Taking the self-care steps to build a strong immune system will keep you healthy and available to massage clients.
With flu season approaching and COVID-19 being in the forefront of everyone’s minds since early this year, the subject of maintaining a strong immune system should be top-of-mind also. MASSAGE Magazine spoke with two health experts on how to bolster your body’s immune system. Here are seven health practices they recommend for supporting a healthy immune response.
1. Improve Your Sleep & Reduce Stress
Sleep is a time of natural hormonal balancing and a time when proteins are made that target infection and inflammation. So if your sleep is not adequate, your inflammation levels increase and your body’s ability to fight infection decreases. You can fight all of those effects and promote a strong immune system by just sleeping well.
We can’t talk about stress without talking about the stress hormone, cortisol. Prolonged chronic stress means prolonged cortisol elevation, which can wreak havoc on your immune system.
Ultimately, chronic stress makes us more vulnerable to infections by reducing our bodies’ supply of killer immune cells. So, make it a point to de-stress regularly. Consider regular medication or deep breathing and implementing some feel-good “me time” daily.
2. Exercise Regularly
Exercise can help boost a strong immune system by several mechanisms, which include: improving blood flow and circulation of white blood cells and antibodies to all areas of the body to detect infections faster and deliver antibodies to fight those infections; and raising body temperature which in itself can kill some viruses and bacteria
In the long term, exercise helps decrease insulin resistance and inflammation, which both suppress your immune system’s ability to fight infection.
3. Eat the Right Stuff
There are also many foods you can add to your diet to support a strong immune system; some of the most well-known include mushrooms, citrus fruits, broccoli, garlic, ginger, yogurt with probiotics, green or black tea, and berries.
Foods affect the immune system in different ways. Mushrooms, for example help lessen the effects of inflammatory cytokines which suppress white blood cell function; they also directly stimulate macrophages, which are a type of white blood cell that destroys bacteria and viruses by engulfing them.
4. Increase Your Vitamin D Intake (a.k.a. Go Outside!)
Sunlight is definitely your friend when it comes to having a strong immune system. Sunlight is how our bodies naturally create vitamin D, and vitamin D is strongly correlated with healthy immune function.
In fact, low vitamin D levels have been shown to increase risk for respiratory infection. So, get out there and catch some rays. Shoot for 10 to 15 minutes of direct sunlight exposure daily. If that’s not an option, take a D3 supplement.
5. Take Probiotics
Your G.I. tract represents a huge part of your immune system, so you want to keep it healthy and happy and full of good bacteria. Having a healthy gut microbiome can boost immunity and lower risk of respiratory infection.
So, consider adding probiotic-rich foods like sauerkraut, kimchee, kefir, tempeh and kombucha into your diet regularly, or use a daily probiotic supplement.
One of the simplest, most effective ways to keep your body healthy and functioning optimally is to ensure an adequate water intake. Drinking water regularly helps your body eliminate toxins while providing the support your body needs to keep your immune system humming along.
Consider upping your water game by setting hourly water reminders or drinking a large glass before every meal.
7. Go Heavy on Garlic
Garlic is a wonderful tool for boosting your immune function. When you crush garlic, allicin is released, which is a natural antimicrobial agent. Regular intake of allicin can help your body fight off any infection-causing microbes that may find their way into your system. But heat can deactivate the effects of allicin, so mince or grate garlic and throw it on your food after cooking.
Maria N. Vila, DO, is a family medicine specialist in Morristown, New Jersey, and a medical advisor for eMediHealth. She has been practicing for more than 16 years. Candice Seti, Psy.D., CPT, CNC, is a licensed clinical psychologist, certified personal trainer, and certified nutrition coach who helps people make positive lifestyle changes for weight loss and maintenance.