The immune system is a critical part of your health and wellness.  A strong immune system can ward off all types of diseases from the common cold to cancer.  Your daily habits, including your diet, are critical to the well-being of your immune system.  There are several simple and effective ways that you can strengthen and protect this system.

Physical Exercise and Activity
Staying active can do great things for your body including:

  • Better immune health for faster recovery from certain illnesses and injuries
  • Increased mental wellness
  • Reduced risk for many chronic diseases
  • Improved energy levels
  • Longer life expectancy

Physical activity for good health does not have to be incredibly demanding and is achievable for almost everyone.

  • According to the American Heart Association, most people should aim for around 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week. This time can be divided among each day however you prefer.
  • Thirty minutes a day is a nice goal, but even a few 10-minute sessions during breaks at work are beneficial.
  • Moderate physical activity includes getting your heart rate up and possibly sweating but not necessarily pushing yourself to the breaking point.

There is incredible variety when it comes to moderate physical activity so you can do just about anything.  A simple jog through the park, 30 minutes on the elliptical, swimming or playing your favorite outdoor games, such as basketball or tennis, are all effective and fun ways to reach that 150-minute per week goal.  Before starting any new exercise program check with your primary care provider to make sure you have no restrictions on your physical activity.

Stress Damages the Immune System
Too much stress can have negative consequences on your health.  Stress can seriously impact your body’s immune system and lowers its ability to fight off infection and disease.  When stress becomes chronic, or continues for a prolonged period, overall health and life expectancy tend to decline.

It is impossible to entirely eliminate stress in most people’s lives, but you can take several steps to minimize it.  It is also helpful to have a plan for when stress becomes overwhelming.

One key to managing stress is daily relaxation.  It is important to set aside time each day to allow the worries and pressures of your life to fade away.  There are many ways to do this, including:

  • Yoga
  • Meditation
  • Listening to relaxing music
  • Reading your favorite book
  • Any other activity that you find relaxing!

Achieving true relaxation takes practice.  It may also require understanding from those around you like friends, family and coworkers.  It is best to set a consistent time and place for your daily relaxation time.  Let everyone who might disturb your time know that you are taking a timeout from life and that you need to be alone.

How Diet Affects the Immune System
What you eat also has a major impact on your overall health and wellness.  This is especially true when it comes to your immune system.  A balanced diet that is rich in a variety of nutrients is vital to disease prevention.

Diet affects immune health in two major ways.

  • First, it provides your immune system with nutrition needed to stay healthy.  For example, vitamins such as C and D and minerals like zinc are all important nutrients for immune health.
  • Second, good nutrition improves your body’s overall health and disease resistance so the immune system doesn’t have to work as hard to keep you from getting sick.

Nutrient rich diets include plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and healthy fats.  These diets also minimize your intake of refined sugars and processed foods.

So remember, a regular exercise program, stress reduction and a balanced diet are all you need to boost your immune system and increase your resistance to all types of disease.  The effects can be felt immediately, so why not start today?

For more information, visit Careworks.

Author:  Jackie Borst, PA-C

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