious but we’ve included some of the science behind these tips to help you learn even more about what it takes to give your immune system the best chance possible to fight off infection.
1. Get Enough Sleep
During sleep, your body releases immunity-boosting molecules called cytokines. These molecules drive the immune system in the direction that is most urgent and even helps calm the immune system down if it is overreacting (allergies, autoimmune reactions, etc.). Antibodies are also produced by your immune cells when you’re asleep. These bind to germs and infected cells, marking them for destruction by more sophisticated immune cells called macrophages. Try to aim for at least 7 hours of sleep but no more than 10.
2. Feed Your Disease-Fighting Cells
Eating a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables with a lot of color is essential for supporting your immune system. A good rule of thumb is the darker the color of the fruit or vegetable, the more likely it is to have high levels of antioxidants, which give your immune system a boost. Some foods have natural antimicrobial properties such as raw honey, turmeric root, ginger root, and garlic. Have some ginger, turmeric tea with honey and add some crushed garlic bulbs to your pasta sauce to kill off unfavorable microbes.
3. Wash Away Germs
We’ve all heard that hand washing is the CDC’s number 1 recommended precaution for preventing disease but how does it really work? When you’re washing your hands with water and plain soap, you’re literally physically removing bacteria and viruses. It’s practically impossible to avoid touching contaminated surfaces throughout the day but removing the contaminants from your hands ensures that you won’t be introducing them into your system and won’t be spreading them around for others to be infected by. If you’re wondering whether or not you need to take the next step and use antibacterial soap, studies have shown that there is no need to do so unless you’re working in the healthcare system.
4. Flush Your System – Drink Water
This may seem like a simple suggestion but when your body is working hard to keep infections at bay, you need extra fluids. Remember that suggestion earlier about ginger tea? If you don’t like plain water, you can flush out the bad bacteria and viruses with that instead.
5. Clean Surfaces
We’re more likely to get sick from a family member that we live in close spaces with and share many household items with. Regular cleaning and disinfecting of these surfaces, especially when one family member is sick, can drastically reduce the spread of infection. Here is a list of items in the house that the CDC recommends cleaning regularly: tables, hard-backed chairs, doorknobs, light switches, remotes, handles, desks, toilets, sinks, etc.
6. Take a Walk
While we’ve known for a long time that regular exercise boosts your immune system by improving circulation, lowering cortisol levels and flushing out the lymphatic system, you don’t have to get your sweat on at the gym. Going for a walk, even for 30 minutes a day, is enough to do all of the above. Plus, if you get a little bit of sunshine while you’re at it, the extra Vitamin D will give your immune system a boost.
7. Manage the Stress
Elevated stress leads to elevated cortisol levels, which dampens the immune system. Take time to manage your stress in a healthy way with exercise, meditation, and even laughter. It’s been shown in scientific studies that laughter increases the body’s Natural Killer Cells. These NK cells play a major role in killing the body’s virally infected cells so that’s definitely something to smile about. 🙂
8. Take a break from the Booze
While your grandmother may joke about the days when colds and flu were treated with a little dose of whiskey or brandy, the studies suggest that alcohol weakens the immune system and leaves the body more susceptible to infection. If you’re wanting to have a little alcohol, keep it light and moderate.
9. Get Vaccinated
Since flu season is underway, it’s best to make sure you won’t get the flu by getting vaccinated. We may not have a vaccine to prevent all respiratory infections but avoiding the ones that you can go a long way to keeping you healthy.
10. Take Probiotics
More is being discovered every day about the germs that we encounter, the immune system that fights them and how to help it do its job. Some of the most recent technology involving whole-genome sequencing is enabling companies like us here at Sun Genomics to custom engineer probiotics specifically for your gut. We can see which probiotic strains you’re missing and make sure to include immune-supporting species like Lactobacillus rhamnosus and certain Bifidobacterium strains that you may be low on. Included is a health consultation with one of our scientists to help you navigate the world of gut health and find a solution that works best for you.