Amidst the current coronavirus outbreak, now is a great reminder to focus on simple yet effective ways to improve your immune system functioning – to help you fight off the common cold and flu and protect yourself against future infections.
On the whole, your immune system does a great job at defending your body against nasty pathogens and microorganisms. But sometimes it fails and consequently causes you to become ill. That’s why it is important to prioritise the right lifestyle modifications and practices to give your immune system the best chance to efficiently fight off potential invaders and keep you healthy during the upcoming cold and flu season.
So how can you achieve a stronger, more robust immune system? Focus on these key areas …
1) Reduce Stress
We know that consistent and ongoing stress effects everything from our brain to our body to our immunity. Chronic stress can directly affect our cortisol levels, which can take its toll on our immune system and increase inflammation. Not only that, stress temporarily causes a drop in white blood cells that help to fight off infection which may increase susceptibility to viruses or infections.
In the context of this current pandemic, most of us are feeling pretty overwhelmed and stressed. While we cannot eliminate all sources of stress, it is possible to limit unnecessary stressors. During this time, focus on the important things like keeping you and your family healthy and safe. Simplify and minimise non-essential commitments and give yourself a period of adjustment. Then start to build a daily schedule that puts the most important things first like food, family, fitness and health. Adapting your life and setting realistic goals around work and schooling will minimise stress and, consequently, help you cope with future stressors.
2) Maintain a Healthy Lifestyle
An emerging body of research has now shown how our lifestyle habits directly affect immune function. Evidence suggests that healthy living strategies, like getting adequate exercise and maintaining a nutritious diet, bolster the immune system and protect the body against disease.
Prioritising sleep should be high up on the agenda. Sleep allows the body and immune system to undergo vital repair processes. Aim for a consistent 7-8 hours per night to strengthen immunity.
During the cold and flu season, eating a nutrient-dense diet rich in fresh fruits, vegetables and other anti-inflammatory foods can directly modulate our immune function and its ability to fight off nasty bugs and prevent illness. Use this extra time at home to incorporate nourishing and warming meals into your weekly menu. We love casseroles, curries and soups jam-packed with Vitamin C rich vegetables and fresh herbs.
You might be spending more time at home at the moment but the importance of movementand regular exerciseshould not be forgotten. Physical activity contributes to general good health and therefore to a healthy immune system. In fact, scientists now believe that by promoting better circulation, exercise allows the cells and substances of the immune system to move freely through the body and do their job efficiently. Whether you’re taking regular breaks to stretch throughout the day, opting for an early morning HIIT workout or going for an afternoon jog, your immune system will be grateful!
3) Practice Appropriate Hygiene
Now, more than ever before, practicing effective hygiene techniques can protect your immune system from potential pathogens. Thorough handwashing throughout the day – after touching something dirty; before and after eating; after going to the bathroom; and before touching your face – is an important practice at ALL times of the year. What does thorough hand washing mean? It means washing your hands for 30 seconds with soap and water, making sure you rub between your fingers.
While hand sanitisers are also effective at removing most bacteria, they are unable to kill some bugs. In fact, they are only 60% as effective as hand washing with soap and water. Remember, nothing replaces good hand-washing practices!
However, it is important to strike a healthy balance. Over-washing can lead to cracked, dry or inflamed skin which can compromise the skin barrier and leave it vulnerable to infection. As such, apply common sense and only wash your hands when necessary. You may also like to use a hydrating hand cream to retain moisture in the skin and keep your hands happy and healthy.
Elanora Heights Medical Practice