The events of the past year emphasized the importance of keeping a strong immune system. You can’t rely on doctors to fix what ails you as if your body were no more than a broken-down car. True health requires you to take ownership through healthy habits as well as access to care when something goes awry. Making changes in your daily habits can go a long way toward reducing your chances of getting sick. Here’s how to keep your immunity in tip-top shape as society reopens.
1. Nurture Your Microbiome
The secret to a healthier immune system may lie in your gut. Scientists discover more each day about how your intestinal microbiome plays a critical role in communicating with and training your immune cells to react most effectively. Improving your diet to nourish these beneficial bacteria could strengthen your response when you encounter a pathogen.
One way to care for this delicate bacterial system is to eliminate substances that throw it out of balance. For example, some drugs and excess alcohol consumption damage the digestive system by harming the cells lining your intestinal tract and making your liver work overtime. If you can’t quit on your own, please consider seeking help.
Another way to nourish your microbiome is to consume pre and probiotics. Prebiotics refer to foods rich in fiber. Your body can’t digest fiber, but the bacteria in your gut feed on it. Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that occur in fermented foods such as yogurt and kefir.
2. Eat More Fruits and Vegetables
Antioxidants also play a vital role in immune system health. These substances fight the free radicals you encounter through environmental exposure that damage your cell’s DNA. Free radicals are molecules missing electrons, and antioxidants provide the puzzle piece they lack before they can rob them from healthy cells.
Where do you find antioxidants? In fruits and vegetables. Since summer is here, why not make friends at your local farmer’s market? You’ll get the freshest produce and reduce your carbon footprint, as vendors don’t have to ship their wares across many miles.
3. Keep Your Body in Motion
Exercise benefits your immune health in multiple ways. By increasing your respiration rate, you flush bacteria and viruses out of your nose and airways before they can settle in and cause infection. Furthermore, the temporary rise in body temperature acts like a miniature fever, burning up some germs before they can start trouble.
Working out also causes changes in your white blood cells and antibodies, which may further boost your immunity. Finally, it helps you decrease your chances of conditions like heart disease and diabetes, both of which can cause severe complications if you later get an infection, as COVID-19 made clear.
4. Get Outdoors More Often
If you want to boost your immunity, one of the best things you can do might be acting like a hippie and hugging a tree. Researchers investigated participants in the Japanese practice of forest bathing or taking extended or overnight jaunts in the woods. They discovered a higher number and activity in vital immune cells for fighting infection.
The magic lies in phytoncides. Trees and other plants emit these substances to ward off predators. When human beings inhale them, it benefits their immune system. If you haven’t yet scheduled your summer vacation, a camping trip might be your best immunity bet. It’s also a wise choice if you continue to avoid crowds because immunosuppressant drugs keep you at an elevated risk.
5. Maintain Solid Hygiene Habits
Cases of the flu all but disappeared during COVID-19 — a testimony to what proper hygiene habits can do in fighting infection. While it’s true that staying home more often and avoiding emergency care for symptoms could affect reporting, the effect was profound.
Please keep singing “Happy Birthday” twice in your head after using public restrooms, playing with pets or changing diapers. It’s also wise to keep that miniature hand sanitizer bottle on your keychain for when you can’t get to a sink. You might consider continuing to wear masks in indoor spaces, particularly if you run an elevated risk. While standard cloth models don’t filter out every pathogen, they reduce their number, increasing your chances of staying healthy.