By Lucy Miller, PT and Health Writer
Whether it’s autumn, winter, summer or spring, a healthy immune system is vital all year round.
Here we’ll look into a few healthy habits that boost your immune system so you can fight colds and viruses - and stay fighting fit all year round.
Wash your hands
Let’s start with the easiest - and probably the simplest; washing your hands. You must practice good personal hygiene every day.
To do so always wash with soap and warm water especially after you’ve been in public places where germs can live on surfaces for several hours at a time. And don’t forget to have an alcohol-based hand sanitiser to hand too, for those times when you’re unable to get to a sink. You should also always cover your nose and mouth when you sneeze - and then wash your hands once again.
These steps might seem simple but spreading and catching germs, including bacteria and viruses via your hands is easier than you think. just think about how many times an hour you touch your eyes, mouth and nose….23! Yes, 23 times every hour according to researchers, which increases your risk of becoming ill.
Move your body
Exercise is key to good health. Not only will it keep you physically and mentally health while helping to keep off excess weight, but it can boost your immunity too by encouraging antibodies and white blood cells to circulate more rapidly and therefore detect illnesses earlier than they might have before. The brief rise in body temperature during and right after exercise may also prevent bacteria from growing.
Try to get into a routine of fitting in some exercise throughout your day, whether it is walking up the stairs instead of taking the lift or escalator or going for a walk in nature. Or why not make time to visit the gym or perhaps try a quick at-home workout? It all counts.
It’s easy to forget about hydration when you’re busy. However, staying hydrated is essential in making sure your body functions well. Drinking the recommended 6 to 8 glasses a day will not only keep your body healthy but boost your immunity by helping to detox the body and preventing toxins from building up which can harm your immune system. Dehydration has also been found to decrease the salivary rate, which is one of the first lines of defence of the immune function against foreign bacteria.
Eat nutritious foods
Eating a diet packed with fruits, vegetables, fibre and protein is key to staying healthy. Fibre will help boost your immune system function, decrease inflammation and aid heart-health; protein will keep your energy levels stable throughout the day and boost the body's immune system by promoting healing and recovery and vegetables and fruits provide the essential vitamins and antioxidants your body needs. Try to include as many fruits and vegetables in your diet as possible - and foods rich in vitamin C and D too, which help regulate the immune system and protect against infections by keeping skin and tissues in the mouth, stomach, intestines and respiratory system healthy. Collagen can also keep your strong immune system thanks to its healthy dose of different amino acids which include arginine, glutamine, glycine and proline - all great for reducing inflammation and playing a protective role within the body.
Avoid junk food
As well as eating a diet rich in vitamins and minerals, one of the most helpful tips for keeping your immune system strong is to avoid processed foods. Processed foods lack nourishment and can take the place of nourishing foods that would support the immune system. Processed foods can also cause a stress reaction by stimulating stress pathways in the brain which in turn stimulate the adrenal glands to release adrenaline and cortisol. High levels of adrenaline and cortisol then put the body into stressful ‘flight or fight’ status, which means blood is being diverted from the immune system to the arms and legs. The body prioritizes surviving the perceived immediate danger over fighting off an infection and therefore the immune system weakens and cannot fight off viruses as effectively.
While a healthy diet, exercise and sleep can all help your mental health, dedicating time to relaxing is also important.Meditation or yoga can be helpful in keeping you calm, focused and present, while helping to boost the activity of hundreds of genes known to be directly involved in regulating immune response. Other relaxation methods like regular sauna or steam rooms can also help. Saunas help relax tense muscles, detoxify your body and your skin and alleviate stress, whilst researchers found that the high temperatures of a sauna (around 130 degrees Fahrenheit) help create a temporary, artificial fever that triggers the immune system and therefore helps your body fight off infection.