How to boost your immune system
Strengthen your body’s natural defences to keep viruses at bay.
The fact that we’re alive and breathing today is no mere coincidence. It has taken over millions of years for our immune system to calculate how best to keep us alive. Does it divert energy and resources to tissue repair or round up the troops to fight off an infection? Indeed, in a world that’s inhabited by bacteria and viruses, our immune system has the important mission of keeping us healthy in a complex environment.
When our immune system is compromised, we become more vulnerable to attacks from viruses and infections. Which is why people with compromised immune systems – such as the elderly, pregnant women, or cancer patients – have to take extra care not to expose themselves to viruses. Given its prime role in our overall wellbeing, how then do we support our body’s natural defences so that it can function optimally? We count the ways.
Get adequate rest
Staying up late for a Netflix binge or pulling multiple all-nighters might appear to be normal behaviour in modern society. However, studies have shown that lack of sleep has been linked to premature death through illnesses like heart disease and cancer.
When you’re asleep, your adrenal hormones have a chance to shut off. When you don’t, your immunity dampens and you become more susceptible to bacteria or viruses. So if you suffer from insomnia, don’t hesitate to take the necessary steps to start clocking more quality sleep.
Strengthen your gut health
We’ve previously explored how a robust immune system doubles as a preventive shield against viral infections. How so? Simply put, our gut barrier is not only lined with immune cells, but also depends on the microbiota living in the gut to maintain the integrity of the barrier. As such, the foods you choose to consume will be the very same morsels that feed the bacteria living in your gut. So eat a wide variety of vegetables to promote a diverse microbial system, increase your fibre intake to feed healthy bacteria, and complement your diet with probiotic foods (think kombucha, live yoghurt, and kimchi) thought to be beneficial for gut health.
Time and again, research has shown that regular exercise is a drug-free way to reduce one’s risk of coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, various cancers, and even risk of an early death. Two new studies have uncovered yet another interesting fact: athletes gain greater immunity from a flu shot than people who are less active. So to make the most of a vaccination, we will do well to keep in shape.
However, while exercise keeps our immune system in good form on a day-to-day basis, it can rob our immune system of resources if we insist on exercising when the body is not well. So if you’re down with the flu, stay home, drink a nice warm bowl of chicken soup, and give your body time to heal.
Don’t be a germaphobe
Do you constantly wipe down surfaces, down to the utensils when you’re dining out? Stop. While it is necessary to maintain a high standard of personal hygiene especially during a pandemic, we must remember that our immune systems have evolved over time, and has learnt to deal with a long list of bacteria and disease. Research has shown that obsessively cleansing our entire world with disinfectants doesn’t exactly keep us safe. By doing so, we deprive our immune system of the chance to learn about unfamiliar bacteria and fend it off on its own. This act of sparring allows our immune system to emerge stronger than before.