After last week’s post about how to boost immunity with food, I wanted to spend this week talking about lifestyle changes we can incorporate into our lives to help improve our immune systems. I am a big believer in trying to look at all the possible factors that contribute to our health. Below are some factors to keep in mind as our body is inundated with foreign invaders during this winter season.
- Get Your Sleep: Be sure to get between 7-8 hours of sleep a night. Decreased sleep has been shown to decrease production of flu fighting antibodies.
- Spend time with your loved ones: Make time for the people who matter in your life. The more isolated you are, the more stressed you are likely to be. Stressed people are more likely to get sick (see number 3). A recent study found that having at least 6 connections with other people raises your ability to fight an infection by 4 times.
- Decrease Stress: People who experience chronic stress have increased likelihood of acquiring illness and increased signs of inflammation in the body. Cortisol, the stress hormone, increases inflammation, increases weight gain (especially around the belly) and suppresses the immune system.
- Avoid sugar: Eating just 75-100 grams of sugar a day curbs immune system cells that attack bacteria. Consuming the equivalent of just two sodas reduced the ability of white blood cells to engulf bacteria by 50%, decreasing it ability to fight infection.
- Laugh: Laughter has been shown to decrease stress. It also activates protective t-cells and increases antibody production.
- Avoid second hand smoke: Exposure to second hand smoke can trigger asthma and allergies, increase ear infections and increase severity of flu symptoms in children.
- Get exercise: Studies show inactive people take 2 times as many sick days as active people. It is unclear exactly how exercise helps immunity but theories speculate that exercise seems to stimulate the release of immune cells or helps flush bacteria out of the lungs through sweating and urine or the increased body temperature associated with exercise might prevent bacteria growth. It is also a potent stress reliever which can boost immunity. Moderate exercise seems to be best as extreme athletic training has been shown to compromise immunity.