Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, people were used to being on the go. Everyone was always in a hurry. Skipping lunches — or grabbing whatever’s most convenient — has tended to be the norm, without giving a second thought about health. To add insult to injury, technology has provided us with efficiency — at the expense of the world expecting instant responses, immediate results, and interrupted sleep. And now, after being forced to take a step back and slow down, we are seeing the effects of such a lifestyle. All of it combines to create a perfect stress storm. And, if you have a chronic condition, it’s enough to cause flareups. What can you do to ensure optimal health? Is there any way to boost your immune system?
What is the immune system?
The immune system is made out of white blood cells, the lymphatic system, spleen, bone marrow, thymus, and antibodies. Together, they work to fight off infection. Certain lifestyle factors can cause it to weaken. When this occurs, you are vulnerable to getting colds, the flu, viruses, toxins, and parasites. However, there are certain things you can do in your everyday life to ensure your immune system is working optimally.
7 Ways to Boost Your Immune System
1. Eat Well
Consuming too much sugar lowers your immune system’s ability to fight bacteria. It also increases the likelihood of weight gain, Type II diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, chronic inflammation, and cognitive decline. What’s worse, the more sugar you eat or drink, the more you crave it. Unfortunately, most Americans far exceed the recommended intake of added sugars. And eating a high-fat, high-sugar diet kills essential bacteria in the gut — causing the immune system to malfunction. As a result, about half of American adults have one or more diet-related chronic diseases. That said, eating a diet rich in vitamin C — such as fruits, dark leafy greens, sweet potatoes, ginger, and turmeric — will help boost your immune system and reduce inflammation.
Also, opt for whole foods instead of anything that’s processed or packaged when given a chance. If you want orange juice, buy the fruits and juice them. If you like granola, purchase oats, nuts, raisins, and spices of choice and make it at home. Love ice cream? Learn to make healthy versions using only fruit. When in doubt, look up recipes online. There are many easy ways to modify traditional favorites.
2. Exercise Regularly
Regular physical activity is an essential element of a healthy lifestyle. Yet, less than 5% of adults in the United States do at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day. Meanwhile, studies show that regular exercise increases the immune system’s competence and lowers the risk of infection. It also reduces the risk of inflammation and cardiovascular and metabolic diseases. To boost your immune system, the American Heart Association recommends getting at least 150 minutes of exercise per week if you prefer moderate-intensity activity or 75 minutes a week for vigorous exercise.
Keep in mind that in order to do it consistently and stick with it long-term, you have to find something you enjoy doing. Go dancing, swimming, rollerblading, ride a bike, schedule walks with friends, do pushups and squats during TV commercials, browse through YouTube for a fitness instructor with a fun personality, do kickboxing, power walking, or buy a Nintendo fitness game. Keep looking until you find something that will make you look forward to doing it.
3. Get Enough Sleep
Another factor that lowers your immune system’s ability to fight off infection is to skimp on sleep. When you don’t sleep enough, your body makes fewer cytokines — a protein that interacts with the immune system to keep disease at bay. To produce enough cytokines, you should get between seven to eight hours of sleep per night. If life circumstances don’t allow you to do so, take two 30-minute naps throughout the day, if possible.
Also, make the conditions at home optimal for sleep. Start winding down for the night by taking a hot shower or bath, turning off all screens, playing soft music or ambiance sounds, using essential oils or scented lotions, reading a book, writing in a journal, or making a list of things you’re grateful for. All of these things will take your mind off the stresses and responsibilities of the day and help you get ready for restful sleep.
4. Find Ways to Lower Stress
When a person is stressed, their body produces higher amounts of a hormone called cortisol. The higher your levels of cortisol, the harder the immune system works to reduce inflammation. When sustained for long periods of time, this leaves the immune system overworked. As a result, this reduces the body’s lymphocytes — white blood cells that fight off illness.
Exercising, spending time with loved ones, getting a pet, meditating, journaling, doing activities you enjoy — and saying no to activities you don’t want to do — will all help reduce stress levels. If you have a high-stress job, come to terms with the fact that being able to multitask is a myth. Take a walk during your lunch break while listening to music or a good podcast. Also, establish work/life boundaries by not checking your work email from home if possible, or not answering your phone while you’re having meals and spending time with loved ones.
5. Maintain a Healthy Weight
Maintaining a healthy weight comes with a long list of benefits — such as lowering the risk of high blood pressure, Type II diabetes, sleep apnea, joint pain, allergies, and cardiovascular disease. In addition, excess body fat (especially abdominal fat) triggers the production of pro-inflammatory proteins. This, in turn, impairs the immune system. There are several factors that influence what would be a healthy weight range for you — including your height, gender, body mass index (BMI), waist circumference, muscle mass, and body fat content.
A healthy BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9. You can calculate yours with a BMI calculator. If you’re a woman, keep your waist circumference at no more than 35 inches. If you’re a man, keep your waist circumference at no more than 40 inches. You can also determine your body fat percentage by measuring the circumference of different body parts and entering your gender and weight into a body fat index calculator. A healthy range is between 25 and 31% for women and 18 and 25% for men.
6. Stay Hydrated
Dehydration can cause headaches, swollen hands and feet, and have an impact on your digestion, ability to focus, organ function, physical performance, and mood. Hydration is also critical for your overall health, since it makes it easier for your heart to pump blood. How much water to drink depends on several factors — including on the weather, level of activity, clothes you’re wearing, and height and body weight. However, you should make it a priority to drink hydrating fluids throughout the day (coffee and alcohol do not count). By the time you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.
If you find water too boring to drink it throughout the day, incorporate fruits and vegetables to meals and have them as snacks — especially those with a high water content, such as watermelon, cucumber, citrus, and celery. Have soups or broths with your meals, drink sparkling water, and/or add fruit or mint leaves to your water for added flavor.
7. Take Your Vitamins and Electrolytes
You can do so from whole foods and supplements. However, if you find yourself with the common cold or influenza (the flu) and over-the-counter medications are not making you feel better, talk with your doctor about whether IV therapy for antiemetics, electrolytes, or hydration would be helpful. This type of infusion is also helpful if you’re pregnant or have recently undergone surgery.
Vitamins are especially essential for individuals with serious health conditions, such as cancer. This is because treatment can lead to nutrient deficiencies and/or alter the digestive system. By undergoing IV vitamin therapy, you get the nutrients delivered directly into your bloodstream.
If Your Doctor Has Recommended IV Infusion Therapy, Let Infusion Associates Help You
At Infusion Associates, we provide medically-prescribed infusion therapy for patients in a welcoming and friendly environment. Our team of healthcare professionals is fully committed to making the experience as comfortable as possible for you or your loved ones. We always inform patients of any potential side effects and answer all their questions before starting treatment. In addition, we have a Registered Pharmacist on-site to make the process as seamless as possible.