Are All Systems Go? How to Boost Your Immune System
What is the immune system?
We’ve all heard a lot about the immune system, especially in 2020, but what is your immune system responsible for? Simply put, it is your body’s defense against all forms of illness. If your immune system is not functioning efficiently, getting over any kind of illness is much harder, even a simple cold. Your immune system also recognizes if it’s fought a certain virus or bacteria before — that’s how you become “immune” to something.
Your immune system is important, but if it’s running the way it’s supposed to, you shouldn’t really notice it. However, if your immune system is having issues, you might not feel as spry as you should.
Signs your System is Down
Here are the six tell-tale signs of a struggling immune system, according to the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Medicine.
This one seems like a no-brainer, but if you can’t seem to wake up, even after multiple nights of solid rest, there might be an immune system issue to blame.
Wounds that Don’t Heal Well
Did the last skinned knee or cut on your skin seem to take a little too long to heal nicely? The immune system is responsible for sending healthy cells to heal wounds, and a sluggish immune system might be the issue.
If you constantly suffer from sinus infections, ear infections or any kind of bacterial infection — and you’re taking more than two rounds of antibiotic treatments per year — your immune system might be telling you that it’s struggling to keep up.
Feel like you’re always either on the brink of getting a cold or just getting over a cold? While it’s normal for healthy adults to get a couple of colds each year, you shouldn’t feel like you always have one — and it shouldn’t take more than a week to feel better.
An Unhappy Gut
It’s surprising how much our digestive system actually works in tandem with the rest of our body. That said, if you frequently have bouts of constipation, diarrhea, gas or just general stomach discomfort, it could be your immune system. Healthy gut bacteria is crucial for immune balance, and a disruption in your gut can make it tougher to fight off sicknesses.
If a big week at work or a small problem in the school pick-up line are liable to knock you back on the couch with fatigue, your immune system could be to blame. White blood cells are responsible for keeping you healthy, and if you feel a sense of general malaise at the slightest bit of stress, it might mean your immune system is working harder than normal.
Ways to Boost Immunity
Even if you don’t recognize yourself on the preceding list, boosting your immune system and good health go hand-in-hand. Most of the tips below are basically “healthy living” strategies, but since the immune system is interconnected to everything else, consider it your blueprint.
Stop Smoking or Vaping
You’ve heard it often enough to know that smoking is terrible for your entire body. That includes your immune system.
Protect Yourself From Illness When Possible
Hand washing gained popularity in 2020, but don’t let your enthusiasm dwindle in the new year. It’s one of the best ways to protect yourself from illness. Also remember to wash fruits and vegetables and cook meat thoroughly to prevent foodborne illnesses.
Balance Your Diet
Fruits and vegetables are the key to a healthy immune system. Don’t skimp on fresh fruits and veggies at each meal. Experts suggest supplementing certain nutrients with vitamins if you don’t feel you’re getting enough through food.
Manage Long-Term Stress
Short-term stress happens in life, but chronic stress, due to relationships, work or the view of the self, can take a toll on the immune system.
Get Some Exercise
A couple of hours of exercise per week can greatly increase your overall health and manage your stress levels – which, in turn, helps your immune system run more efficiently.
Written by: Denise K. James