How To Balance Your Immune System During A Pandemic
Dear Rich Lifer,
With winter approaching, coronavirus cases still rising, and a normal flu season to contend with, you may be wondering what you can do to strengthen your immune system to help stay healthy.
We recently learned that the idea of “boosting” your immune system is actually inaccurate.
According to Dr. Suzanne Cassel, an immunologist at Cedars-Sinai Hospital, there is actually a lot of confusion surrounding how the immune system truly works.
Your immune system works to recognize and identify an infection or injury in the body. This causes an immune response, intending to restore normal function.
The immune system itself is just that, a system. To function well it needs balance and harmony.
“You actually don’t want your immune system to be stronger, you want it to be balanced,” Dr. Cassel says. “Too much of an immune response is just as bad as too little response.”
There is still so much that is unknown about the immune system, and scientists are continuing to study the links between certain lifestyle choices and the immune system.
Healthy living strategies are always recommended as your first line of defense in giving your immune system the upper hand in the fight against invading germs.
The bottom line is: drinking one celery juice and taking a vitamin supplement will not give you a magical immune system.
So today, we will begin to shift our focus away from “strengthening” or “boosting” and instead focus on how we can “balance” our immune system through natural healthy living choices.
This one is very simple. Literally, just don’t smoke. That’s it, but it’s one of the most important things you can possibly do for your immune system.
Smoking, even if you’re an irregular smoker, can lead to a plethora of health problems including heart disease, cancer, weakened aorta, respiratory infection, increased frailty and death.
Cutting out smoking is key to having a functioning, balanced immune system.
Get Those Veggies
Eating a healthy diet that includes lots of fruits and vegetables is also key to balancing your immune system.
Eating whole plant foods — which also include nuts, seeds and legumes — provides you with rich nutrients and antioxidants that can help fight against pathogens.
Antioxidants decrease inflammation, which is linked to numerous health conditions, including heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and certain cancers.
These foods are often rich in fiber as well, which feeds your gut microbiome (the healthy bacteria in your gut) and results in better immunity.
Even further, these foods are rich in vitamin C, which can help in reducing the duration of the common cold.
Hit the Gym
Moderate exercise is a really great way to keep your immune system balanced.
Studies indicate that even a single session of moderate exercise can boost the effectiveness of vaccines in people with compromised immune systems.
Prolonged periods of intense exercise can actually depress immunity, but regular, moderately intense exercise is beneficial.
Regular exercise also can help reduce inflammation and can help your immune cells regenerate regularly.
Moderate exercise can include anything from bicycling, brisk walking, jogging, hiking, swimming, and even sex! (Just make sure you aren’t doing THIS in bed…)
Exercise and a healthy diet will also contribute to maintaining a healthy weight, another crucial aspect of fostering a well-functioning immune system.
A “healthy weight” has more to do with your BMI (Body Mass Index) than it does with a number on a scale.
You can use this BMI Calculator from Harvard University to assess your own BMI and determine if you are at a healthy level.
Get Adequate Sleep
Sleep and immunity are very closely tied. In fact, inadequate or poor-quality sleep is linked to a higher susceptibility to sickness.
A study on PubMed.gov, a highly respected database from the National Institution of Health, showed that healthy adults 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.
Adults should aim to get at least seven hours of sleep each night, while teens need 8–10 hours and younger children and infants up to 14 hours.
If you have trouble getting the suggested amount of sleep, there are steps you can take to help sleep better at night. Consider limiting your screen time for the hour before you plan to sleep. The blue light that emits from most TVs, phones and computers can disrupt your circadian rhythm, otherwise known as your body’s natural wake-sleep cycle.
You can also make sure you have a completely dark room to sleep in or invest in a sleep mask if this isn’t possible. Trying to keep a bedtime routine and getting in bed around the same time every night can also help.
Easier said than done, trust us, we know. But, relieving stress and anxiety is crucial to staying healthy.
Long-term stress and prolonged physical stress can result in inflammation, imbalances in immune cell function and suppress immune responses.
We know managing stress isn’t always easy, but some small things you can do include: meditation, exercise, journaling, yoga and other mindfulness practices.
Speaking with a therapist can also be incredibly helpful in managing stress and anxiety.
Maintain Proper Hygiene
The mantra “wash your hands” has become something we have been increasingly used to hearing due to coronavirus.
But experts can’t stress enough how important frequent hand washing is to staying healthy.
Besides washing your hands well and often, you should also cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze, avoid sharing plates and cups with others, and take care to bandage any wounds or cuts to prevent infection.
These are all simple things that go a long way in keeping your immune system balanced.
All of these suggestions are natural ways you can work on staying healthy this winter… and the rest of your life. Save your money on expensive vitamins and supplements and work on mastering these guidelines for healthy living first.
To a Richer Life,
The Rich Life Roadmap Team