jogging-bikingWith each passing year there seems to be a new round of cures, medicines, commercials, and ads targeting cold sufferers with stuffy noses that always emerge. While it’s definitely no fun to feel the effects of a bug or virus, there are preventative measures and immune-boosting practices people can implement in order to keep sickness at bay and enjoy everything the great outdoors has to offer.

Here are 5 natural ways to effectively keep your immune system in good working order:

Avoid Simple Sugars

Too much sugar consumption greatly suppresses the cells in the immune system that are responsible for identifying and attacking harmful bacteria.

  • Even as little as 75 – 100 grams of sugar (equivalent to two – 12 oz cans of soda) can reduce the white blood cells ability to overcome and ultimately destroy bad bacteria.
  • Brewed teas, natural fruit juices, and especially fresh water will all help the immune system remain healthy as well as work to hydrate the body.

Exercise Regularly
Sitting in front of a TV or at a desk all day decreases the efficiency of the immune system.

  • Moving the body, even just a little, works to stimulate the body’s own natural sewer system – the lymphatic system.
  • It also increases both the leukocytes and oxygenation levels in the body and fights off infection.

A simple 30 minute walk in the park will do wonders for the immune system, especially in the company of a good friend since endorphins (happy feelings) support the immune system as well.

Get Adequate Sleep
Lack of sleep is a known culprit in making the body susceptible to illness.

  • A University of Chicago lab experiment proved this theory by limiting participants in the study to just four hours of sleep and then injecting them with a flu vaccine.
  • The studies showed that their immune systems only generated half the normal amount of antibodies.
  • Similar to stress, insomnia frequently produces an increase in inflammation throughout the body along with also increasing cortisol production.

One of the best ways to boost the immune system is to get a good night’s rest (sufficient REM sleep); preferably 7 – 9 hours depending on the individual.

Avoid Stimulants
Sugar, coffee, chocolate, black tea, alcohol, and cigarettes all have a negative effect on the immune system no matter what the season. These substances can literally produce physical stress in the human body. Consumed in large quantities over time, they will reduce the body’s ability to properly fight off infection.

Relaxation and Meditation Techniques
If too much stress suppresses the immune system, then incorporating certain techniques that will suppress the stress itself will allow the body to naturally heal itself. What are these techniques? Meditation, slowing down, and learning to relax.

  • Meditation is simply the practice of quieting the mind – nothing more, nothing less. It’s a state of “being” and the perfect way to “recharge” your batteries.
  • Many people relax by listening to guided meditation tapes or binaural beats in order to ‘let go’ and focus on all the good life has to offer.
  • Quiet your mind for just 10 – 15 minutes a day and watch your stress naturally dissolve.

Other Ways to De-Stress and Boost the Immune System
One study performed on men who spent as many as six hours hiking through the forest over a two-day period, illustrated higher levels of natural ‘killer’, or immune-boosting cells once their trip ended.

  • The amazing effects of the hike actually lasted a full 30 days and strengthened their overall immune health and general well-being.
  • ‘Forest therapy’ is an effective way to not only enhance the immune system, but to relax your mind, body, and spirit.

If a trip to the forest is out of the question, a simple walk in the park will suffice or enjoying your own garden. Spending time in nature has always been a natural stress reliever, and always will be.

For more information, visit Careworks.

Author:  Michele Holincheck, FNP