The immune system is the body’s natural defence system. It does not reside in one single part of the body. It is made up of a network of cells, molecules, tissues, and organs working together to protect the body.
Each of these elements play a key role in how the immune system works and its function, which is crucial to preventing infection and illness.
Research has shown that nutrition and other lifestyle factors influence the immune strength and susceptibility to infectious diseases.
- Fruits and vegetables provide nutrient such as beta-carotene, vitamin C and vitamin E which can boost immune function. Fruit and vegetables high in antioxidants can also aid in reducing oxidative stress within the body.
- Beta-carotene is a powerful antioxidant that can reduce inflammation and boost immune function by increasing disease-fighting cells in the Excellent sources include sweet potatoes, carrots, and green leafy vegetables
- Vitamins C and E are antioxidants that help to destroy free radicals and support the body’s natural immune Sources of vitamin C include red peppers, oranges, strawberries, broccoli, mangoes, lemons, and other fruits and vegetables. Vitamin E sources include nuts, seeds, spinach, and broccoli
- Research shows vitamin D supplementation may reduce the risk for viral infection. Food sources of vitamin D include fortified cereals and plant-based milks and supplements
- Zinc is a mineral that can help boost white blood cells, which defend against invaders. Sources include nuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, beans, and lentils.
We all know that exercise is good for our physical health as it assists with decreasing our chances of developing heart disease and it keeps our bones healthy and strong. But did you know that exercise can increase our immune system and improve energy levels?
Studies have shown that people who follow a moderate intensity exercise program can improve their immunity the best.
Moderate intensity means that you are slightly breathless; however, you are still able to maintain a conversation. A moderate intensity program can consist of:
- A daily walk for 20 to 30 minutes
- Cycling with your children a few times a week
- Completing a resistance training program every other day
When we are stressed, our body releases excess amounts of cortisol (stress hormone) which increases the amount of inflammation within our body. Cortisol also decreases the amount of white blood cells, which makes us more susceptible to infections. High levels of stress can also cause depression and anxiety, again leading to higher levels of inflammation within our body. In the long-term, sustained, high levels of inflammation point to an overworked, over-tired immune system that can’t properly protect us.
Research has shown that by meditating for 10-15 minutes, three to four times a week, can assist with lowering your stress levels. Meditation helps reduces the amount of cortisol in your body as well as reduces inflammation.
When it comes to our health, sleep plays a very important role. Getting enough sleep is vital for our mental and physical health as well as productivity. But did you know that sleep affects your immune system and skimping on it could leave you susceptible to illnesses such as colds and flu?
It is recommended to get at least seven to nine hours of good quality sleep each night as this will help keep your immune system strong. If your sleep schedule is interrupted by a busy workweek or your children, try to make up for the lost sleep with naps during the day.
Research has shown that taking two naps that are no longer than 30 minutes each (one in the morning and one in the afternoon) can assist with decreasing stress and offset the negative effects that sleep deprivation has on the immune system. Alternatively, try having a 20-minutenap on your lunch break and another one at the end of your workday.
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