4 Tips to Strengthening your Immune System

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to develop worldwide, increasing health and optimising our immune systems has never been more important. A strong immune system aids in fighting infections and improved healing of the body. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is required to strengthen your body’s natural immune response. [1] Below are 4 tips to strengthen the immune system.

Get enough sleep

Research suggests that maintaining a good sleep-wake cycle helps boost your natural immunity. The production of good immune cells peaks at night time when you sleep. [2] These cells play a key role in recognising nasty cells, coordinating immune responses and modulating the immune system.

When you have not had enough sleep, your body goes into “fight-or-flight” mode and your body releases adrenaline. This contributes to increased levels of stress, further compromising your immune system.

Adults should aim to have a minimum of 7-9 hours of sleep per night, adolescents 9-11 hours per night and children up to 14 hours of sleep a night. Creating a comfortable, quiet and dark environment to sleep in with a regular bedtime routine will help to achieve a greater quality of sleep.

Exercise regularly

Regular, moderate physical activity has been proven to help improve the normal functioning of the immune system. [3] Improvements in immunity due to regular exercise may be due to reduced inflammation, regulation of “old” and “new” immune cells, enhanced surveillance of immune cells and the improvement of psychological stress. [3]

Recommended physical activity guidelines as stipulated by the Australian Department of Health:

  • Children (aged 5-17 years old): 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity a day.
  • This can include sports and playing with friends at school
  • Adults (aged 15 – 64): 2.5 – 5 hours of moderate physical activity and 1.25 – 2.5 hours of vigorous physical activity a week.
  • Moderate physical activity can include going for brisk walk, mowing the lawn or swimming
  • Vigorous physical activity can include going for a job, playing netball, aerobics and fast cycling.
  • Older adults (aged 65+): 30 minutes of moderate intensity of physical activity a day
  • If you are finding it hard to start with 30 minutes a day, start with 10! Moderate physical activity could include going for a brisk walk, cycling, aerobics or aqua aerobics.

Management of stress

The immune system is a complex system which requires a number of cells with different functions to coordinate and play their roles. Stress impairs the immune system’s ability to produce antibodies (cells which fight infection) in response to an infection. [4]

Some ways to help manage stressors in your life include:

  • Exercise!
  • Yoga
  • Practicing mindfulness and meditation
  • Massage
  • Organisation

Maintain a Healthy Diet

Maintaining a well-balanced diet ensures that you have an adequate intake of the nutrients and vitamins required to produce immune cells that fight off infection. The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating suggests that your diet should incorporate a variety of colourful and nutritious foods from the 5 food groups, while limiting your intake of foods high in sugar and saturated fats. The 5 food groups include:

  1. Vegetables and legumes/beans
  2. Fruit
  3. Milk, yoghurt, cheese, and/or alternatives (reduced fat when possible)
  4. Lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds
  5. Grain foods (mostly wholegrain and/or high cereal fibre varieties)

For more information about recommended daily intake of the food groups, healthy recipes and meal plans, visit the eatforhealth.gov.au website.

It is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle which optimally supports the immune system. The above interventions are powerful behavioural interventions which can be adopted by anyone. At Lakeside Chiropractic, our experienced and holistic chiropractors can provide information and resources about living a healthy lifestyle to improve overall better health outcomes. If you have any enquiries or would like to book an appointment, feel free to contact one of our friendly staff on 9300 0095 or visit our website at www.lakesidechiro.com.au.

References

1. Iddir M, Brito A, Dingeo G, Fernandez Del Campo SS, Samouda H, La Frano MR, Bohn T. Strengthening the Immune System and Reducing Inflammation and Oxidative Stress through Diet and Nutrition: Considerations during the COVID-19 Crisis. Nutrients. 2020 May 27;12(6):1562. doi: 10.3390/nu12061562. PMID: 32471251; PMCID: PMC7352291.
2. Lange T, Dimitrov S, Born J. Effects of sleep and circadian rhythm on the human immune system. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2010 Apr;1193:48-59. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2009.05300.x. PMID: 20398008.
3. Simpson RJ, Kunz H, Agha N, Graff R. Exercise and the Regulation of Immune Functions. Prog Mol Biol Transl Sci. 2015;135:355-80. doi: 10.1016/bs.pmbts.2015.08.001. Epub 2015 Sep 5. PMID: 26477922.
4. Dragoş D, Tănăsescu MD. The effect of stress on the defense systems. J Med Life. 2010 Jan-Mar;3(1):10-8. PMID: 20302192; PMCID: PMC3019042.

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