The immune system is an intricate network of organs, tissues, and cells that work together as a natural defense system for the body. Threats to the immune system are everywhere; at home, school, work, even the backyard. If functioning properly, the body is able to activate the immune system as a defense against parasites, viruses, bacteria, and fungus.
Whether it’s cold and flu season or the middle of summer, the body depends on many factors to keep the immune system functioning optimally. Unfortunately, in the busy lives lead today, many individuals are subjected to stress and lack the adequate sleep and nutrition that is required to stay healthy. So many lifestyle factors affect the immune system and that’s why it’s important to understand how to naturally strengthen and maintain immune system health. To achieve this, consider the adoption of the following healthy lifestyle habits.
Get Adequate Sleep
At least seven to eight continual hours of sleep is recommended to maintain a functioning immune system. When the body is sleep deprived, excessive levels of cortisol are produced, which suppresses the immune system. Lack of sleep can also cause stress, which further increases cortisol levels making it even more difficult to get restful sleep. This can be a viscous cycle.
Stay Physically Active
Studies have proven that those who get adequate exercise are not sick as often as others who are more sedentary. Exercising daily offers numerous benefits for the immune system. It reduces cortisol levels and reduces stress. When exercising, immune-boosting endorphins are released and blood circulation is enhanced, affording a better functioning immune system. Exercise is also great for elevating mood and promoting a restful sleep. For optimal functioning of the immune system, 30 minutes of exercise five times a week is suggested.
Properly Nourish the Body
The ability of white blood cells to fight infection can be impaired by diets that are high in sugar and alcohol. Therefore, the consumption of alcoholic beverages and sugary foods should be minimized and the intake of high-quality foods should be a priority. The following foods are thought to make a positive impact on the immune system:
- Fiber – At least 35 grams of fiber is recommended each day. Fiber can be found in various fortified foods, oatmeal, salads and whole-grains.
- Inflammation Fighting Foods – Garlic, fish, flaxseeds, and avocados all have anti-inflammatory properties that can help maintain the health of the body’s cells.
- Fruits and Vegetables – It is recommended that five servings of fruits and vegetable be consumed each day.
- Antioxidant Foods – Antioxidants are powerful nutrients that protect cells from oxidative stress. They are plentiful in vegetables and brightly colored fruits.
In addition, animal research studies suggest that adequate intake of selenium and vitamins A, B2, B6, C, and D all have positive impacts on immune system health.
Reducing stress may be the hardest battle, as its everywhere. When the body is stressed, cortisol is released and the immune system is suppressed. It is known that those with high stress levels tend to get sick more often. Not every stressor can be prevented, but knowing how to handle stress can combat its effects on the body. There are techniques that have been proven to reduce stress including yoga, exercise, adequate sleep, meditation, progressive muscle relaxation, and massage therapy. Also, having alone time and making time for friends and hobbies can promote relaxation.
Take Natural Supplements
Although there’s not a great deal of research on supplements and how they affect the immune system, there is belief that many supplements are available that have specific individual properties that can make the immune system stronger. Some of the supplements believed to have either antiviral, antibacterial, or antifungal properties include:
- Astragalus – This herb has been used for thousands of years in China and is thought to boost the immune system by building up the body’s defense against viruses. This supplement is commonly found in tea and supplement tablets.
- Echinacea – Also known as the purple coneflower, this potent herb has a long tradition of medicinal use among North American Plains Indians and European homeopathic doctors. It has been used to treat wounds, general infections, strep throat, the cold and flu, and allergies. It strengthens the immune system by encouraging lymphocytes and white blood cells to attack invading organisms. Echinacea can be found in teas, supplement capsules, and power bars.
- Olive Leaf Supplement – The leaf of the olive tree has been the subject of many scientific studies and it is recognized as a powerful defender against illness. Olive leaf benefits have been reported to range from promoting enhanced energy and healthy blood pressure, to supporting the immune and cardiovascular systems. Modern health professionals began using Olive Leaf Extract in 1995 and initial results are positive. Current research has concluded that olive leaf benefits in the treatment of conditions associated with bacterium, protozoan, a virus and retrovirus. In this case, olive leaf capsules can boost the immune system by defending against the common cold, pneumonia, encephalitis, herpes, influenza, chronic fatigue, severe diarrhea, meningitis, candida infections, Epstein-Barr virus, shingles, HIV/AIDS, hepatitis B, gonorrhea, tuberculosis, malaria, dental infections, and infections of the ear, surgical wounds, and the urinary tract. The powerful compound in olive leaf is oleuropein, which has natural antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties, making it a wide-spectrum antibiotic that only destroys bad bacteria.
- Oregano Oil – Derived from the leaves and flowers of oregano, this fragrant herb is native to Europe. There are more than 40 species of oregano and those looking to add to the collection of natural healing agents should only use Wild Oregano (Origanum vulgare and Thymus capitatus), and not the culinary varieties. Oregano oil has powerful antimicrobial, antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties. It aids in the strengthening of the immune system and is ideal for treating nail or foot fungus, alleviating colds and sinus infections, and killing infections and parasites.
The list of options for strengthening the immune system may seem overwhelming, but most of these tips only involve somewhat simple lifestyle changes. Old habits die hard, but in the long run, a healthier body and immune system is worth the effort. A healthy immune system plays a great role in the body’s capability to sustain everyday hustle.