The Importance of Protecting Your Immune System
The Flu. Colds. Coronavirus. Autoimmune Diseases. What do all these things have in common? Our immune system! The immune system in the body fights against disease-causing microorganisms, or to put it simply, it protects you against germs, such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and toxins that make us more susceptible to colds, the flu and even Coronavirus. The immune system relies on a person’s blood stream and lymphatic system to deliver nutrients throughout the body to get rid of toxins that can harm the body.
In your life, you have probably heard the common phrase of ‘boosting your immune system’, but what exactly does that mean?
The best way to keep your immune system strong and keep you healthy, is by living a healthy lifestyle. It was found that 58% of the immune system is almost completely determined by nongenetic factors, and these are tips that you can influence every day!
Every part of your body, including your immune system, functions better when protected from outside invaders and strengthened by healthy-living strategies such as these:
Do not smoke.
- Smoking can make you more susceptible to infections in the body.
- If you are need help to quit smoking, ECHN has a Freedom from Smoking program that can help!
- Dehydration reduces the overall volume of blood and lymphatic fluids that are important in a healthy immune system response.
- It is recommended that we drink 8 glasses of water per day. Also, its best to drink a glass of water as soon as you wake up since you may be dehydrated from sleeping.
Eat a more plant-based diet: high in fruits and vegetables.
- Fruits and vegetables are rich in nutrients like vitamin C, which may reduce the duration of the common cold. They also have a lot of antioxidants that help decrease inflammation.
Perform moderate exercise regularly.
- Moderate exercise may reduce inflammation and help your immune cells regenerate regularly (Examples of moderate exercise include brisk walking, steady bicycling, jogging, swimming, and light hiking. Most people should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week)
- Regular exercise also promotes cardiovascular health, lowers blood pressure, helps control body weight, relieves stress and offers protection against diseases. Consult with your physician about your exercise plan.
Maintain a healthy weight.
- It has been found that obesity has shown to have a negative impact on one’s immune response, which can lead to increased chances for various infections.
- You can control your weight by eating healthy, exercising, reducing stress and getting enough quality sleep. The ECHN Diabetes Wellness Center has a prevention program that can help one lose weight, eat healthy, reduce stress and live an overall healthy life. Click here to see if you qualify for this FREE program.
If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation.
- Alcohol intake can kill healthy bacteria which are important to reduce the risk of infection. It can also damage immune cells and other microorganisms that are needed by the body to develop a successful immune response.
- Moderate amount of drinking — one drink per day for women, and two drinks per day for men per the United States Dietary Guidelines for Americans — is generally safe, but no more than that.
- If you would like help in reducing or eliminating the use of alcohol, the ECHN Behavioral Health Department can help. We have Telehealth programs designed to support you in your health goals.
Get adequate sleep.
- In a study in 164 healthy adults, those who slept fewer than 6 hours each night were more likely to catch a cold than those who slept 6 hours or more each night.
- When we sleep, the body releases proteins called cytokines which are vital during times of infection or inflammation. With sleep deprivation the production of cytokines decreases.
- ECHN has a Sleep Center that can help you achieve quality rest.
Take steps to avoid infection, such as washing your hands frequently, receiving all recommended vaccines, avoiding close contact with people who are sick, covering your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing, and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched surfaces.
- Long-term stress promotes inflammation, as well as imbalances in immune cell function.
- Try meditation, exercise, journaling, yoga, and/or other mindfulness practices to help alleviate stress.
- It was found that people who suffer from stress-related disorders are 36 percent more likely to develop an autoimmune disorder.
Kenneth Abriola, MD
Prospect ECHN Medical Director