Keeping your immune system strong and healthy is important all year round. There are a number of lifestyle changes you can make to boost your immune system.
Working out is a powerful way to boost your immune system. Exercise improves your cardiovascular health and causes your body’s antibodies and white blood cells to circulate more quickly, therefore taking them less time to detect and defend against infections.
Exercise also releases endorphins, which lowers stress hormones and anxiety levels. As we’re more susceptible to illness when we’re stressed, it’s important that we keep our stress levels down to help maintain a strong immune system. The NHS recommends doing at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise a week, such as brisk walking or swimming. Alternatively, you can do 75 minutes of vigorous exercise such as running.
If you’d rather work out at home, try creating a short circuit with exercises such as push-ups, squats and sit-ups. Even if it’s only for 10 minutes, you’ll have raised your heart rate and got the blood pumping faster around your body. If you’re usually sedentary, it’s important that you increase the amount of exercise you do gradually.
Make sure you’re getting enough sleep
Most of us know that we should be aiming for around 7 or 8 hours of sleep a night but what most people don’t know is that sleep is one of the most effective ways to boost your immune system.
Sleep supports the proteins and cells of your immune system that detect and destroy bugs and germs, for example, T cells. T cells are a type of immune cell that fight against viruses such as flu. They do this by activating integrins, a sticky type of protein, that allows them to attach to and kill infected cells.
So while you’re cancelling plans and staying in, make sure you’re getting plenty of early nights to keep your immune system strong.
Ensure you’re getting the right vitamins
Making sure you have enough Vitamin C in your diet is very important. Vitamin C can be found in foods such as oranges, grapefruits, strawberries, spinach and broccoli but if you’re in the total meal replacement phase of your Optifast plan, all of your necessary vitamins are included at the appropriate levels.
Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that can help protect cells from oxidative stress. It’s found in plant oils such as soya, corn and olive oil, nuts and seeds and wheatgerm found in cereals and cereal products.
Vitamin A is another powerful antioxidant that can contribute to normal function of the immune system. It’s found in foods such as carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, melon and butternut squash.