Manage Stress – When we’re stressed, the ability of the immune system to fight off disease and infection is reduced. Stress hormones, such as cortisol, reduce the functioning of lymphocytes – immune cells that protect the body and destroy foreign cells. The lower your lymphocyte levels, the more susceptible you are to developing the common cold. Stress also has a negative effect on the functioning of the gut and digestive system. Here are some simple ways to reduce stress:
- Research has shown that reading for 6 minutes can reduce stress by 68%
- Just 15 minutes of vigorous physical activity can positively affect our stress and anxiety levels
- A 20-minute massage can reduce stress and lower blood pressure.
- Avoid alcohol and smoking
- Deep breathing activities such as during meditation or yoga
Boost Your Gut health – 70% of the immune system is located in the gut, so if your gut health is compromised, your immune system may be too. The gut is the body’s first line of defense against foreign cells, and the microbiome within the gut play a vital role in the preparation and training of the immune system. The gut also helps to eliminate the body’s own cells when they come diseased. Some simple ways to help your gut health include:
- Take a prebiotic supplement to help promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria
- Reduce the amount of sugar and artificial sweeteners
- Chew food thoroughly and eat meals slowly to help promote full digestion and absorption of nutrients
- Exercise regularly. Research has shown those who lead a sedentary lifestyle have a less diverse microbiome
Rest up! – A lack of sleep increases your likelihood of developing a number of health conditions as well as affecting how fast the body can recover afterwards.
During sleep the body produces infection-fighting cells, such as antibodies and cytokines, which target infection and inflammation. Without sufficient sleep, the body cannot build up a good source of these protective agents, making it harder for the body to fight off invaders and recover from illness. Research has also found a higher quantity and more efficient functioning of T cells in people who get a better night sleep. This means their body was able to recognize and kill foreign cells more effectively. It is recommended that adults get 7-8 hours of sleep per night, and school aged children at least 10 hours.
Get social –Research has found that social support can reduce the chance of infection by up to one third. Direct contact with others triggers the release of hormones tasked with regulating the body’s response to stress and anxiety. It promotes the release of serotonin to assist in the feeling of happiness and decreases cortisol levels. Laughter may even aid in the production of antibodies and activate protective cells such as T-cells to help the immune response.
So, grab a friend and go for a walk, get a coffee or invite someone over to play a board game. Remember, if the weather is bad or if you want to stay physically distant, you can still stay social while indoors using FaceTime, Skype or Zoom.
Soak Up The Sun – The body needs adequate Vitamin D levels to help produce immune proteins that kill viruses and bacteria in a timely manner. Research has shown that adults who have lower levels of vitamin D are more likely to report having had a recent cough, cold or upper respiratory tract infection.
Vitamin D deficiency has also been linked to the development of autoimmune diseases such as Multiple Sclerosis, Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Type 1 Diabetes. Vitamin D promotes the activation of regulatory T-Cells, which are responsible for differentiating between a foreign cell and the body’s own cells to prevent our body from attacking itself. Increase your Vitamin D levels by:
- Spending 15-20 minutes in the sun per day
- Eating fatty fish such as salmon, herring and mackerel
- Opting for a supplement form of Vitamin D