The immune system has a vital role: It protects your body from harmful substances, germs and cell changes. It is made up of various organs, cells and proteins. But ever the unsung hero, we don't ever notice it as long as the immune system is running smoothly.
Like all things in our body, the immune system can benefit from a bit of TLC now and again which is why adopting new and healthier habits is always wise. Below are just seven of the steps you might take to help to strengthen your immunity and with it, your chances of fending off potential nasties.
Brush your teeth regularly
Drawing attention to the importance of good dental health may seem a little odd in the context of immunity. However, the scientific evidence does point to a genuine connection.
While your parents may have drummed into you the crucial part that brushing your teeth twice a day plays in avoiding cavities, you might end up being just as thankful for the support it gives to your immune system. Poor dental hygiene can lead to tooth decay and gum disease, which in turn, can provide a means for bacteria from your mouth to enter your bloodstream.
Take the time to relax
Yes, we’re probably all feeling at least slightly stressed right now. But that doesn’t mean you should inadvertently allow your anxieties to compromise your immune system, which could heighten the risk of the very thing you fear.
The adverse effect of stress in this sense can be attributed to its production of the hormone, cortisol, which directly lowers the number of white blood cells in your body that would otherwise be helping to combat infection.
So, whether your own favoured stress reduction method involves listening to relaxing music, watching your favourite TV show or simply switching off your phone for five minutes each day, it’s important right now to indulge your emotional health a little.
Exercising often has long been established as one of the best things you can do for your health. The link between a steady exercise routine and immune health is not as clear, although it is thought that maintaining good fitness helps the immune system in various indirect ways.
After all, good general health is likely to support a similarly healthy immune system. Regular exercise also promotes good circulation, which is likely to enable your immune system’s cells and substances to more freely and easily move around your body, so that they can carry out their tasks more efficiently.
Consume a healthy and balanced diet
This is one of those steps that can be overlooked for supporting your immune health precisely because of its apparent obviousness – it’s so easy to gloss over it when reading articles like this one on how to do the right thing for your physical and mental wellbeing.
And “supporting” is definitely the right word, rather than “boosting”, as far as immunity is concerned. When you pursue a healthy and balanced diet that consists of all of the essential nutrients the body needs to defend itself against unwanted invaders, your immune system will be in a better position to do what it already does best.
So, you should certainly be seeking to eat plenty of fruit and vegetables, while also considering taking 10 micrograms of vitamin D a day, at a time when you might not be spending as much time outdoors as you otherwise would.
Get adequate sleep
Past research has indicated that being sleep-deprived or failing to get good-quality sleep regularly might make you likelier to get sick after coming into contact with a virus, with your body also potentially taking longer to recover if you do become unwell.
Furthermore, it seems vaccines effectiveness can be hampered by not getting sufficient sleep. According to one study, sleeping fewer than six hours on average could greatly decrease the likelihood of you showing the antibody response that a vaccine is designed to trigger.
Boost your intake of key vitamins and minerals
If you haven’t paid much attention to the labels of what you eat previously, or spent much time in the supplements aisle at the supermarket, now might be a great time to change that habit.
After all, various vitamins and minerals could support your immune system in its vital work throughout the “new normal”. Vitamin C, for instance, which can be found in the likes of oranges, orange juice, broccoli and red peppers, is an antioxidant that fights the body’s free radicals, and has been noted for the support it gives to cellular functions your immune system needs.
As we touched on above, vitamin D can be key, too, and is one of the few vitamins or minerals you might require a supplement for, although getting a good amount of sunlight exposure will help. The likes of vitamin A, vitamin B6 and zinc have also been associated with sound immune health.
Evidence has emerged of the effectiveness of green tea and chamomile tea for helping to keep the immune system fighting fit. Tea in general is also noted for the potent antioxidants and amino acids that it contains, with these being potentially instrumental in your body’s fight against germs.
While there are certainly more than seven things that you can do to help your immune system to do its job, the above steps can provide a great starting point for becoming immune health savvy and ensuring your defences are working at a good level, while also supporting your all-round health and wellbeing.