Your immune system is your body’s first line of defence against many internal and external stressors. Being aware of how your body responds to the stress of daily life is vitally important to staying healthy through all of life’s demands.
When it comes to giving your immune system the support it needs, it is extremely important to make sure your body is in balance, and you do that by prioritising your overall health. Here are some simple, healthy habits to add to your lifestyle that will go a long way toward maintaining a strong immune system.
Eat a Well-Balanced Diet
A well-balanced diet is vital to supporting all your body’s systems, and that’s especially true when keeping your immune system running strong.
Build your meals around fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean meats. Make sure to choose fruits and vegetables high in vitamins C, B6, and E. These nutrients have been shown to provide immune system support.
Evidence also shows a healthy gastrointestinal tract is especially important in establishing a strong immune response to outside stressors, as it’s directly impacted by pathogens and anything foodborne. A variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fermented foods and some dairy—like yogurts with live, active cultures and Kefir—can provide necessary dietary fibre and probiotics to help with proper digestion.
Just keep in mind, your body doesn’t naturally produce or store some of these immune-optimising nutrients—vitamin C, specifically. When you think of vitamin C-rich foods, citrus may come straight to mind. But don’t limit yourself. Many vegitables, including bell peppers, broccoli, and spinach, are all high in vitamin C. And they also include other nutrients and antioxidants that can help benefit your entire body.
For some delicious inspiration, take a look at the foods most closely related to the Mediterranian diet, and if your current diet is lacking, taking high-quality multivitamins and mineral supplements as directed may help to fill some nutrient gaps.
It is recommended by the New Zealand Ministry of Health for adults get a combined two-and-a-half hours of moderate exercise each week. This is enough to aid blood flow and help immune cells migrate throughout your body. No specific exercise or activity helps improve your immune system more than any other, but actively working to be in your best shape helps with overall health.
Get Enough Sleep
Lack of sleep and being constantly overtired can have a drastic impact on your overall well-being. When you don’t get enough adequate sleep, your body doesn’t produce as many infection- and inflammation-targeting proteins to help bolster and restore your immune response.
For most adults, the general recommendation is between 7–9 hours. If you have trouble falling asleep—and if circumstances allow—consider starting your nightly routine earlier than usual, including turning off electronics at least 30 minutes before lights out.
Practice Good Hygiene
The easiest, and perhaps most helpful, thing you can do to fight against external stressors is to practice proper hygiene habits. Make sure to follow proper hand washing techniques by thoroughly cleansing your hands with soap and warm water for at least twenty seconds.
Take Some Time to Relax
Even the normal, everyday stresses of family, work, or school can throw your life out of balance—especially as the little things add up. Unchecked stress can impact your weight, sleep, and overall well-being as it puts added pressure on your immune system.
It is unrealistic to think you can completely avoid the stress that comes with living a normal life, and that makes developing some personal stress management tactics so vital to your well-being. When you’re stressed, you can meditate or practice mindfulness techniques, exercise, spend time outdoors, listen to soothing music, or socialise—even through a video chat. And the list goes on and on.
The most difficult part may be giving yourself permission to step back, take a breath, and take time for yourself. But adding simple activities like these to your daily routine can help put momentary moments of stress into a mindset of turning these healthy habits into a lifetime of benefits.