Naturally Boost Your Immune System
It's easy to take your immune system for granted. This is usually because your immune system functions without you thinking about it. A healthy immune system requires a lot of energy to keep functioning and as a result is closely related to your overall physical and mental health. Following is a collection of foods, herbs, and behaviors which can help keep your immune system in tip-top shape.
It Can't Be Said Enough: Eat Your Fruits and Vegetables
There's a reason you so often hear that phrase: fruits and vegetables come from plants and often contain nutrients you can't get anywhere else. Particularly important to the immune system are vitamins A and C, the mineral zinc, as well as the many phytochemicals present in plants. These vitamins and minerals provide the nutrients needed for the creation of immune cells called lymphocytes. Many phytochemicals are also antioxidants, which neutralize circulating free radicals that can harm immune cells.
Lean Protein Sources
Meats, nuts, and beans contain protein, which is made up of compounds called amino acids. Amino acids are the building blocks of the body and are especially important in the creation of specialized cells like those of the immune system. One way the immune system battles foreign invaders is by greatly increasing the number of immune cells. In order for this to occur quickly and efficiently there must be ample resources available at the time of infection. Lean protein sources include fish, seafood, eggs, lentils, beans, soy products, and skinless poultry.
Many herbs found in teas and supplements can aid in immune function with their antimicrobial function. Echinacea is one such example, generally used both at the onset and during the course of an infection. The traditional Chinese herb astragalus has been shown to reduce the frequency and duration of colds. It has anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties, as well as functioning as a diuretic (fluid elimination).
Stress causes poorly understood havoc on the body. The immune system often suffers first as a result of prolonged stress (college students are most likely to get sick during the week of final exams). To prevent prolonged stress, try to consistently partake in activities that make you happy. Playing a sport, watching a stand-up comedian, or singing to the radio are all great ways to relieve stress. Things like yoga and meditation are also good ways to relieve stress. Stretching and breathing exercises improve circulation and sleep, in addition to promoting calmness and mental clarity.
Get Some Shut-Eye
While we don't completely understand the helpful physiology of sleep, bad things happen to those who don't get enough of it. Immune function suffers when we are sleep-deprived, most likely as a result of increasing stress. You should try to get at least 7 hours of sleep every night to keep your immune system functioning. It's usually pretty straight-forward: if you take care of your body with good nutrition, exercise, and plenty of sleep, your immune system will take care of the rest.