Help your immune system function at peak efficiency.

When it comes to slowing the spread of COVID-19, experts have emphasized social distancing and staying home whenever possible. Staying home isn’t always an option though; whether you’re still traveling to work or you need to run a few essential errands, there are times when going out is unavoidable. Thankfully, your body has a built-in defense against illnesses—your immune system. Whether you’re staying home or you have to leave your house, you can improve your protection against COVID-19 and other illnesses by boosting your immune system.

Boosting your immune system isn’t a replacement for social distancing, however, so you should still stay at home as much as possible. Even if COVID-19 isn’t a big deal for you, it could be for someone you know—and you could easily pass the illness to that person without realizing it. That said, here are 5 ways you can boost your immune system to help yourself stay healthier.

1. Get plenty of rest.

Your body needs rest to function at its best, so your immune system is actively weakened when you’re not getting enough sleep. Sleep deprivation can reduce the number of infection-fighting antibodies that your body produces, making it harder for your body to fight viruses. On the other hand, getting enough sleep boosts your immune system by making T cells, a specialized immune cell, more effective. The average adult needs between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. You might need to adjust your schedule a little to fit in a few hours of extra sleep each night, but it’s worth it—you’ll feel more energetic, less moody, and you’ll likely catch fewer colds throughout the year.

2. De-stress as much as possible.

Your brain reacts to stress by sending signals to your endocrine system, setting off a chain reaction that’s meant to help you survive a dangerous situation, but which severely hinders your immune system when you’re dealing with long-term stress. As a result, taking a few minutes to relax and unwind each day can greatly improve your health. Stress is often an unavoidable part of life, but try to eliminate activities that add unnecessary stress to your life. If the constant news reports are overwhelming you, try to limit your exposure to them and only read updates from trustworthy sources—even if that means avoiding social media for a time.

You should also prioritize self-care and invest a few minutes in practicing relaxing activities you love each day, like indulging in a little light reading, taking a bubble bath, or making time for hobbies like painting or gardening. Breathing exercises or writing gratitude journals can also help you to relax, find silver linings in bad situations, and focus on the positive aspects of life. 

3. Eat a healthy, balanced diet.

There are many reasons why eating a healthy diet is better for you—including the fact that it provides your body with the nutrients it needs to keep your immune system working at peak efficiency. Fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins and minerals like vitamins C, D, and E, and foods like yogurt contain bacteria that’s good for both your gut and your immune system.

Nutrient deficiencies can make it harder for your body to fight off infections, while eating too many sugary and starchy foods impacts the way your immune system responds to attacks and causes widespread inflammation throughout your body. As a result, a balanced diet, which should contain plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, whole grains, and dairy, is the best way to give your body the natural tools it needs to protect you against disease.

4. Perform a random act of kindness.

While stress can negatively affect your immune system, sources of happiness have the opposite effect. Acts of kindness tend to make us happy whether we’re on the giving or the receiving end, boosting your immune system, and spreading some much-needed positivity in the world. One study even found that “social support,” which included hugging, can protect against the harmful effects of stress on your body, helping protect against illnesses, and reducing the severity of illness when it did occur. Social distancing is important, but it’s still possible to perform little acts of kindness—you can pay for the coffee of the person behind you in line or simply offer others a smile. If you’re healthy and have a little extra free time, you can even join in on efforts to get groceries to high-risk people around Wayland, Michigan.  

5. Take supplements to give your immune system an extra boost.

If you’re worried about getting sick, you can take supplements to help your immune system fight off potential illnesses. Vitamin C is essential for your immune response because it helps your body produce white blood cells, so you may want to take a vitamin C supplement, especially during cold and flu season. Vitamin E and B6 are also great for your immunity, so try to get enough of them through your diet or supplements. Probiotics, which you can get naturally in foods like yogurt, are also good for your immune system and gut health. Ginger, turmeric, and green tea give  your immune system a boost, so regularly drinking teas with one or more of these ingredients can aid your immune system and help you kick colds more quickly. It’s always wise to consult your doctor before you add herbs or supplements to your regular routine, however, to ensure you’re getting the right dosage and so you don’t add herbs that may interact with your current medications.

COVID-19 may have drawn your attention to the need to give your immune system a helping hand, but making healthy choices and reducing your stress levels can allow your body to protect you from countless illnesses throughout the year. You’ll enjoy the ongoing benefits, giving you more energy and helping you stay healthier overall.

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