When you get sick, you hope your immune system is strong enough to fight off the illness, and do it quickly.
Although your immune system weighs heavily on your mind when you are unwell, you may not give it much thought when you are healthy. However, the best way to help your immune system do its job is to support it before you get sick.
Taking care of your immune system is something you can do any time, and it may be easier than you think. Eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, enjoying life and getting your vaccines can all help support your immune system.
It’s no secret that vitamin C can help your immune system. Many people reach for the orange juice or a vitamin C supplement when they feel a scratch begin to tickle their throat. You may not know that several vitamins can help give your immune system a boost, and you don’t need a vitamin pill to get enough of them. Vitamins A, C and E as well as selenium and zinc are all beneficial to your immune system. They can be found in dark, colorful fruits and vegetables like sweet potatoes, winter squash, broccoli, spinach and berries. Whole grains, meat, poultry, tuna and nuts are also good sources of these nutrients.
Go to sleep
Unlike most toddlers, adults don’t need to be told twice to take a nap. When your eyelids get heavy, don’t fight the urge to lie down and catch some Z’s, even if only for a quick cat nap. Getting adequate sleep helps your body rest and recover from the day and helps keep your immune system in good shape.
“While you sleep, your body produces substances that help you fight off infections, like white blood cells,” says Marissa Padilla, administrator at Castle Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. “If you don’t get enough sleep, your body doesn’t get as good of a chance to heal itself. Aim for seven to eight hours of sleep each night to give your body the break it needs.”
Stress less, laugh more
The stress hormone, cortisol, can cause inflammation in the body, which weakens the immune system over time. Try to stress less to keep your cortisol levels low. Exercising and meditating can help reduce stress and slow the release of cortisol in your body. Laughter can also keep stress hormone levels down while helping white blood cells do their job to fight infection. So, pop in a funny movie or tell some jokes to relax and laugh with family and friends.
Get your vaccines
Vaccines work hand in hand with your immune system to help it fight against infections in the body. They contain antigens from harmful viruses and provoke a response from the immune system to fight the virus. When a vaccine is administered, the body produces antibodies to attack the antigens, and the body builds up immunity to the virus. Vaccines help your immune system to do its job without you getting sick first. To give your immune system the best advantage against deadly viruses, stay up to date on your vaccinations and get a yearly flu shot.
Your immune system can be your best friend when you are sick, and it is hard at work beating your illness. Give it a leg up against sickness by eating well and taking care of your body.