Fall has arrived and with it, so has the flu and cold season. The past few months, we’ve been dealing with not only the Delta variant of the COVID-19 virus but a host of other illnesses, including respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in kids and adults as well as croup.
So, what can you do to build your defenses against getting sick? You may be surprised to learn several simple lifestyle changes you can make to help strengthen your immune system. While none of the below suggestions will 100% prevent you from getting sick, they may reinforce your body’s mechanisms to ward off harmful viruses and bacteria.
Getting enough zzz’s
Sleep is restorative and, as such, plays an essential part in the immune response. Most adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep a night where teens need between eight and 10, while younger children and infants need close to 14.
Have you ever noticed that when you are sick, you sleep more? This is to give your immune system a fight chance to fight off illness.
If you are having trouble sleeping, there are some simple steps you can take to help get a good night’s rest:
- Eliminate screen time on computers, mobile phones, and other electronics
- Take time to wind down before going to bed, whether that be taking a hot shower or bath or listening to calming music
- Keep a regular sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up around the same time every day
Eat a more balanced diet
Maintaining a healthy diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean protein, and healthy fats not only helps you stay fit but helps strengthen your immune system as well. The food you eat provides your immune system with the energy it needs to keep running as well as a host of nutrients to help keep your immune system in check. Examples of these nutrients include:
- Vitamin B6 (found in chicken, green vegetables, and turkey)
- Vitamin C (found in citrus fruits, broccoli, and spinach)
- Vitamin E (found in peanut butter, almonds, and avocados)
Consuming foods high in healthy fats such as salmon, olive oil, and almonds also is essential to building a strong immune system. Healthy fats possess anti-inflammatory properties, which may help your body’s response to illness.
Engaging in regular exercise can give your immune system a boost. It keeps the blood flowing and allows your circulatory system to carry infection-fighting cells throughout the body effectively. Being active also helps reduce inflammation, which can help your immune system too. Getting 30 minutes of exercise a day, whether that be walking, biking, jogging, or swimming, will not only help your waistline but plays a role in keeping illness at bay.
Manage stress effectively
Too much stress can wreak havoc on your immune system. When you are stressed, your body goes into “fight or flight” mode. This reaction is designed to protect you, but if you are experiencing chronic stress, your body’s ability to fight infection decreases.
Find a healthy outlet to manage your stress, whether it’s deep breathing exercises, physical activity, meditation, or talking to a professional.
Drinking plenty of water is key to building a strong immune response. Water helps things flow in your circulatory system, including a fluid called “lymph.” Lymph carries critical infection-fighting cells around your body. If you are dehydrated, the lymph may not function as it should, negatively impacting the immune system.
When it comes to staying hydrated, the general rule of thumb is to drink 8 oz. glasses of water per day. If you are exercising and losing a lot of sweat, you will need to drink even more. And opt for water instead of soda or juice. While you may be getting enough fluid, both soda and juices can contain sugar, which doesn’t help you replenish your body and keep it hydrated.
In addition to being an important building block of a healthy immune system, drinking lots of water has proven to help with sleep and boost mood.
Community First ER is here for you
If you do become ill despite following the above suggestions, Community First ER will be here for you. No appointment is necessary, and walk-ins are accepted. With both adult and pediatric care available, you will experience little to no wait times to receive our personalized, compassionate, and concierge-level services. Our board-certified physicians and registered nurses will treat your child like family, making their health a top priority. We are here for you 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.
About Community First ER
Emergency health care is a critical resource. Our commitment is to provide a personal,
transparent, and concierge-driven emergency health care experience to our community members. Locally owned and operated by health care providers and partners we trust, we strive to support and create meaningful relationships with those around us. We exist to put your health and wellness first. For more information, visit our website at https://communityfirster.com/ and engage with us on social media.
Tip: Vitamins and supplements might have some infection-fight properties, but for the most part your body absorbs the nutrients it needs through the foods you eat.
Adults need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. Teenagers need 8 to 10 and children and infants need as much as 14 hours of sleep a night.Fast fact.