9 Ways To Improve Your Immune System During Illness Seasons, by Aishat M. Abisola
Now that 2023 has begun, we are at a time where it is not uncommon for people to start feeling ill. This can be either physical or mental.
Already, a throat disease (diphtheria) is spreading fast in the North, affecting many Nigerians. Even though this disease can be cured and prevented with vaccines, not many people will be able to gain access to them.
Every single disease in the world works by attacking the immune system without rest, and this is exactly why people need to be more concerned about their bodies. Although the human body is strong, it can still be damaged quite easily, either internally or externally.
Your immune system operates in a very specific manner. It must be strong and complex enough to fight off a variety of illnesses and infections, but not so strong that it overreacts for small issues.
It is because of this that we need to be more attentive to our health especially in times like this. If you look around yourself, you will see many supplements and products claiming to help boost immunity. However, supporting a healthy immune system is a lot more difficult than just taking a mix of vitamins and minerals packaged into a pill or powder.
From fighting off a cold to flu and then to COVID-19, there are things you can do to help give your immune system what it needs to function optimally, though.
For those who do not have access to vaccines or medicines that can help them boost their immune systems, there are things you can do to help give your immune system what it needs to function properly. None of these methods involve taking supplements.
1. Stay up-to-date on recommended vaccines
If you do have easy access to vaccines, make sure to stay up to date on them.
A strong immune system means taking advantage of whatever we are provided with to protect ourselves from harmful illnesses: vaccines.
The human immune system is smart, but vaccines train it to be even smarter by helping it learn how to recognize and fight off certain disease-causing illnesses.
Vaccinations make it for your immune system to learn than through infection with harmful germs.
2. Maintain a healthy diet
Just like most things in your body, a healthy diet is vital in maintaining a strong immune system.
This means ensuring that sure you eat plenty of vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats.
These micronutrients include:
Vitamin B6 (Chicken, Fish, Bananas, Green Vegetables and Potatoes with the skin)
Vitamin C (Citrus fruits like oranges and strawberries, Tomatoes, Spinach)
Vitamin E ( Almonds, Peanuts and Leafy Vegetables)
Zinc ( Red meat like beef, Poultry, Beans, Dairy products like milk)
Magnesium ( Whole Wheat Products, Nuts, Seeds)
Many health experts believe that your body absorbs vitamins better when they come from dietary sources instead of supplements. So, the best way to support your immune system is by eating a well-balanced diet.
3. Exercise regularly
Despite what many may think, physical activity isn’t just for building muscles and helping yourself de-stress — it’s also play an important role in being healthy and supporting a healthy immune system.
Exercise hlps in mobilising the immune cells that are outside of the bone into the bloodstream and it also moves immune cells that are alsready in the bloodstream in the cell tissues.
By doing this, immunity surveillance is increased.
It is your immune system’s monitoring process and exercise helps the immune cells to be more efficient at detecting and reacting to infections.
Staying active and exercising regualarly is vital for this to occur.
4. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
When it comes to supporting the immune system, water plays an important part along side other roles in your body.
Blood and lymph have immune cells in them and they need water in order to flow and circulate in the body.
You constantly lose water by breathing as well as through urine and bowel movements. It doenst matter whether or not you are exercising.
If you want to support your immune system, replace the water you lose daily with water that you can use.
In order to do so, you need to know what your daily water intake is.
5. Get plenty of sleep
When you sleep, it may not feel as if anything is happeneing but there are a lot of processes going on when you’re not awake. “Sleep is important for immune function and the immune system’s homeostasis,” says Dr. Lin.
Knowing how much sleep you should be getting on a nightly basis as well as what to do if you have troubles sleeping is the best way to give your immune system the best chance to fight off infection and illness.
6. Minimize stress
Chronic stres can have dangerous effects to your health whether it comes quickly or builds up over time.
Stress can either cause major or minor impacts how well your immune system functions if it leads to sleep disturbances, a tendency to eat less healthy food, reduced water intake, less frequent exercise and more.
Stress appears differently for everyone, and however way we choose to relieve it is different too.
When you take into consideration the effect it can have on your health, it’s important to know how to identify stress.
If you want to reduce stress, it is necessary that you get familiar with any type of activity that helps you relieve it such as deep breathing, mediation, prayer or exercise.
7. Limit Alcohol Intake
A moderate consumption of alcohol doesn’t have any positive effect on your immune system.
Evidence suggests that binge drinking, or having more than four drinks in two hours for women and five for men, impairs immunity.
Alcohol can temporarily increase the number of white blood cells, which fight infections, in your bloodstream, but when your liver clears the alcohol from your system, your white blood cell count falls below the normal amount for at least five hours.
If you want to work hard to stay healthy, it is best for you to avoid or limit your alcohol intake.
8. Practice Proper Hygiene
If you want to have a strong immune system, proper handwashing is one of the most important things to keep in mind.
All you need is just normal soap and water.
You should scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds—the length of singing “Happy Birthday” twice.
This is the minimum time needed to significantly reduce the number of microorganisms on your skin.
However, it doesn’t matter how good your handwashing skills are if they won’t help prevent infection unless you know when to scrub up.
It is advised that a person should wash their hands before and after any type of risky exposure.
This includes after using the restroom, sneezing, or coughing.
Your hands should also be washed before you prepare food, after caring for a sick loved one, treating a wound, or touching any publicly used door handles, knobs, switches, or surfaces.
If your hands get very dry after washing, make sure to moisturize them with cream or Vaseline.
9. Use the Right Hand Sanitizer
Hand sanitizer tends to kill most microorganisms and it is the next best thing if you don’t have access to soap and water.
Before you use it, make sure to look at the alcohol percentage first.
Alcohol (ethanol) is the active ingredient in hand sanitizer working to kill viruses and bacteria.
It is advised to use a hand sanitizer with an alcohol percentage that is greater than 60%.16
The human body requires a lot of care so that it can stay healthy and fight off most diseases (or at the very least reduce their effects).
If you don’t care for your body, you are just setting yourself up for avery bed exeprience in the future.
Your body is a temple. Keep it clean and tidy. Prevent it from decay with any method that is available to you.
Aishat M. Abisola is a member of the Society for Health Communication
Wuye District, Abuja