Build Your Immunity with Simple Immune Boosting Habits askthescientists.com
You can’t hide from all the germs. Theoretically, you could spend a lot of time and money sanitizing your whole life. But where’s the fun in that? Also, it’s unnecessary. Your body can protect itself—that’s what the immune system does. So, build your immunity instead of obsessing over avoiding germs. Luckily, simple immune boosting habits easily mesh with your healthy lifestyle.
And you don’t need anything special to support your immune health. Healthy living and tweaks to your lifestyle are enough to help build your immunity.
A lot of these immune boosting habits double as generally helpful healthy behaviors. That means you can earn a lot of health benefits out of these simple changes to your life. So, you’ll obtain a lot more out of these actions than any efforts to sterilize your entire life.
Sleep Your Way to a Healthy Immune SystemWhen you’re tired, so is your immune system. This puts you at risk for coming down with whatever’s going around. Tucking in for enough high-quality sleep is a dream for you, and your immune health.
Sleep allows your body—including the parts of your immune system—to rest, repair, and refresh. This nightly renewal helps build your immunity. Need proof? A study in the Archives of Internal Medicine showed a link between adequate sleep and immune function.
Researchers identified the eight-hour mark as an important line of demarcation. Less than eight hours of sleep was tied to a three-fold increase in the likelihood of catching the common cold. Other research supports this conclusion, showing how immune-cell production can be hampered by sleep deprivation.
One simple immune boosting habit is making the time for at least eight hours of quality sleep. That could mean setting a bedtime alarm, or giving yourself deadlines for nighttime activities. And remember to work your way up to your goal. It’s probably not sustainable to go from six hours to eight immediately. But you can work your way up in smaller, 15-minute increments.
Use Moderate Exercise to Build Your ImmunityExercise is great for many things, including weight management and stress management. But the relationship between working out and immune function is slightly more complicated.
Researchers have struggled to lay out all the details involved in exercise’s impact on immunity. That’s not surprising. There are complex reactions happening—especially with strenuous exercise.
One thing is clear, though: moderate exercise is beneficial for your immune system. One study says it “seems to exert a protective effect.” Being in better shape helps with overall health, so your immune system benefits, too. And the movement aids blood flow and helps immune cells migrate throughout your body.
You don’t have to overdo it, though. And maybe you don’t really want to, given some of the research about strenuous exercise and immunity (it may, at least temporarily, dampen the immune system). Just getting moderate exercise—like a 30-minute walk every day—is enough. Also, it’s an immune boosting habit you can fit into your life without too much extra effort.
Help Your Immune System with Good HygieneYou’re frequently told to wash your hands. And it’s for good reason. This tip doesn’t build your immunity or directly boost your immune system. But it will help you stay healthy, so it’s worth mentioning.
A consistent (not obsessive) hand-washing habit helps you limit your exposure to certain germs. It rinses away the potential pathogens that get on your hands. That keeps them from landing in airways, eyes, or other bodily entrance points. And it keeps you healthy.
The Most Relaxing Immune Boosting HabitsNormal, everyday stress—the kind of minor, daily annoyances that add up—is enough to throw your life out of whack. You probably already know how stress impacts your weight, sleep, and overall wellbeing. But it also can wreak havoc on your immune function.
Your hormones are to blame. That’s because stress hormones negatively impact many parts of your immune system. These hormones hamper the production of antibodies (proteins that mark invaders) and other immune cells. Stress has even been shown to give latent viral infections new life.
Unless you go to great lengths, you can’t totally avoid stress. So, you must learn to manage it. And it’s not easy. The phrase “just relax” is one of the least helpful things imaginable. Good thing other stress-management techniques are simple, and do work, though.
Try any of these approaches that sound nice to you:
- Get a massage
- Take a walk out in nature—the outside part is important
- Develop and practice a self-care routine, like hygge
- Meditate or do some deep breathing
- Socialize with friends and family
- Prioritize free time by blocking out your calendar for at least 30 minutes a day
- Laugh (it really might be the best medicine)
Pets Can Perk Up Your Immune HealthYour pets are more than cuddly, cute, and loving. They’re beneficial to your health in many ways. And building immunity is definitely one of them.
Pets are great for melting stress away and helping you get moderate exercise. You’ve already heard about how exercise and stress management are immune boosting habits. But your pets can do more for your immunity—and it’s because they can be kind of gross.
That’s right. The microbes your pets naturally have or bring into your house aren’t all bad. They help build your immunity through exposure, which—as you’ll learn below—can be more helpful than harmful.
Researchers have found that infants who grow up around animals are less likely to develop allergies. And one study even showed that petting a live dog can increase an important immune-system protein—immunoglobulin A. So, give your pet some extra attention and affection for all the help they give your immunity.
Avoid Overindulging in Alcohol and Stop SmokingSometimes building immunity means moderating or ditching certain habits. Two you hear about in discussions of overall healthy habits also impact your immune health—smoking and drinking too much alcohol.
Both impair important barriers that help protect you from potential pathogens. Smoking impacts your nose and mouth, damaging the linings that help guard your airways from germs. Alcohol also strips away the lining of your mouth and throat. This leaves you vulnerable to viruses and bacteria.
So, if you’re going to drink, do it in moderation. But there’s no moderation when it comes to smoking. Quitting is the best option for your immunity—and your overall health.
Be AdventurousYour immune system adapts to your life. It learns from the bacteria, viruses, and other microbes you encounter. And you come out with better immune protection.
That’s why the sterile approach to life doesn’t help build your immunity. It’s OK to take proper precautions. You don’t want to intentionally expose yourself to harmful bacteria or viruses. But being adventurous—going outside, eating fermented foods, and experiencing life—is one of the best immune boosting habits you can have.
Living your life helps your adaptive immunity (the part of your immunity that catalogs the microbes it encounters). It builds up your immunity memory bank and primes your immune system to protect you.