10 Ways To Boost Your Immune System
STORY: Sim Ding En
13 April 2021
1. Get enough sleep
Sleep deficit increases your vulnerability to disease. The body’s immune system is tied closely to sleep, which is why we tend to fall sick when our sleep is restricted or we are deprived of sleep. In fact, loss of sleep is associated with chronic diseases like diabetes and cancer. So make sure you catch sufficient Zs nightly.
2. Manage your stress
There’s a lot of truth in this saying: “Don’t stress. Do your best. Forget the rest.” Continuous stress causes the brain to transmit defence signals to the endocrine system, which secretes an array of hormones to put your body in “fight” mode. However, this also drastically lowers your immune system, and can lead to serious health issues like heart disease, hypertension and diabetes.
3. Catch some rays
Take heed, especially if you head to work before the sun rises, stay in the office right through lunch, and head home only when it’s dark. You’re in dire need of some sun, the best source of vitamin D, which plays a crucial role in triggering and arming the body’s immune system. We’re not talking about a few hours of sun worship here. In fact, 30 to 60 minutes is all your body needs to generate the vitamin D it needs, depending on your skin pigment. The darker your skin, the longer it takes for your body to produce an optimum amount of vitamin D.
Not only does 20 minutes of exercise a day (it could be as simple as swapping a ride in the elevator for the stairs) reduce stress and anxiety, keep diabetes and hypertension at bay, and put the brakes on the ageing process, it also boosts your immune system. How? By jacking up the cells in your body that are assigned to attack bacteria. This boost only lasts a few hours after exercise, which is why it’s best to keep up with regular physical activity.
5. Have a laugh
There’s a vocal warm-up that singers sing to exercise diaphragm control, and it goes: “Laughing is contagious and is advantageous.” Indeed, laughing is beneficial precisely because it turns your diaphragm (which spasms when you laugh) into a powerful pump that carries lymph through your body. Lymph is a colourless fluid containing white blood cells, and helps in the removal of waste products, dead cells and undesirable microorganisms, resulting in an elevated and improved immune system.
Love pretending to be Freddie Mercury in the shower? Go right ahead. Studies have shown that an hour of singing is not only a great mood booster, it also reduces stress hormones (like cortisol) and increases cytokines (proteins that are crucial for fighting off infections). This alleviates the strain on your immune system, allowing it to be at its optimum strength to fight disease.
7. Eat citrus fruits
The best examples of citrus fruits that you can introduce easily into your diet are oranges, limes, grapefruit and lemons. These fruits are rich in fibre, low in calories, and, most importantly, an excellent source of vitamin C, which promotes and stimulates a number of the immune system’s most important functions, including the production of antibodies.
8. Beat the chill
Yes, there is a link between your body’s temperature and its ability to fight a cold. Rhinoviruses (responsible for the common cold) thrive in body temperatures that range between 33 to 35 - the temperatures found in your nose. So if the air-conditioning in your office is arctic, do heed every mother’s advice to their child and “put on your jacket or you’ll catch a cold”.
9. Steer clear of sugar
If you start feeling under the weather, one of the best things to do is to give refined sugar a miss. That means having the discipline to say no to desserts and sodas. That’s because refined sugar causes white blood cells to be less effective at killing germs. In fact, it fights with vitamin C for the same space in your immune cells. Get your sugar fix from natural sources like fruits and vegetables, or honey, instead.
10. Eat yogurts
Yogurts with live and active cultures (like Greek yogurt, for instance) help to stimulate the immune system to fight diseases. They’re also a great snack when you’re down with the flu and you’ve been prescribed antibiotics, which destroy most of the bacteria (including some of the good bacteria) in your body when you’re sick. The active cultures in yogurt contain healthy bacteria that your intestines need to break food down.