Your immune system is an amazing and complex part of your body. There are so many different aspects to it; Each playing an essential role in keeping you healthy. Most of us probably haven’t given our immune system a second thought. Not until recently, that is and now you would not be alone in wondering what you can do to make sure your immune system is in fighting shape.
The good news is that there are some relatively simple things you can do to give your body the best chance possible. A quick look at your lifestyle can show you if you can make some changes that will not only boost your immune system for the short term but will improve your health for the rest of your life.
Sleep - Are You Getting Enough?
A lot of us don’t get enough sleep. For some, it’s because of young children robbing us of our precious shut-eye; in others, it’s become a habit. For a long time, the prevailing wisdom was that sleep was a waste of time, and ‘only for the weak’. However, sleep is vital. Not getting enough sleep can have a wide range of adverse effects on both body and mind.
For now, let’s just focus on how it affects your immune system. Sleep is directly linked to your body’s use of cytokines. Cytokines are proteins that target infections and help to reduce inflammation. In other words, they are critical. Your body makes and uses most of its cytokines while you sleep. Less sleep, fewer cytokines, lower immune response.
So, now that you know why you need to sleep; let’s address a couple of key questions:
- How much sleep do I need?
- The answer is a little complicated here because it really does vary from person to person. For most people, it is between 6 and 9 hours of good (REM) sleep per night.
- How can I tell if I need more sleep?
- There is a pretty easy test. You lie down in your bed in the afternoon. Hold something in your hand that will make a noise when you drop it, like a spoon over a metal tray. Note the time then lay back and shut your eyes. The time it takes you to fall asleep will tell you if you are sleep deprived. Anything under 10 minutes means you need more sleep.
- How can I make up for poor, or interrupted sleep?
- Naps! Naps are great for your immune system if you are short on sleep. The ideal is a 20-30 minutes naps, if you can squeeze in a siesta over lunchtime.
Exercise - Moderation Is The Key Here
Regular moderate exercise is one of the best things you can do for your health. There are so many ways that exercise will improve your health and even lengthen your life that there isn’t time to go into them all, so let’s focus, on two.
First up, moderate exercise increases your body’s production of immunoglobin A which is one of our first lines of defence from viruses. It’s found in our saliva and mucus membranes. Which means it’s in your eyes, mouth and nose; the main points of entry for viruses. People who do around 30 minutes of moderate cardiovascular activity per day make about 50% more.
Secondly, exercise can help reduces stress. We’ll talk more about stress in a minute, but I think we can all agree that stress is bad.
Now the key here is that the exercise should be moderate. That will mean different things, depending on your fitness level. Basically, it should be around 30 minutes per day of whatever activity makes your heart beat a bit faster. Doing too much can cause stress for your body, so take it easy.
Stress - Take Steps To Minimise It
It’s not going to be news to you that too much stress can be bad for you. If your stress levels stay high for an extended period of time, it can depress your immune system and increase the amount of inflammation in your body.
What this means is is there anything you can do to bring your stress down is going to be beneficial for your health. At the moment that might seem like a lot to ask, but persevere and find something that works for you. It could be doing some exercise having a bubble bath or creating a masterpiece. It doesn’t matter what it is. Just make sure that you’re looking after yourself.